It’s that wonderful time of year when the recently signed free agents are trade-eligible (not yet, RJ Hunter, but yes Rajon Rondo!) and we can go into the Trade Machine unencumbered.
And oh, have I Trade Machined. Except if you’re looking to make a deal for the Bulls, it’s very difficult. Because the Bulls organizational goals have an incongruity bordering on self-defeating.
There’s the ‘stay relevant’ Bulls, who signed Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade to bolster a veteran starting five. A team with a wide range of outcomes that may miss the playoffs but likely won’t, and certainly won’t be bad enough to where they’d definitely miss the playoffs. This is similar to last year when the Bulls should’ve traded Pau Gasol, but held on to him in order to stay competitive, only to miss the playoffs by a game.
The Bulls want to make the playoffs to look better in free agency, with Wade and Jimmy Butler as recruiters. This presents a tertiary problem of not wanting to take on long-term money as to impact that cap space.
So maybe you’d speculate on a trade that helps the team near-term, giving up a young player or other asset.
But that shines a light on the ‘younger and more athletic’ Bulls, which Gar Forman is very proud of. And with moving on from Rose, Noah, and Thibodeau in the past couple years, are supposed to accompany Butler as the next era of the franchise. That gives these ‘prospects’ more value to Chicago and their front office than the rest of the league, especially so because they’ve been bad when on the court and in several cases are not even that young.
So that gives a fundamental problem with trading...pretty much everyone.
Butler, Wade: Untouchable
Rondo: More valuable to Bulls than other teams (because he’s pretty much toxic)
Lopez: Need him on court to keep team competitive
Gibson: Need him to stay competitive, upcoming free agent (and they probably want to re-sign him)
Mirotic: Need him to stay competitive, and upcoming free agent (should want to re-sign him, but who knows)
McDermott, Portis, Valentine, Grant, Zipser: ‘Bulls guys’ who are touted as the future, but aren’t playing well and have little trade value to other teams compared to the Bulls.
MCW, Canaan, Felicio: Young, but approaching free agency (except Canaan, but he’s awful and making minimum)
You can see the issues. If you want to fake a trade that helps the Bulls now, you probably can’t get anything for their ‘assets’ (though they really should kick around a deal with the Kings to give them their pick back for peace of mind, since they’re not giving it anyway?). If you want to get a prospect or draft pick, you can’t trade one of the 6-7 players helping the team win games.
So the Bulls have not only historically ruined the fun of trade speculation season because they simply don’t do them, for this year they’ve ruined the fun of even dreaming about it because they’ve ironically made themselves completely inflexible from a team-building standpoint until next summer.