(The Athletic) - NBA teams are probing the availability of two-time All-Star guard Zach LaVine and there’s been increased openness from the organization and player about exploring a trade, league sources said.
After Chicago’s 124-104 season-opening loss to Oklahoma City, players, led by veteran Nikola Vučević, expressed frustration with the Bulls’ offense, which they felt was similar to last season’s after being under the impression things would be different, league sources said.
Off the court, league sources said Chicago, which is largely running things back with its core from last season, would like to bring back DeMar DeRozan, who is on an expiring deal. But his future in Chicago is uncertain as well. The Bulls and DeRozan have discussed an extension, but the sides remain apart on years and salary, and the 34-year-old DeRozan wants to see where the team goes before committing to a return.
Well, that didn't exactly take long now, did it? Usually when you're having a players only meeting after the first game of the year, if things don't immediately turn around for you, stuff like this is usually what comes next. I don't want to assume, but I'm thinking whatever was said in that meeting didn't stick seeing as how the Bulls are 4-6 since.
The surprising part though is that we're hearing about this rather inevitable smashing of the rebuild button before Thanksgiving. It's still VERY early in the NBA season. Now, maybe the Bulls are looking at their 2-5 record vs teams .500 or better and have decided this is simply who they are and it's not good enough. I do agree that in the NBA, you need to pick a direction. Getting stuck in NBA purgatory is the worst possible thing you could do, and that's currently where the Bulls are.
But I guess my question is, if they are already giving up on this core, why didn't they just pivot over the summer? Was it wishful thinking? The DeRozan problem still existed this summer, and you knew that if the Bulls weren't going to be able to extend him, they had to trade him early. They cannot lose that asset for nothing in free agency, especially given the assets they gave up to bring in Vucevic. Now that the Bulls might stink, why would DeRozan want to stay unless the Bulls overpay? He has all the leverage in this situation, and that's not great for the Bulls.
The good news for them if they decide to blow this whole thing up is they should be able to bring back a good amount of assets for their pieces. Zach LaVine is under contract, young-ish, and is an elite level scorer. A contender may see him as a missing piece to what they have going on. Is it crazy to suggest the Lakers would be interested? They have the picks and salary matching contracts to make that work. Same with DeRozan.
There are a bunch of teams that are already foaming at the mouth at the idea of trading for Alex Caruso considering he's probably top 3 in the league in terms of perimeter defense and is the exact glue guy pretty much every team could use. Shit, even if they wanted to get ahead of Patrick Williams' RFA, they could try and flip him as a young prospect with upside for some picks.
The point is, if you trade one guy, you have to go all in. Clean house, rip the bandaid, and start over. Trade LaVine, trade DeRozan, trade Caruso, trade Vucevic, the whole lot. If you commit to a rebuild you have to really commit. At the same time, the Bulls are only 2 games out of a top 6 seed. It's not quite disaster time as of now.
Usually, once you get through the players only part and then the Shams trade rumors part, it's more a matter of "when" not "if". It really sucks because it cannot be overstated how boned the Bulls got with Lonzo's injury. This was a team that was atop of the East for a good stretch, but injuries have killed the entire plan. Maybe they should have started this process over the summer, but it feels like once we get to the trade deadline things are going to look a whole lot different.