Even wins aren’t very impressive for the Bulls these days.
Barely beating the Bradley Beal-less Wizards on Wednesday in front of the home crowd, doesn’t exactly scream contender.
What it did was keep the Bulls in the rumor mill crosshairs. That’s where underachieving teams usually reside in mid-December, leaving the fan base and media to decipher fact from fiction.
So while the Lakers might be looking to make an impactful trade and have their eyes on the Bulls roster, the feeling wasn’t mutual. According to a source, executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas had no interest in acquiring Russell Westbrook and his expiring contract, even if it meant adding draft picks.
Could that change by the Feb. 9 trade deadline? With Karnisovas, everything is usually on the table. But as of right now, the Bulls were still set on continuing to monitor the rehabilitation of Lonzo Ball and his surgically-repaired knee in hopes of his return giving them a glimpse of what this team will look like whole.
A glimpse that could carry a lot of weight on how much belief they want to keep in this roster.
The issue? Ball still hasn’t even started running, cutting or jumping – all pretty important steps to take in playing in an NBA game.
It’s a time crunch and also a test of patience.
Karnisovas has proven to be very deliberate in the way he handles his business, so playing the waiting game was in his wheelhouse.
If Ball, however, can’t return this season – or at least by the deadline – and the Bulls continue to underachieve, deliberate can become aggressive very quickly.
Karnisovas set the bar at reaching the second round of the playoffs back in the preseason, and there’s no backing down from those expectations now.
The unknown is would that take a tweak or an all-out blockbuster to get done? Here’s some players and teams to monitor:
Jae Crowder – PF – With an expiring $10-million contract and the Suns waiting for the best offer to move the veteran, Crowder would be the perfect mentor for Patrick Williams and the toughness this starting unit has lacked the last two seasons.
The problem was there’s more than a handful of contending teams that will be in on Crowder, and have better assets to give than the Bulls. A package that would include a Coby White wouldn’t move the needle.
Myles Turner – C – The Pacers have been looking to move Turner since last season, but have been very adamant in getting players and draft capital in return. That’s where the Bulls fall very short. Does Nikola Vucevic for Turner work from a money standpoint? Sure, but the Pacers would never send one expiring contract for another, and not have draft picks included.
Like a Crowder deal, there’s just teams with more to offer than the Bulls.
Atlanta – Like the Bulls, the Hawks have been muddling through the first third of the regular season, and have done so with growing issues. Trae Young could be developing into a problem child, while power forward John Collins always seems to be a trade candidate.
Would Karnisovas even entertain a blockbuster package of max contracts, sending Zach LaVine to Atlanta for Young? LaVine and Dejounte Murray do share Seattle roots, while Young would give the Bulls a legit high-volume three-point shooter.
This would seem more fantasy basketball league than reality, however.
New York – The Knicks want to make a splash, have young talent – see Cam Reddish – and draft capital to give. Would a DeMar DeRozan or a LaVine deal play well in the Garden? Absolutely, but that would mean that Karnisovas would have to feel this Bulls roster has hit rock bottom. It’s not even close to that yet.