Bulls Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz Surrounding Chicago Entering 2020 Deadline

Martin FennContributor IIFebruary 4, 2020

Chicago Bulls' Lauri Markkanen shoots a free throw during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
Aaron Gash/Associated Press

The Chicago Bulls are in a tough position with the NBA trade deadline just days away. 

They are in ninth spot in the Eastern Conference with 30 games remaining in their season, and they are four games back of the Orlando Magic for the eighth and final playoff position.

While it might be possible for the Bulls to muster a run for the No. 8 seed—or perhaps even the No. 7 seed, as the Brooklyn Nets are just a half game up on the Magic—injuries remain a big concern.

Wendell Carter Jr. and Otto Porter Jr. remain out, likely until at least the All-Star break, and Lauri Markkanen might miss all of February due to a right ankle injury. To make matters worse, Kris Dunn suffered an MCL sprain against the Brooklyn Nets this past Friday, and his timetable for return is unknown.

On the one hand, Chicago's decimated roster could be used as an excuse to sell. Conversely, they could look to add depth (notably in the frontcourt) in an effort to solidify a potential playoff run.

Here is the latest buzz surrounding the Bulls as the deadline approaches.

            

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Lauri Markkanen Deemed 'Untouchable'

Markkanen's season has been dogged by injuries, but he gained traction as a promising rotation player in the first half and was downright dominant after the Bulls traded for Porter at last year's deadline. 

The 7-footer from Finland had a torrid February, averaging 26.0 points and 12.2 rebounds in 10 games while also posting a .620 true shooting percentage.

Although he was underwhelming in March before being shut down for the rest of the year, it seemed clear Markkanen's success was of vital importance to Chicago's hopes of building a winning culture. That simply hasn't been the case this season.

The 22-year-old was averaging 15.0 points and 6.5 rebounds prior to the ankle injury, and he was running the lowest usage rate of his young career.

Bulls head coach Jim Boylen has mostly kept him on the perimeter, as over half of his shots have come from three-point range. The approach has seemingly minimized Markkanen's effectiveness as a post threat and rebounder on the interior.

Despite his struggles, though, the Bulls regard him as "untouchable" in trade discussions, per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

It might not come as a surprise the Bulls are reluctant to trade Markkanen. They selected him with the pick obtained from the Jimmy Butler trade on draft night in 2017, and selling him now might be counterintuitive seeing as he is still a crucial figure in the rebuilding process.

In any case, there is no question the Bulls need to get Markkanen more involved. He averaged 23.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game during wins last season, and the Bulls have been lacking a second scoring option to Zach LaVine all season.

        

Denzel Valentine Drawing Interest

   

   

Denzel Valentine is one of the less-heralded players on Chicago's roster, but he is still drawing some trade interest.

Jamal Collier of the Chicago Tribune reported his name as one being brought up in trade speculation, and K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago previously reported at least one team has checked in on him while also suggesting the Bulls could look to package him in a deal with Thaddeus Young.

The former Michigan State star has hardly seen the floor this season, averaging 12.2 minutes in 30 appearances despite averaging 10.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists in a breakout campaign last year. 

As Johnson noted in his article, Boylen emphasized Valentine needed to "grow" and "play," yet he has been given fairly limited opportunities to get an extended run. 

Cowley reiterated Valentine "expressed his frustration to the Sun-Times last month," but he also quoted the player as going about his business and saying "I'm not really pressed either way" when it comes to the possibility of a trade.

The 26-year-old shot close to 39 percent from beyond the arc last season, and he can impact the game in a number of ways as a combo guard. There might be a suitor willing to bank on his upside with more playing time, especially given he would likely come at a fairly cheap cost. 

        

All stats obtained via Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.

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