The Chicago Bulls (20-24) are in Paris, France set to take on the Detroit Pistons in the former’s first international showing since 1997. That team was competing for a title, their fifth in seven years – while the game itself was a preseason exhibition known nominally as the “McDonalds Championship”.
This time, championship trophies are not at stake. But the game has more meaning for these Bulls as they set to course correct their season.
There are plenty of teams watching and waiting for their continued slide, however.
And, should it continue, those teams will come calling trying to take the Bulls’ temperature about moving off some of the better talent and not just looking for daft picks and cap fillers. Teams such as the New York Knicks are already checking on Zach LaVine, for example.
Zach LaVine’s Knicks Tape
I think the Knicks would be interested,” said NBA insider Keith Smith on the January 14 episode of the ‘Postin Up Pod’. “I could see how they get in play. Again, they can package together contracts very easily. The bulls could use it as our we’re gonna reset around a bunch of picks and you know, maybe they get Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin and where we’re going to play with those guys now and we’ll figure this out.”
- Obi Toppin
- Immanuel Quickley
- 1st Round Picks
- Zach LaVine
There were rumblings of him being at odds with the front office, head coach Billy Donovan, and teammate DeMar DeRozan leading to further speculation that he could soon seek a trade to a more preferred destination.
The Knicks’ interest has been reported on several fronts. Most recently, NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson reported they were a team to keep an eye on in the potential sweepstakes for guard Alex Caruso along with the Golden State Warriors but they have also been floated as a potential landing spot for LaVine before.
Grading the Return
Toppin was drafted eighth overall in 2020, four picks after the Bulls selected Patrick Williams. The former is averaging 6.8 points on 52.2% true shooting adding 3.5 rebounds and 1.0 assists while battling inconsistent minutes in Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau’s rotation and injuries.
Quickley, the 25th pick in 2020, is averaging 12.4 points on 54.7% true shooting.
He is struggling this season shooting just 32.9% from deep, his second straight season in decline but shot 38.9% from downtown as a rookie and is adding 4.0 boards and 3.2 assists.
The issue is the money does not work meaning the Knicks would have to send more salary — Evan Fournier and Derrick Rose would work — to the Bulls or a third team if the deal gets even more complicated. Because of all of the moving parts involved, Smith is tempering expectations about a deal possibly getting done ahead of the February 9 trade deadline.
“I just think that’s probably a let’s talk over the summertime thing’ versus let’s make that move right now today in season,” Smith said.
Quiet as Kept
Smith’s conclusion would also fit with previous expectations for the Bulls at the deadline based on recent reports.
“While outside executives have labeled the Bulls as a team to watch on the trade front…the team might be very quiet leading up to the deadline,” reports Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.”
A rival executive painted a picture to Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney of a front office limited by ownership. The exec says Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley know a deal needs to be made but ownership’s aversion to the luxury tax means they likely play the year out or blow it up.
That is quite the stark contrast in potential outcomes but is very telling about just how this season has gone for the Bulls.