Injured Bulls Star Floated as Trade Target for Western Conference Title Hopeful

DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls

Getty DeMar DeRozan #11 of the Chicago Bulls looks on.

A drought-snapping win sends the Chicago Bulls (20-24) overseas as they prepare to face the Detroit Pistons in an international display in Paris, France on January 19. Their 132-118 victory over the Golden State Warriors serves as a testament to what this team can be when it’s clicking on all cylinders even when all of them are not available.

Star forward DeMar DeRozan missed his third game in a row nursing a strained quad that head coach Billy Donovan remains optimistic that it is nothing serious.

But the more pressing item might be his team’s performance in the veteran’s absence.

And with the future still very cloudy for the Bulls, it begs the question of whether or not it would behoove the Bulls to seek something for DeRozan rather than re-upping his contract or losing him for nothing when his deal expires after next season.

DeMar DeRozan in Big D?

“For the love of all that is sacred, get Luka Doncic another ball-handler and/or a better shooter,” writes Spencer Davies of Basketball News noting Dallas’ plethora of tradable contracts and future draft capital. “With the Chicago Bulls going in the wrong direction, DeMar DeRozan makes a ton of sense.”

DeRozan, 33, is having another strong campaign averaging 26.1 points on 59.6% true shooting – the second-best mark of his career.

The Bulls had lost each of the previous two games with DeRozan sidelined.

They had also not beaten the Warriors since 2017 adding another layer to the strong effort that also saw big man Nikola Vucevic go off for a career-best 43 points with 13 rebounds, four assists, and four steals.

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Chicago went 3-3 without DeRozan last season. This year, they have a plus-1.4 net efficiency differential when he is on the floor and a minus-5.8 when he isn’t, per Cleaning The Glass. Their offense generates just 109.6 points per 100 possessions in those situations which ranks in the 18th percentile.

Previous rumblings have linked DeRozan’s teammate and Bulls star Zach LaVine (29.1 PPG, 41.1% 3P, 64.5% TS last 10 games) to the Mavericks.

His injury history and $215 million contract may scare them more than DeRozan’s age.

DeRozan has also pushed back on rumors that he could seek a trade after the season if things don’t pan out as planned while NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson has speculated that another contract with the Bulls could be an option.

Dallas is fifth in the West after reaching the Conference Finals last season but falling in five games to the eventual champion Warriors in five games.

What Dallas Has to Offer

Their win over Golden State snapped a three-game skid for the Bulls who had lost five of their previous eight outings. Them continuing that downward trend remains a distinct possibility as they have mixed strong wins with confounding losses all season and Dallas does have some intriguing pieces.

“The Mavericks have contracts to float around, none more obvious than Tim Hardaway Jr.’s deal,” suggests Davies. “They could also fetch a valuable player with Dorian Finney-Smith‘s four-year, $55 million extension that is in Year 1 this season. In addition, Reggie Bullock is mired in a shooting slump that’s lasted for the first half of the campaign. And if you need a filler for a bigger contract coming back, Davis Bertans is making a boatload of money ($16 million, then $17 million and an ETO in 2024-25).”

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If none of those veteran pieces are of particular interest to the Bulls, Dallas also has third-year wing Josh Green and rookie guard Jaden Hardy.

Dallas also does not hold the rights to its first-round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.

It would take a disastrous slide for that to change with the protections on the pick covering it into the top 10. If anything, trading DeRozan to the Mavericks would likely help ensure that pick conveys next season freeing up the one in 2024.

Of course, NBA rules do not work that way meaning the first one they can hope to add is 2025 without altering the language on the 2023 pick or waiting until the offseason.

Bulls Still Bullish On Bulls

The more complicated a deal is, the less likely a team will do it in-season. That leaves a lot of variables up in the air between down and the summer as a lot can change for both teams from injuries to firings.

There is also the Bulls’ ability to perform so well against the top teams.

It would instill more confidence and quiet a lot of noise were it not for their foibles against lesser competition.

Four of their next five games are on the road including the matchup with Detroit. How they fare over this stretch could go a long way toward determining the future. They will have just 12 days until the February 9 trade deadline after that stretch.

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