The Chicago Bulls went all in with a core consisting of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic and Lonzo Ball. The front office has decided to let go of most of its young assets and draft picks, but Chicago still isn’t over the first advanced to the round of the playoffs. Vucevic is on an expiring contract and DeRozan’s contract ends as early as next season.
With the Bulls’ dreadful start to the season, it doesn’t look like they’ll be in the top-6 in the Eastern Conference, so the ceiling for them is the play-in tournament. That’s mind-blowing for a franchise that has invested its future in this particular iteration of Chicago. With DeRozan at 33 and Vucevic at 32, along with an injury-prone LaVine, these are some predictions for the bulls’ outlook for the trading period.
Bull Trading Nikola Vucevic, Alex Caruso
The Bulls takeover of Nikola Vucevic from the Orlando Magic was questionable from the start. Many NBA pundits felt they gave up too much for, at best, a third-best player in a championship-struggling roster. This turned out to be true, as Orlando was thrilled with the development of Wendell Carter Jr. and Franz Wagner, foundational pieces for magic, both of which are now more impactful than Vucevic and still have plenty of room to grow in the future.
With he already capped in Chicago, the front office will need to broker a deal for Vucevic before he can go free for nothing. The Bulls need to rebuild soon and it will start with Vucevic being swung to a team he fits better into. Alex Caruso can be packaged in the same deal as Nikola Vucevic or moved in a separate package.
Caruso will bring a ton of commercial value as February 9 approaches due to his team-friendly contract and the plethora of roles he can play for a legitimate contender. Teams like the Golden State Warriors, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers can all use Caruso in key playoff roles, so the Bulls may be demanding young assets that will come in handy in their rebuild. Caruso’s value is higher than the numbers on the stat sheet and the Bulls need to realize that his contract and ability to play anywhere make him the most tradable person on the roster.
Nobody budges from Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball
Rumors circulated that Zach LaVine or DeMar DeRozan could also be on the way. Ringer’s Bill Simmons recently suggested Chicago send LaVine to the New York Knicks and DeRozan to the Los Angeles Lakers, but those moves would be difficult given the pay-match rules.
LaVine signed a five-year, $215 million contract with the Bulls in the summer after he had already started to feel the knee trouble that dogged him in 2022-23. As an injury-prone athlete, the commercial value dwindles, so teams only buy LaVine cheaply when it’s available on the market. Chicago must not give in to lowball bids for LaVine as it can still rise to a higher level once its ongoing knee problems are resolved.
On the other hand, DeRozan and Ball will likely stay in Chicago as well. If DeRozan is postponed, it will likely be next season when he is on an expiring contract. He has less commercial value for Ball because he has not played for several months due to a knee injury that also cost him most of last season.
The bulls are not close to fighting for a championship and this trading period will be difficult for them.