The trade deadline is Thursday, but don't expect many fireworks from the Bulls. While the Bulls have some assets and could use a bit more help on the bench, they don't have a track record of making in-season moves, and there's little reason to expect that to change this season.
Taj Gibson was mentioned as a possible trade candidate, but that was more speculation than a legitimate trade rumor. The Bulls have also been linked to Arron Afflalo, but Grantland's Zach Lowe says the Nuggets' asking price for Afflalo is high (multiple first-rounders), and Chicago seems hesitant to part ways with those types of assets:
Bulls like roster but would add shooter. Won't trade a big for a small. Won't trade future 1st. Will check buyout list for open roster spot.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) February 16, 2015
I understand the hesitation about trading future firsts, because those rookie contracts are valuable (and will become even more valuable with the exploding cap) and the Bulls have generally done a nice job picking late. But the Bulls are in position to win now, and if there's a good deal out there that could be made by cashing in on a future draft pick, I'd be for it.
For what it's worth, Lowe barely mentions the Bulls in his trade deadline primer, giving even more reason to believe nothing much will happen. However, the trade of Luol Deng was a surprise after many said it wouldn't happen, so never rule anything out. If nothing does happen, definitely keep an eye on the buyouts. Could a guy like Gary Neal feel rejuvenated in Chicago? Maybe.
Even if a trade is unlikely, let's take a look at the assets the Bulls have at their disposal. I'm not going to include Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and Mike Dunleavy because I'm assuming there's no chance any of them are dealt.
Taj Gibson: While Gibson has regressed this season, he's on an affordable contract for the next two years and still plays a significant role on the team. The Bulls will need his normal defensive prowess (which he must regain) against the other Eastern Conference contenders in the postseason, so I'd be wary of dealing him. I'm not trading Gibson in any deal for Afflalo for Wilson Chandler, although I would be intrigued by Goran Dragic, who supposedly is on the block thanks to the glut of guards in Phoenix. The issue with Dragic, though, is he would almost certainly be gone at the end of this year after he opts out of his current. Could you imagine the Bulls paying big money to both Dragic and Butler? Hell no. There's also the whole don't trade big-for-small thing, although I'd probably try and snag Miles Plumlee as well to help replace Gibson.
Tony Snell: Snell is an interesting case. A few weeks ago, I'm actively shopping him in an effort to upgrade the roster for this year. Now, the Bulls have to decide whether his recent excellent play is a flash in the pan or a positive sign of things to come. Would the Bulls sell high and take the risk of looking bad if he continues to play well? I'm guessing no, because he still has two cheap years left on his rookie contract and could be pretty valuable moving forward if Mike Dunleavy is gone after this season. Still, Snell isn't untouchable by any means.
Doug McDermott: McDermott was bad before he got hurt and can't get on the floor even when healthy now. It's become painfully obvious that Tom Thibodeau doesn't trust McDermott, and it's looking like this will be a redshirt season, even if the Bulls could use his shooting. Even so, it's unlikely that the Bulls will trade the rookie. We know the front office loves him, and they invested a lot by trading up to get him in this past draft. And while he looked awful at the beginning of the year, I still feel like he can at least carve out a niche in the NBA thanks to his shooting, which is sure to improve.
Cavaliers in the Deng trade is top 10 protected until 2017, and it turns into a second-rounder if the Kings don't draft outside the top 10 by 2017. Sacramento currently has the sixth-worst record in the league this season, but a strong close to the year under new head coach George Karl could get the Kings outside the top 10. (The Kings are 2½ games worse than the Celtics, who have the 11th-worst record.) And even if it doesn't happen this year, there's reason to believe Sacramento will be better next year.pick: The Kings first-rounder acquired from the
Bulls picks: When it's all said and done, the Bulls' own first-rounder is sure to fall in the 20s. However, if the Bulls finish with a better record than the Cavaliers, the two teams will swap picks, so Chicago has that going for them. The Bulls don't own any second-round picks in the 2015 draft.
Trade filler: If the Bulls need to match salaries on a trade, they could look to include guys like Kirk Hinrich, Aaron Brooks, E'Twaun Moore, Nazr Mohammed and Cameron Bairstow. Hinrich and Mohammed both have the right to veto any trades they're included in because of the one-year contracts with full Bird rights they signed this past offseason (Hinrich's second year is an option), while Kirk also has a 15 percent trade kicker.