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Bulls acquire Derrick Jones Jr., protected first-round pick in Lauri Markkanen sign-and-trade

Lauri’s Bulls career over, Jones will slide into wing rotation

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Our long international nightmare is over, Lauri Markkanen is no longer a Chicago Bull. One of the few remaining intriguing free agents has been signed-and-traded out of Chicago. And after weeks of posturing over (reportedly) wanting a first-round pick and no long-term money, the Bulls front office has gotten that.

It’s a three-team deal between the Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Portland TrailBlazers. Full details, per all the Twitter access merchants:

Bulls receive:

  • Derrick Jones Jr.
  • 2022 first round pick from Portland, which is protected 1-14 through 2028, then a 2028 second-round pick.
  • 2023 second round pick originally from Denver

Cavs receive:

  • Lauri Markkanen on a four-year, $67M contract

Blazers receive:

  • Larry Nance Jr. from Cleveland

At first glance this is another example of solid work from AKME, instead of lazily letting Lauri remain in limbo and possibly coming back on a 1-year qualifying offer they tried to improve the asset base and keep a ‘salary slot’ with Jones for future use. Ambition and competency remains the stark difference in this offseason versus the prior, like, twelve.

And this is fascinating trade to analyze because we can see actual alternatives here with involving the 3rd team. The Bulls chose to take the expiring contract and the picks versus the better player on a multi-year deal.

I think Larry Nance would’ve been a pretty ideal fit as a bigger defensive forward. But Karnisovas undoubtedly chose Jones because he’s only on the books for one year at $9.7M, whereas Nance has 2 seasons remaining at around that number. And Karnisovas chose getting a first-rounder, which may not have as much value in its eventual selection of a player as it now means the Bulls can potentially trade it. Perhaps Jones+1st looks better in a trade package midseason than now, and the Bulls can get a better win-now player.

(now if the value of the expiring deal here is that...well, it expires...and keeps Bulls under tax for a 2022 LaVine extension: booooo!)

But heading into this season, Jones joins the Bulls fairly thin wing crop alongside DeMar DeRozan, Troy Brown, and Javonte Green.

Jones has good tools as a defender and a superlative athlete (participated in several dunk contests and won the 2020 event) but has a limited non-shooting offensive game. Still, after being undrafted and working on the fringes of the league, Jones was a sleeper free agent in the 2020 offseason as he was still young but his incumbent team, the Miami Heat, were cap-strapped in keeping him. Unfortunately after signing with the Blazers, he quickly fell out of favor with now-deposed coach Terry Stotts, to where Jones picking up his player option for this upcoming season was now an albatross for the Blazers.

Jones is still only 24, and though not guaranteed a spot in the rotation may quickly take one given his competition.

The Bulls needed more wings, but they also needed more bigs, and defensive-minded ones at that.

How do they help that area now? They are $6.4M below the tax and $11.8M below the hard cap with 2 open roster spots. They still have their Bi-Annual Exception ($3.7M), a Traded Player Exception from Daniel Theis ($5M), and minimums.

Again, I would’ve preferred to just seize the opportunity now and get Larry Nance for this role. But as we’ve seen many times this summer, AKME never seems truly ‘done’.