Rival GM Details Bulls’ Interest in Polarizing $133 Million Big Man: ‘He’s on the List’

Chicago Bulls

Getty DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls.

During his end-of-season media availability, Chicago Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said he has creative ways to go about improving the roster this offseason.

One of those ways could be an attempted sign-and-trade, and a target may be quickly emerging in Phoenix Suns big man Deandre Ayton, according to Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney.

“It’s almost certain [the Suns] will look into trading him. I think they feel like they can do all right with a mishmash of decent centers and changing their focus on getting better talent around those two star guys,” one NBA general manager told Heavy Sports. “That’s been true for the past couple of years, really.”

The GM said Ayton has “butted heads” with head coach Monty Williams and still has the potential for a great career with another team.

“It is a tough market for trading centers, though,” the GM said. “They are about to find that out. The team that might be the most interesting getting into that mix is Chicago, and I’ve heard he’s on the list, at least. Lot still depends on the [draft] lottery.”

With several teams holding out hope they get the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NBA draft (June 22) and the chance to draft Victor Wembanyama, this could get frenetic. The NBA Draft Lottery on May 16 could help sort team’s offseason directions.

Bulls Open to Building Around Zach LaVine

For the Bulls, the question in any potential deal with the Suns is: What assets to the Suns want? The GM noted the Suns need to replace the floor spacing and defense they  lost when they traded for Kevin Durant. But the Bulls also need those elements and, therefore, do not have any to give. However, there is another possible path for the Bulls and Suns to come together on a deal.

“The Bulls, of course, do have … Nikola Vucevic,” Deveney wrote. “But the Suns are not prioritizing a big expenditure on a center if they move Ayton.”

Per Deveney, a “more likely” deal would include DeMar DeRozan, 33, in Vucevic’s, 32, place.

Bulls get:

  • Deandre Ayton

Suns get:

  • Demar DeRozan

DeRozan fell short of earning his second consecutive All-NBA selection, but he was an All-Star for the sixth time in his career this past season and proved to still be effective on and off the floor for a team still learning how to win consistently.

“The Bulls have not shopped their star wing but that could be coming, considering he is 33 and heading into the final year of his contract. Chicago, according to league sources, is open to reshaping its roster with guard Zach LaVine as the clear No. 1 go-to option.”

Still, this is not the first time we’ve heard the Bulls would be willing to move DeRozan and make LaVine the focal point.


LaVine, 28, is heading into the second year of a five-year, $215 million contract – the largest in franchise history. It would make sense for the Bulls to want to see what a team built to complement him would look like and how it would perform. Despite growing close with DeRozan on and off the floor, there have been several instances where their respective games simply have not paired well together, and others when they look dominant.

It would seem as though the Bulls are searching for that consistency as much as anything and, if so, they might want to be wary of pursuing Ayton.

Deandre Ayton’s Complicated Relationship with the Phoenix Suns

Ayton missed the Suns’ May 11 elimination Game 6 against the Denver Nuggets with a rib contusion. In the aftermath of that absence – and a disappointing postseason on the whole – ESPN NBA insider Tim MacMahon reports there is dissatisfaction with Ayton in the Suns’ locker room.

“The relationship between Ayton and the Suns has been awkward for the past two years, due in part to Phoenix’s reluctance to award Ayton with a maximum extension of his rookie contract,” MacMahon wrote on May 11. “Sources told ESPN that Ayton’s teammates have shared their coach’s frustration with what they perceive to be inconsistent effort and aggression from the 7-footer.

“The Suns are expected to aggressively explore a trade for him.”

Phoenix has been open about not valuing two things – draft picks and centers – under general manager James Jones with the latter being exemplified by the Suns waiting until Ayton had received an offer sheet from the Indiana Pacers before matching.

Ayton will enter the second year of a four-year, $132.9 million contract next season.

To that end, MacMahon said, there is expected to be plenty of interest in Ayton, who averaged 18.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists but failed to average 1.0 blocks for the second consecutive season. He also averaged a playoff career-low 13.4 points with 9.7 boards, and 1.0 assists across two series (10 games).

Deveney listed the Charlotte Hornets, Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers as other potential suitors for Ayton this summer.