Paxson: Bulls ‘realistic' about current state, won't be players for Russell Westbrook


To the small pocket of the Bulls' fan base who wanted Russell Westbrook, we've got unfortunate news.

Bulls VP John Paxson joined 670 The Score on Thursday to discuss a number of topics, including the potential of trading for disgruntled All-Pro Russell Westbrook.

And while Paxson didn't come right out and say the Bulls weren't interested, his response told much of the story.

"Everybody pays attention obviously to what's going on, what the deals around the league are," Paxson said. "But I think every team is at kind of a different stage of development and evolution. There are teams that are going to take a real shot at someone like that. You have to factor in everything. When you look at the financial aspect of a player that's 30 going out four years and the amount of money that's going to be made, those things can tie your hands up and put your organization in a tough position."

Westbrook, an eight-time All-Star and 2017 MVP, still has four years and $170 million left on the $205 max extension he signed in 2017. His current contract will pay him $47 million in 2022, when he'll be a 34-year-old entering his 15th NBA season.

He's undoubtedly talented, having averaged a triple-double each of the last three seasons and leading the league in scoring in 2017. But Westbrook's inefficiencies, decline in production and shooting, and age make his contract a difficult one to move. The Bulls would be better with Westbrook, but it's tough to see them as contenders in a top-heavy East that still includes rising teams like the Bucks, Sixers and Nets. The Westbrook-to-Bulls speculation never made much sense.

For those reasons, Paxson said the Bulls are more likely to see their young prospects through instead of bringing in a player like Westbrook who doesn't fit their timeline.

"We're trying to build this thing given our timeline, and our timeline started two years ago in terms of a rebuild," Paxson said. "When you look at the number of changes we made in the past year with the 15-man roster, I think they're significant. I think we've upgraded our talent level while staying young. I think our prospects of being that competitive team are high."

Paxson said the hope is once those young players like Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Wendell Carter Jr. and Coby White progress, and the Bulls have ample cap space to attract big-name free agents, that Chicago will be a destination.

"You want the superstars. You want to do what the Clippers are doing and the Lakers are doing, but we're realistic right now," he said. "We're not in that position. We hope that in a couple years with the development of these young guys, players around the league view us as a destination point where they can win at the highest level. I believe we'll be there if our young guys perform the way we hope they will."

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