Grading 11 ambitious Bulls trade ideas as deadline looms


As the calendar flips to 2023, the Chicago Bulls sit 16-21 and a half-game outside of the Eastern Conference’s play-in picture.

It has been an underwhelming start to a season that began with talk of continuity and a potential playoff series win. And it has fueled rampant trade speculation from NBA insiders and Bulls fans alike.

To get in the spirit of trade season — remember, the deadline is just over a month away — we solicited some fake trade ideas from Bulls Twitter and parsed 11 of the most intriguing.

Needless to say, it was an equally exhaustive and entertaining exercise:

The Retool

Wizards receive: DeMar DeRozan

Bulls receive: Kyle Kuzma, Monte Morris


This is an interesting one. The Bulls swap DeRozan for a younger, potentially high upside wing alternative and add a point guard to their Lonzo Ball-less committee. The Wizards, meanwhile, skate out from under Kuzma’s impending free agency and form a potent offensive trio of Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porziņģis and DeRozan.

Ultimately, this is the archetype of trade I’d expect to see from both the Bulls, who are more likely to retool than rebuild if they pivot at all, and Wizards, who have in recent years favored building from the middle up as opposed to full teardowns.

But, to me, this specific deal breaks down because I see DeRozan, who for the second season in a row is playing at an All-NBA level, as worth more than this package. 

It’s not a knock on Kuzma, who has been an integral rotation player for a title-winning team, would snugly fit on this Bulls roster and is the quintessential modern four man because of his defensive versatility, outside shooting and athleticism. 

But he is also 27 and will be looking for big money this offseason. Would the Bulls be immediately sold on him as a foundational piece and willing to pay him as such? If not, he could very well walk for nothing.

In the still unlikely event the Bulls decide to move DeRozan, my personal focus would be on younger or more cost-controlled players and draft capital. The Wizards may prefer that type of package in a hypothetical Kuzma deal as well.

(Plus, according to Fanspo, the Wizards would need to include a minimum salary to make this deal work for hard cap reasons. Welcome home, Taj Gibson!)

Who says no: Bulls first

Grade: B. Thought-provoking.

Via Matt Gentile (@MGentile88)

A homecoming bid

Knicks receive: Nikola Vučević

Bulls receive: Derrick Rose, Isaiah Hartenstein


One of the reasons I liked Hartenstein, 24, as a mid-level exception candidate for the Bulls this offseason was his potential to blossom into a starting-caliber center that could take on an increased role if Vučević were to be traded this season or depart in free agency this offseason.

However, Hartenstein has underwhelmed as a reserve in New York. Even if the days of Vučević fetching multiple picks or a blue-chip young player in a trade are long gone, a deal centered on Hartenstein is not good value from the Bulls’ perspective, especially given their stated goals. And although Rose’s $15.6 million for 2023-24 is a club option, effectively making him an expiring contract, his sentimental value far outweighs his on-court impact at this stage in his career. Particularly when projecting to an already-crowded Bulls guard position.

All of the above is also said without considering the Knicks’ appetite for introducing Vučević into a center room from which they have gotten solid production from the younger, more athletic and more defensively talented Mitchell Robinson and Jericho Sims. This one feels like a no all around.

Who says no: Both

Grade: C-

Via 64hoops (@64hoops1)

Tearing it down

Warriors receive: Zach LaVine, Alex Caruso

Lakers receive: Nikola Vučević, Draymond Green

Bulls receive: Russell Westbrook, James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, Max Christie | Lakers’ 2029 first-round pick, Lakers’ 2027 second-round pick; next two tradable Warriors’ first-round picks



To recap:

At the cost of Green, Wiseman, Kuminga, Moody and two first-round picks, the Warriors add an elite shooter and slasher on the wing, plus an All-Defense caliber guard.

The Lakers use Westbrook’s mammoth expiring contract, Christie, and a far-off first to fortify their frontcourt twice over with a center who can reliably create offense for himself and others, and a forward who can still anchor a championship-caliber defense.

And the Bulls smash the rebuild button by adding three future first-round picks, a bushel of prospects of varying intrigue and a massive expiring deal to wash their books clean.

It’s bold. It’s fun to unwrap.

My guess is it’s a no from all three parties.

For the Warriors, this deal makes more sense as an on-paper exercise than in practice. As phenomenal as Caruso is at what he does, he would not be able to replace the interior defense and preternatural facilitating Green provides, which is more valuable in Golden State’s system than anywhere else. LaVine, of course, would be a splendid fit for now and the years to come — but is this level of a revamp worth upending what could still be a title-contending nucleus this season?

The Lakers get a decent shake value-wise but are left with a stilted roster construction where all four of their best and highest-paid players are either power forwards or centers. Vučević helps their shooting issue but doesn’t solve it, especially if his role is undefined.

And the Bulls, simply put, are not wired to make a teardown trade of this intensity. Yes, the deal would sterilize their books for years to come and onboard some needed draft capital — but to what end? The remaining roster would be a wreckage it would take years to reconstruct. And while Kuminga has flashed some intriguing upside this season, none of those prospects are sure things by any stretch.

While some fans may prefer this tact, the Bulls’ current front office has clearly exhibited it does not have an appetite for a years-long development project.

Who says no: Everyone

Grade: C+ for creativity.

Via TJ (@turkeybas)

Trio of trades

Don Lon proposes a handful of deals to be made in succession. Let’s take them one-by-one.

Bulls-Mavericks: Nikola Vučević for JaVale McGee, Dāvis Bertāns and a 2024 top-five protected first-round pick.

Eating Bertāns’ $17 million for next season (and a $5 million partial guarantee for 2024-25), plus the nearly $12 million McGee is owed in total for the next two years, stings. But getting a first-round pick for Vučević at all makes it interesting.

Bulls-Warriors: Alex Caruso and Javonte Green for James Wiseman, Patrick Baldwin Jr., 2026 top-three protected first-round pick.

It feels reasonable, particularly given the Warriors’ need for wing depth and defense. I’d personally aim for Kuminga or Moody over Wiseman if I was perusing Golden State’s prospect pool, but I understand the intrigue given the Bulls’ hole at the center position in this universe. Baldwin has flashed potential with limited opportunity and was a highly-regarded high school prospect in his heyday.

Bulls-Grizzlies: DeMar DeRozan for Ziaire Williams, Dillon Brooks, Danny Green, Kennedy Chandler, Kenneth Lofton Jr., first-round picks in 2023, 2025 (top-five protected)

Filler aside, nabbing two future first-round picks and Williams — a promising two-way wing who has admittedly had a turbulent, injury-riddled second season so far — would be an intriguing return in a potential DeRoan deal. And if Brooks produces, or Chandler or Lofton blossom, gravy.

The Bulls are left with the following after the dust settles on this bonanza:

PG: Ayo Dosunmu / Goran Dragić / Kennedy Chandler / Lonzo Ball*
SG: Zach LaVine / Dillon Brooks / Coby White
SF: Ziaire Williams / Danny Green / Dalen Terry
PF: Patrick Williams / Dāvis Bertāns / Derrick Jones Jr. / Kenneth Lofton Jr.
C: Andre Drummond / JaVale McGee / Tony Bradley / Marko Simonović

You’d need to waive or find new homes for three of those players to get the roster back to 15. But, combined with the extra picks, it’s certainly interesting, particularly if Ball returns.

However, the scenario loses me in a few places.

One, given how Luka Dončić’s union with Porziņģis expired, I’m unsure of the Vučević fit in Dallas. Especially considering the consternation over his offensive involvement in Chicago.

Two, the Bulls taking on multiple years of financial commitment for Bertāns and McGee, each of whom can’t crack Dallas’ rotation, does not feel realistic.

And three, the DeRozan trade is not representative of how Memphis or the Bulls have operated in recent seasons. 

Since their breakout 2020-21 campaign and the ascension of Ja Morant, the Grizzlies have prudently built out roster and asset depth by nailing multiple deep-cut draft picks and collecting capital with marginal trades. Presumably, that is all building towards a star swing. But DeRozan does not particularly fit their timeline or style of play.

And from the Bulls’ perspective, this is probably not enough in terms of known commodities to get back for DeRozan’s All-NBA level production.

Who says no: Grizzlies and Bulls

Grade: B-. I’d guess you’re a ruthless 2K general manager.

Via Don Lon (@DaBall_InMyHand)

A different type of reunion

Lakers receive: Nikola Vučević, Lonzo Ball

Bulls receive: Russell Westbrook, Max Christie, 2027 first-round pick


Drawing a first-round pick of that value for Vučević is certainly worth considering. And a homecoming for Christie, hooray!

But trading Ball at this juncture is simply not feasible. He has not played basketball in almost a full year, does not yet have a return date in sight, and has two years and roughly $40 million remaining on his contract after this season. Especially for the luxury tax-strapped Lakers, this trade doesn’t make much sense and it surely does not raise their championship ceiling for this season, which is the only scenario in which you can justify flipping one or both of their future picks.

And as for the Bulls: While this trade would clear Ball's money off the books moving forward, it also, according to Fanspo, would add $5.5 million in salary for this season. That would take the Bulls into the tax, which is not happening this year. You're better off hoping Ball returns at some point.

Grade: D

Who says no: Both

Via Michael Walton (@ZenMasterMike)

Center swap

Pacers receive: Nikola Vučević, Coby White, Portland first-round pick

Bulls receive: Myles Turner, Chris Duarte, Spurs 2023 second-round pick


It’s interesting as a retool trade for the Bulls, who would upgrade their fit at center with Turner instead of Vučević, take a flier on Duarte and pay a lottery-protected first-round pick as the price. And perhaps the Pacers could envision White as a backcourt piece of the future alongside — or backing up — Tyrese Haliburton.

Ultimately, I bet Indiana is hoping for more than a lottery-protected first as the big chip of a Turner trade, given his stellar start to the season and the widespread interest in his services. They could also choose not to move him at all and continue building with him; Turner still is 26 years old, after all, and the Pacers currently sit sixth in the East as Haliburton blossoms into an All-Star.

Who says no: Pacers

Grade: B

Via DayVid (@davidgorena12)

Searching for shooting

Nets receive: Nikola Vučević, Coby White

Bulls receive: Joe Harris, Patty Mills, Kessler Edwards, future first-round pick 

Multiple proposals submitted had Vučević landing in Brooklyn and Harris in Chicago. Some ideas between the Bulls and Nets even had Ben Simmons returning (which can be quickly dispelled because of his albatross contract, on-court limitations and uncertain production moving forward).

This structure of deal is marginal enough to be worth discussion. The first-round pick is nice, even if it's unclear which year it come from because of the Nets' murky draft capital situation. And the Bulls hypothetically net out positively in the 3-point shooting department. 

But the Bulls trading nearly $30 million in expiring salary for two players in Harris (whose role has diminished in his first season back from long-term injury) and Mills (a 34-year-old fringe rotation player at this stage) whose salaries combine for about $26 million next season is a deal-breaker. The return is simply not enough to justify losing the value proposition — and hamstringing yourself this offseason — that badly.

Who says no: Bulls

Grade: D

Via Baller Fanaticz (@ballerfanaticz)

A future centerpiece?

Bulls receive: Deandre Ayton, Jae Crowder, Cam Johnson

Suns receive: DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vučević


Let’s start by saying this is too much for Phoenix to give up. I’d take Cam Johnson out and frame it as a simple Ayton-Crowder for DeRozan-Vučević swap (which works financially).

That construction could be intriguing for both sides. There is mounting evidence of a rift between Ayton and the Suns, and I believe he is exactly the type of big man (long, athletic, versatile on the defensive end, but with a burgeoning offensive game as well at age 24) the Bulls should be targeting to take the long-term mantle from Vučević. He would be a potential foundational piece moving forward.

Crowder, meanwhile, is providing nothing to Phoenix as of now, but would be a good fit at a thin power forward position for the Bulls. And on the other side, DeRozan gives the Suns some sorely needed shot-creation outside of Devin Booker and an aging Chris Paul.

The snag is the defensive downgrade from Ayton, a plus rim protector with the ability to execute multiple different perimeter-oriented pick-and-roll coverages, to Vučević. You get a little bit more offensively from Vučević’s floor-spacing and facilitating. But I believe Ayton’s defense gives Phoenix a higher playoff ceiling.

If his current situation is untenable, though, the Bulls should be first on the line.

Who says no: Suns

Grade: B+. With Johnson removed, it's my favorite trade of the bunch.

Via Kevin Adams (@kevindadams)

Wing swap

Bulls receive: De’Andre Hunter*, John Collins

Hawks receive: DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Williams

In this deal, the Bulls and Hawks essentially swap starting wing rotations.

For the Bulls, the result is likely a short-term step back, given the reliability DeRozan provides. But the deal would assemble an interesting mid-20s core of LaVine, Caruso, Hunter, Collins and — hopefully, at some point — Ball that may one day soon have higher upside than the current group.

(You'd also have to consider that Hunter has a four-year, $90 million extension kick in beginning next season, so the Bulls would need to value him — at a $20 million price point — more than Williams on his rookie-scale contract for 2023-24.)

Meanwhile, Atlanta adds an All-Star scorer for its playoff push this season, albeit a questionable fitting one with the ball-dominant Trae Young and Dejounte Murray, and on an already low-volume 3-point shooting team. Williams is a flier at this point whose upside depends on the eye of the beholder.

Ultimately, I’m not sure it moves the needle enough for either side to warrant pulling the trigger. Rearranging deck chairs on two turbulent ships.

*Hunter, if traded, is also subject to the poison-pill provision, which complicates a trade. I believe the Bulls would need to toss in an additional minimum salary to line up the finances.

Who says no: Both

Grade: C+. It's the thought that counts.

Via Kristian Bernardo (@krisbernardo118)

Knicks blockbuster

Bulls receive: RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, salary filler, multiple first-round picks

Knicks receive: Zach LaVine


Normally, I would only include trades with strictly-defined parameters. But this construction was too interesting not to discuss.

Given the Bulls’ telegraphed intention to not fully tear down, it would still be a surprise if they moved LaVine. But if they did, this type of deal — in which multiple young, promising players and surplus draft capital come back — makes sense. 

The only question is how deep into the trove of assets the Knicks would want to go for LaVine. Perhaps after striking out on Donovan Mitchell in the offseason, they will be motivated, although LaVine is one-and-a-half years older, has a more checkered injury history and has not produced to Mitchell's level this season.

However, if the disconnect between LaVine and the Bulls continue to deepen, and the Knicks believe they are a piece away from jumping a level, a trade of this ilk is something to watch.

Who says no: Bulls

Grade: B

Via Tom Beecher (@BeecherTom)

Let’s get wild

Hawks receive: Zach LaVine, two future first-round picks (or Patrick Williams)

Bulls receive: Trae Young

This deal is also not strictly-defined. But the structure of LaVine for Young is enough to chew on.

Barring a trade request from Young, I can’t see Atlanta pulling this level of a trigger so soon into their roster’s shelf life. If he did, though, and the Hawks opted for a retool trade as opposed to a draft-pick-heavy return, LaVine would be a snug fit next to Dejounte Murray in the backcourt.

As for the Bulls, sure, it always makes sense to explore the possibility of adding a player of Young’s talent level. Especially considering his track record of postseason success.

However, the drama that has swirled around Atlanta for the past two-to-three years would concern me, as would Young’s monopolizing ball-dominance. And while the Bulls could always retool around him, their roster as currently constructed — no reliable lob-threat center or forward, little 3-point shooting, another ball-dominant star in DeRozan — would offer a poor fit for Young’s skill set and needs.

In all, probably too seismic to wrap my head around. But a fun one to explore.

Who says no: Both

Grade: C+

Via Bill (@therealBillBoss)

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