Proposed Trade Sees Bulls Bail on Former Top Pick, Dump Lonzo Ball’s Contract

Chicago Bulls

Getty Head coach Billy Donovan of the Chicago Bulls.

How anxious are the Chicago Bulls to repeat the mistakes of their past?

“The Hornets took a major step back in 2022-23 and could already feel pressure to keep LaMelo Ball happy as he enters the final year of his rookie contract,” writes Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report “With the Bulls looking to win now, moving [Lonzo] Ball for a player like [Gordon] Hayward who can play immediately is the right move.”

Swartz notes that Ball is expected to miss most if not all of next season and, if the deal stopped there, it might be an easier sell.

It does not, however, stop there.

Bulls Get:

– Gordon Hayward

Hornets Get:

– Lonzo Ball
Derrick Jones Jr.
Dalen Terry

In this purported “realistic” trade, the Bulls would be unloading the remaining two years and more than $41.8 million ($21.4 million player option in 2024) on Ball’s contract, not necessarily the worst thing with the uncertainty, not just about next season but also for his career.

No NBA player has ever fully returned from the kind of ligament replacement procedure he underwent and, anecdotally, the track record is not great outside of basketball either.

Chicago-based orthopedic surgeon Dr. Brian Cole also performed the surgery on former NBA big man Festus Ezeli who tried to make a comeback after having the procedure done but was out of the league without ever seeing the floor. For what it is worth, Cole did not perform Ball’s latest surgery.

Still, in that context – and in keeping LaMelo Ball happy, from Charlotte’s perspective – the deal would indeed be a potential win-win.

Hayward, 33, averaged 14.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 4.1 assists while shooting 47.5% from the floor, 32.5% from beyond the arc, and 81.1% from the free-throw line for the Hornets this past season.

He fell just short of having his third straight season averaging at least 1.0 steals per game.

The one-time All-Star shot 39.6% from deep over the previous three seasons split between the Hornets and Boston Celtics but has also made no more than 52 appearances in any of the last four seasons. Even entering the final year of his four-year, $120 million pact, Hayward is not the asset he once was.

Bulls Bailing on Dalen Terry Already?

Losing Jones would sting, perhaps more for fans and highlight reels than for the Bulls and their record. But moving off of Terry – the No. 18 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft – after a season of keeping him under wraps would be startling.

He failed to garner even one vote for any of the 2023 KIA NBA All-Rookie Teams. But, after seeing historically low minutes for a top-20 pick, it wasn’t hard to see why he was omitted.

“Sometimes it’s harder than others,” Terry told Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. “But you’ve just got to know everybody goes through it. If you’re not a top-10 pick then you’ve got to go through it. And that’s what I would tell the next kid that’s in my position next year or the year after that. This is stuff that they don’t tell you when you get drafted.”

Bulls Woud Be Repeating the Wrong History

The Bulls have gotten by living on the reputation of their six championships, the last of which was won nearly three full decades ago. But doing this deal could be repeating the very recent mistakes of moving off their own young talent for “win-now” pieces.

It has left them with little wiggle room to improve their current group without getting creative, much as this proposed trade would be.

As much as the Bulls need to get better, and for as little as we know about Terry, the Bulls should be able to come away with more for a player who was rising up draft boards ahead of last season’s cycle. And who, in theory, offers many of the traits – energy, defense, playmaking – that this Bulls team was searching for all season.