Bulls Attempted to Trade for Disgruntled Knicks Starter: Report

Mitchell Robinson

Getty Mitchell Robinson reacts to Nikola Vucevic's game-winner during a October 28 game against the Chicago Bulls.

Most fans were surprised when the Chicago Bulls walked out of this year’s trade deadline without making a deal for some win-now help for their playoff run.

But that doesn’t mean they didn’t try.

In fact, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post, they had talks with the New York Knicks about a potential blockbuster.

When speculating on the future of starting center Mitchell Robinson, he noted that the Bulls had an interest in trading for the 23-year old before the deadline:

The Post reported Robinson has had his eye on his native New Orleans as well as Dallas. Detroit and Chicago could also be in the mix after both clubs attempted to trade for him at the deadline.

Robinson’s had an up-and-down tenure with New York, who drafted him with the 36th overall pick in the 2018 NBA DRaft.

But no one can deny his gravity around the rim, and furthermore, his ability to protect it. Robinson’s averaging 8.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game.

Would he be considered an upgrade over Chicago Bulls’ starter Nikola Vucevic, or one of the league’s best backups?

What Would it Cost Bulls to Land Robinson?

Without pointing out that the Chicago Bulls didn’t land Mitchell Robinson at the deadline, it’s hard to imagine what the New York Knicks would have asked for in return for the starter.

Trust that any package would have centered around Coby White and/or draft compensation, given their drastic need for an upgrade at the point guard position.

A package such as follows seems to work for both sides and gets the green light from the ESPN Trade Machine too:

  • Chicago Bulls receive: Alec Burks, Mitchell Robinson
  • New York Knicks receive: Coby White, Derrick Jones Jr.

If not, the Knicks could have simply paired Robinson with Taj Gibson in a sort of homecoming for the former Bull.

Now that the trade deadline’s passed, however, the price tag for New York’s starting center takes a different shape.

If they’re truly determined to get Mitchell Robinson in a Chicago Bulls uniform, Arturas Karnisovas and company could always offer the big man a contract this summer.

Because as has been covered at Heavy.com, the big man is likely headed for unrestricted free agency.

But given the looming extension for Zach LaVine, and the salary of Nikola Vucevic, it seems increasingly unlikely that splurging for a second big man is on the table in the Windy City.

Yet their need for help in the frontcourt remains.

Chicago’s Frontcourt Defense

Most numbers support that the biggest hole in this Chicago Bulls defense (excluding the absences of their backcourt tandem Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball) lies in the frontcourt under the basket.

On the season, opponents are scoring 49.3 points in the paint nightly, which ranks 24th out of the NBA’s 30 teams.

That number climbs to 52.0 (!!!) points per game if you reduce the sample size to the three games following to the All-Star break.

And per Cleaning the Glass, with starting center Nikola Vucevic on the floor, opponents are scoring 112.2 points per 100 possessions, which ranks in the 43rd percentile–not good.

But at the same time, starter Nikola Vucevic’s 107 Defensive Rating this season is the best on the team this season.

A lot of this will stem from Vucevic’s constant presence along the three-point line, leaving windows within the post without defenders taller than 6-6 or heavier than 225 pounds, like DeMar DeRozan.

As the Chicago Bulls weigh their path through the Eastern Conference playoff bracket, it’s clear that they can’t have enough size when facing off against MVP candidates Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid.

If they fall short this postseason against the aforementioned NBA giants, perhaps they’ll take another look at Mitchell Robinson. But for now, the focus remains on finishing out 2022 strong.

20 games to go.

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