Which direction will the rest of the season go for the Chicago Bulls? At 9-14 and sitting in 12th in the Eastern Conference, they have an uphill climb to get back into the thick of the playoff race despite being 3.5 games back of the fourth-seeded Atlanta Hawks whom they will face on December 11.
They are believed to be averse to full-on tanking given all that has gone into putting this group together but teams are still going to do their due diligence. Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reports that there is “a lot” of trade interest in DeMar DeRozan around the league.
DeRozan, 33, is in the second year of a three-year, $81.9 million deal and is still playing at a high level despite being in his 14th NBA season.
According to one analyst, the five-time All-Star should interest one of the Bulls’ biggest rivals.
Deebo to NYC?
We’ve already seen Bill Simmons suggest on “The Bill Simmons Podcast” that the Bulls should ship Zach LaVine to the New York Knicks amid a trio of proposals aimed at helping Chicago lean into tank mode. LaVine is a step too far even if they did go that route.
LaVine is in the first year of a five-year, $215 million contract and, as Scotto points out, moving him would be too big of a step back.
But Ben Stinar of Sports Illustrated’s Fastbreak suggests the Knicks target DeRozan instead.
“For starters, the Bulls do not appear to be going anywhere this season,” asserts Stinar. “If they are not going to make the playoffs this season, then they should try to trade him for future assets. Meanwhile, the Knicks could use a player like DeRozan to propel them into being a top-six team in the conference.”
DeRozan is averaging 25.5 points on 59.4% true shooting – the second-best mark of his career – with 4.7 assists and 4.4 rebounds. As Stinar points out, if the Bulls are not going to make the playoffs with DeRozan, it might behoove them to acquire more assets.
They are set to hand over their 2023 first-round pick to the Orlando Magic and the first-rounder owed to them by the Portland Trail Blazers might not convey this season.
Stinar doesn’t suggest a specific trade package but does note it could be any combination of young players and draft picks which the Knicks are rife with. But there is a fairly substantial obstacle in the way of getting anything done on this front.
No-Go on Deebo
Teams can make inquiries, and it is very possible that a “godfather” offer could sway the Bulls’ thinking. But they are believed to have made DeRozan off-limits in trade conversations along with LaVine, according to Fox Sports’ NBA insider Ric Bucher.
“[The] Bulls are…laden with expensive rosters and high expectations and currently on course to miss the postseason,” Bucher writes. “But with stars that league sources say they’ve deemed untouchable – Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan …and role players with outsized contracts – Lonzo Ball and Nikola Vucevic…their flexibility to make a meaningful addition appears limited.”
Their schedule is set to “ease up” after a gantlet of an opening slate. But they will see Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks, Jimmy Butler‘s Miami Heat, and will even face the Knicks three times all before Christmas.
The Bulls’ resolve will be tested soon if they can’t course-correct in a hurry.