With the trade deadline just days away, the power forward position has become a top commodity around the league. Should the Chicago Bulls take advantage of their positional depth?
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst has gone so far as to claim that the power forward position could define the trade market between now and March 25. From his latest:
This year’s NBA trade deadline boils down to two words: power forwards.
There are teams that need them to compete. There are teams that have players they’re not sure they want, and others that won’t give them up.
And then there are teams that have power forwards they can’t give away.
So far, all evidence points to Windhorst being correct. The last two players to be traded are both power forwards: PJ Tucker went to Milwaukee, and Trevor Ariza went to Miami.
As teams continue to target players at that position, the Chicago Bulls loom as a Plan B for those who fall short.
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Chicago Has a Forward Surplus
Somehow the Bulls don’t fall specifically into just one of those categories provided by the insider. Instead, they’re stretched over them all, as if a Venn Diagram was drawn around the United Center.
Chicago has guys they would prefer to keep, like veteran forward (and now starter) Thaddeus Young.
They’d also part ways with some players for the right offer, like pending restricted free agent Lauri Markkanen.
And if push comes to shove, the Bulls might just flat out pay Otto Porter Jr. to enter free agency early.
Now having lost two straight games, and four of their last six, it’s growing increasingly likely that one of those three guys finds themselves on a new team post-March 25. Windhorst thinks it’ll be Markkanen if anyone:
The Chicago Bulls have drawn interest in versatile forward Thaddeus Young, sources said. They might be willing to make a deal involving another power forward, free-agent-to-be Lauri Markkanen, but Young will likely be staying in Chicago.
The 23-year old was unable to reach an agreement on an extension to remain in Chicago by the December deadline just months ago. His future with the Bulls has been one of the most talked-about narratives surrounding this team.
What Could the Bulls Get for Lauri?
Markkanen’s averaging 18.3 points and 5.8 rebounds while knocking down 40 percent of his threes. There’s no doubt that he can help a team in the playoff hunt, or preparing for a playoff berth. But who?
Per Windhorst, there are at least four teams keeping tabs on the market.
…the deadline will likely be defined by a handful of bigger names whose status on the market remains uncertain, with teams like the Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks among those on the hunt.
As of Saturday afternoon, the most talked-about names ahead of the deadline are almost all power forwards: Aaron Gordon, Harrison Barnes, and John Collins.
If any of those four teams become more desperate for help before the deadline, and ultimately come short of grabbing one of the three aforementioned household names, the Bulls would undoubtedly take calls on Markkanen.
What would an offer look like from any of the mentioned teams on forward watch?
Potential Packages for Markkanen
With the understanding that no offer is going to be blockbuster caliber for a guy entering restricted free agency, a quick rundown, team by team:
- Boston could offer reserve big man Daniel Theis and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s second-round pick in the upcoming draft. Theis would help Chicago’s defensive woes, and that second-rounder is looking like a top-40 selection. But would the Bulls want to do a deal with a team ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings?
- Minnesota is likely the most desperate of the mentioned teams, given their obvious desires to erase their current status as the worst team in the NBA. Jarrett Culver and Ed Davis for Daniel Gafford and Markkanen works in theory. But it might take more for the Bulls to pull the trigger. Culver’s career is in limbo, albeit at only 22 years old, and Davis hasn’t played since February.
- Would Portland offer up Nassir Little, Zach Collins’ expiring salary, and a second-round pick for Markkanen? They could use help at the forward position, even with big man Jusuf Nurkic on his way back to the floor. Little, a former 25th overall pick, is averaging just 13.3 minutes per game this season.
- Lastly are the Dallas Mavericks, who are short on draft picks, and would likely prefer to deal strictly in player swaps. Is Tyrell Terry available? The 31st pick from this year’s draft has played just 11 games. His salary, along with veteran enforcer James Johnson’s would work for Markkanen and Cristiano Felicio’s.
As much as Chicago no doubt wants to remain focused on a playoff berth come this May, allowing Lauri Markkanen to walk in restricted free agency is a non-starter for a team amidst a rebuild.
The 23-year old represents just one of three, if not four, potential names that teams could turn to as the power forward market ripens and asking prices climb.
If this position is truly going to determine the nature of the trade deadline, it’s hard to see the Chicago Bulls remaining quiet.