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Are the Bulls Finally Blowing Up their Core?

Zach Lavine Bulls
(Nam Y. Huh/ AP Photo)

One week into the season, the Chicago Bulls sit at 2-3 after a tough road loss against the Dallas Mavericks. The season highs of Zach Lavine scoring a career-high 51 and vintage-looking clutch basketball from DeMar DeRozan are equally offset by Nikola Vucevic’s argument with head coach Billy Donovan and the apparent need for a players-only meeting after one game. (The Bulls lost the game in which Lavine had 51, by the way.) 

It should come as no surprise to anyone that rumors are swirling of some major pieces of the Bulls being shipped off in the coming weeks. Many were shocked that the Bulls front office chose to retool the roster in free agency rather than rebuild the franchise from the ground up. This era of Lavine, DeRozan, and Vucevic can really only be described as inconsistent at best. If that brand of basketball continues much longer, I don’t see how any player within the organization could be seen as untradeable. And factoring in some of the recent major moves taking place, the Bulls might look much different sooner rather than later.

Let’s dive into some of the names associated with the trade market right now.


Zach Lavine:

Not often in the NBA do we see a franchise player record his career-high in scoring before immediately being thrust into trade talks. However, this may be a long time coming for Lavine. The 9th-year shooting guard has averaged 24.5 points per game in his tenure with the Bulls, although has never consistently shined as the number one option. Planting him alongside DeRozan looked like a sure thing at first. Without their playmaker in Lonzo Ball, however, the duo looks less dynamic and more incapable.

However, one such team that could use Lavine’s services is the recently revamped Philadelphia 76ers. After shipping away James Harden for a package of role players and future draft picks, the 76ers have more than enough assets to try and reprise Harden’s role with someone else. Lavine has been linked to such a deal, potentially providing Philly with a great wing scorer alongside MVP Joel Embiid. Then again, the 76ers already have Tyrese Maxey, another fantastic scorer who has more youth and less of the injury history of Lavine. It remains unclear whether Philly will feel the need to add a player like Lavine. They may opt for a defensively-minded asset like OG Anunoby, whose name has been linked to trade rumors for months. Regardless, Lavine himself likely knows his time in Chicago is nearing its end if the team doesn’t rally behind him into contention.


DeMar DeRozan: 

At the beginning of his 3-year, $82 million deal with the Bulls, DeRozan looked like an MVP candidate, and the Bulls sat atop the Eastern Conference. Now, the 34-year-old still looks like a franchise centerpiece in his contract year. But signs of regression make a large payday more and more doubtful. Negotiations to keep him in Chicago have stalled. If progress isn’t made soon, then there should be no reason to keep him as a Bull for any meaningful amount of time. Their leverage in a potential deal grows thinner by the day.  Many teams with younger cores, such as Memphis, Detroit, or Cleveland, could use a proven star at small forward. Whatever package the Bulls may desire for DeRozan remains unknown. 

Some of DeRozan’s best basketball has occurred while he wore the Bulls name across his chest. But with zero playoff series wins in his time here, it’s unfortunate that much of his effort will likely bear no fruit for the franchise.


Other Core Assets:

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(AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Judging by their recent performances, many of the developing players on the roster are likely to be included in upcoming deals. In Lavine’s career-high night, guys not named DeRozan or Vucevic combined to shoot 8/36, scoring an abysmal 19 points. Both Coby White and Patrick Williams were held scoreless, a feat which Williams has accomplished twice this season. The Bulls signed White to a 3-year, $40 million extension this offseason. Williams and the front office could not come to terms on a rookie extension before the deadline. One would imagine these recent happenings would lead to the two being under the microscope of coaching and management.

If guys like White, Williams, and even Ayo Dosunmu continue to underwhelm in whatever roles they appear in throughout the year, it’s tempting to think they might be a part of a trade before this season’s deadline. Granted, this could all be a gross overreaction. These are three guys in their early twenties fighting to establish themselves as consistent contributors. It’s difficult to say what the Bulls think of their potential at this point, but I won’t be surprised if rumored deals for Lavine and DeRozan turn into all-out fire sales for this front office.


Andy Diederich is a contributor on Back Sports Page. He received a degree from The Ohio State University and now resides in Chicago, covering the Bulls and all things NBA. You can find Andy on Instagram at @tryspellingdiederich and on Twitter at @ndyDiederich.

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