The Bulls, the Chicago Bulls, did something at the trade deadline.
And it wasn’t as a seller, whether that was going to be the GarPaxian maneuver of gaining cash and ‘flexibility’ or a more purposeful asset. Thad Young and Lauri Markannen remain Chicago Bulls.
But a lot of other spots changed. Not only did Arturas Karnisovas pull off the biggest acquisition of the entire deadline in trading for All-Star Center Nikola Vucevic, he didn’t stop there like GarPax holding a press conference during the 2nd round of the draft. There were two more trades done, one at the very end of the deadline. They were very minor but that’s good.
The second trade that was two trades
Bulls receive: Daniel Theis and Javonte Green (from BOS), Troy Brown (from WAS)
Sent out: Daniel Gafford, Chandler Hutchison (to WAS), and Luke Kornet (to BOS)
I was pretty surprised that Theis was available, he had received the most center minutes on the frontcourt-deprived Celtics team this season and had been productive. But it turns out the Celtics are cheap cowards, and were just looking to stay under the luxury tax this season. They even threw in #CashConsiderations to the Bulls for this trade to happen. This must’ve been that institutional knowledge John Paxson imparted on his successor...
The new depth chart with better depth
Altogether, this is what the Bulls depth chart may look like the rest of the year:
There’s a glaring question of whether to start Markkanen or Young, but I am figuring Billy Donovan will pick Thad for the much better defensive complement to Vucevic. And clearly he and his bosses in the front office are done giving the Paxson draft picks any more entitlement minutes, and it’s of little concern to them whether Markkanen ‘heads into restricted free agency with confidence’ or not.
Troy Brown (Jr...we got a junior back after losing Otto and Wendell) may be the 2nd best player the Bulls acquired today. Still only 21 and showing some two-way talent as a perimeter defender with possible shooting stroke (though only at 30% from three this year, mind you, at least it’s at nearly 6 attempts per-36).
Going deeper, I am assuming Al-Farouq Aminu and Javonte Green are playable. I knew Aminu had been injured an egregiously long time following multiple knee surgeries, but has played in Orlando’s last sixteen games for roughly 20 minutes a contest. Green...can’t say I know much, except I learned today on Wikipedia that, like Vucevic, Green played for Montenegro’s national team as a dual citizen.
For the trash-end of the bench, now that the deadline has passed they could release Cristiano Felicio, Ryan Arcidiacono, and Denzel Valentine to pick up fringe tryout guys and I wouldn’t give it a second thought. They did good getting out two of that crew already in Hutchison and Kornet.
There’s an clear hole that remains: the point guard position. We have seen a lineup change, but that’s only reinforced what we know about each possibility: Sato does too little, White too much. Vucevic is worlds better as a facilitator than who he’s replacing, plus provides more spacing and gravity with his shooting. He and LaVine could do a capable job running an offense without another creator.
There are four players averaging 24+ PTS, 40+ 3P%, 6+ 3PA per game this season.— StatMuse (@statmuse) March 25, 2021
Two of them play for the Bulls. pic.twitter.com/PhCYBmtGRd
There were talks throughout deadline day of the Bulls acquiring Lonzo Ball, but New Orleans wound up holding onto him and we have to assume the asking price was quite high. And if that meant another first round pick, the Bulls were suddenly pick-poor after sending out two firsts for Vucevic.
Let’s maybe see who is out there in the buyout market. Point guards don’t look to be too available (Jeff Teague was also traded by the Celtics today and reportedly will be waived), but maybe they could get someone to at least keep Arch and Denzel from playing. In Temple’s injury absence, they’ve both been terrible, with Denzel now sporting the worst TS% of his career and he can’t blame Jim Boylen this time.
2021 plan is dead, and thank god for that
We can do a more specific post on this separately, but in terms of 2021-22 salary the Bulls jettisoned Carter and Hutchison and the first-round pick’s designated slot, and taking in Vucevic at $24M, Aminu at $10M, and Brown at $5M.
Long story, short: They very likely will not have functional cap space this summer to outright sign a max free agent or offer LaVine a proper extension. But they could get creative in waiving Satoransky, Young, and not making a qualifying offer to Markkanen and still work out a sign/trade for someone like Ball.
An honest playoff push
I said this in the Vucevic trade reaction, but what a breath of fresh air to have this team headed in a positive, actually-looking-to-improve, direction. The hole at PG will likely doom them in terms of making too much noise in the playoffs, but the Bulls look solid and deep enough to move up some slots in the East standings.
No longer will we have to depressingly follow the on-court product secretly hoping for losses to improve lottery odds and bring shame to the front office. I won’t have to see that stupid fucking tank GIF on Twitter in reply to any discussion of the team.
The Bulls are trying to be competitive, and that means as a fan we can follow them and their competitors earnestly. Stuff like the hard upcoming schedule now actually matters. The moves made by teams surrounding them in the standings (Heat, Hawks, Celtics - despite the cheap Theis move - got better. Pacers, Hornets, Knicks mostly stood pat. Raptors kept Kyle Lowry but traded Norman Powell.) is of interest now. Who Billy Donovan plays and how they handle late-game situations actually has significance. Zach LaVine is going to be in an actual playoff push.
They have a very long way to go when it comes to being actual contenders, and there was risk involved in dealing away so many future assets today. But the present feeling is unequivocally so refreshing, a feeling that was promised when the new regime was hired to take over a pretty bare cupboard. The change didn’t wind up happening until mid-season, but it’s exciting all the same.