Who could the Bulls trade trade if they blow it up?
Amid a subpar start to begin the 2023-24 season, it was reported earlier this week that the Chicago Bulls and star guard Zach LaVine could be exploring a potential trade ahead of the Feb. 8 trade deadline.
The Chicago Bulls are 4-8 and aren’t really going in any (reasonable) direction. A Zach LaVine trade could–key word: could; nothing guaranteed–signify a fire sale in Chicago. Plenty of their players should garner interest throughout the league. So if there is a mass exodus, who could be worth flipping?
In early October, it was reported that DeRozan and the Bulls were in “preliminary talks” about a contract extension, though subsequent reports suggest that neither side is close to an extension. DeRozan is making $28.6 million on an expiring contract and is eligible to be extended any time between now and the start of the new league year, even though there’s no guarantee that will happen.
The 34-year-old is a phenomenal mid-range shot-creator who’s learned to leverage his jump-shooting into secondary playmaking, perhaps his most underrated quality. He’s very good at getting to the free-throw line and features great in-between touch. If you need two-level scoring off-the-dribble with some playmaking juice, he’s the perfect player for that.
But at what cost? Any trade for DeRozan likely signifies that the team trading for him will re-sign or extend him. But what is he worth at this stage of his career? That remains to be seen.
Vucevic was acquired at the 2020-21 deadline from the Orlando Magic, but the fit has not been as seamless as Chicago would’ve hoped. The Bulls re-signed Vucevic to a three-year, $60 million deal this offseason, but the 6-foot-10 big is not as physical nor as efficient of an offensive player that made him so coveted in Orlando.
While he’s not bad at generating deflections, he can be a turnstile defensively who doesn’t possess the best awareness or positioning in the halfcourt, thus rendering his sheer value substantially lower than it was mere summers ago. A team in need of a functional big may bite the bullet, though it could also opt to sign one off the buyout/free agent market at a much cheaper price without forgoing assets.
It’s not out of the realm that–if you factor in contract and skillset on a basketball court–Caruso could receive more interest on the trade market than LaVine and DeRozan.
All 29 other teams should inquire about Caruso. He’s an elite defender who can defend 1-3 and can flip great defense into easy offense in transition. He’s not the most willing–nor efficient–long-range shooter, but is still a viable connector worthy of playing within the flow of an offense for someone labeled as a “non-shooter.” He’s making $9.5 million this season with a partially guaranteed $9.9 million salary in 2024-25.
If you’re a contending team that already has enough primary and secondary shot creators at multiple positions, it would behoove you to nab Caruso. He’s a winning basketball player.
Perhaps the Bulls trade LaVine, DeRozan and/or Vucevic, among others, and decide to hang onto and re-sign the 22-year-old Williams, who they drafted No. 4 overall in 2020. That could be in play. He’s a promising defender who still needs more development; his fit with this core has been murky, but the Bulls have been reluctant to trade him in past summers/deadlines. However, if the dominoes begin to fall, anything should (and could) be on the table.
After averaging 10.2 points on 57.6 percent true shooting a year ago, Williams is averaging 6.3 points on 44.8 percent true shooting in 12 games so far this season. His role in the rotation has also been minimized, which could signify Williams’ future in Chicago could be coming to an end sooner rather than later (even though his trade value may never be lower; always sell high, if you can).
Carter, who signed with Chicago on a three-year deal at the start of free agency, is a bulldog defensively and could be a back-end rotation player for a playoff team. He’s not a pure point guard, but has developed as a jump-shooter. He’s averaging 6.8 points on 58.2 percent true shooting in 14.4 minutes per game with Chicago and is on the books for $6.2 million this season.
Craig has a track record of the prototypical “3-and-D” wing that teams take a chance on at the deadline, especially if they’re on bad teams at an inexpensive cost. He’s averaging 5.3 rebounds on 32.1 percent shooting from deep through 12 games, but the 33-year-old has averaged 6.7 points on 36.4 percent from distance (2.9 3PA) over the last three seasons. Craig signed a two-year minimum with Chicago in July and could be had in addition to LaVine or DeRozan in a given trade.
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