NBA Rumors: Bulls Unlikely to 'Blow It Up' at Trade Deadline amid Zach LaVine Buzz

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 9, 2023

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 6: Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls looks on after the game against the Philadelphia 76ers on January 6, 2023 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Despite falling short of expectations and sitting in a difficult spot long-term, the Chicago Bulls may not be prepared to wave the white flag and start over just yet.

"But in the weeks leading up to what could be a crucial deadline, multiple league sources have told The Athletic the expectation is for the Bulls to remain relatively quiet," The Athletic's Darnell Mayberry reported Monday. "No one expects the Bulls to 'blow it up' and commit to a complete rebuilding process."

Mayberry added that a trade involving Zach LaVine "would [be] a huge stunner."

Mayberry and colleague Shams Charania reported in December the Bulls were growing somewhat concerned about the on-court partnership of LaVine and DeRozan. The team staged multiple meetings to resolve the matter.

NBC Sports Chicago's K.C. Johnson followed up on Jan. 3 to report LaVine "privately has questioned his role/standing amongst the franchise at times."

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Beyond whether the Bulls would actually trade the two-time All-Star, Mayberry wrote Monday that prospective suitors are shying away because he's only one year into his five-year, $215.2 million extension.

On its own, moving LaVine would almost certainly signal a rebuild is in the works, and some will argue that step is inevitable regardless of what happens with the 6'5" guard over the next year or two.

Nikola Vučević and Coby White are both free agents this offseason, and DeMar DeRozan will hit the open market in 2024. The front office will have to decide whether it wants to start over or continue investing in a roster that's good enough to contend for the playoffs but might have a limited ceiling beyond that. This season is bearing that out.

For now, doing something as extreme as shipping LaVine and/or DeRozan out ahead of the Feb. 9 NBA trade deadline seems unlikely.

For one, it would represent a significant about-face when the Bulls just gave LaVine his extension and are only one offseason removed from signing DeRozan. Chicago has also won eight of its last 11 games, a strong run that will inevitably generate some hope about the rest of the year.

The Bulls' 2023 first-round draft selection offers the strongest incentive to tank. Chicago is slated to send the pick to the Orlando Magic as part of the Vučević trade, but it is top-four protected.

By missing the postseason and finishing with a bad enough record, that pick might stay in the Windy City.

Going down that route would be a tough pill to swallow and wouldn't even be guaranteed to work. The Bulls could tank and still land outside the top four, which would make all of that losing irrelevant.

You can understand why the organization prefers to forge ahead with the status quo.