The Chicago Bulls front office has some decisions to make before Thursday's trade deadline.
The young Bulls are in limbo as far as the standings are concerned. They are far from contention but sit just outside the playoff picture at No. 9 with the Nets and Magic in striking distance. However, the overall health of the team has put a damper on their ceiling this season.
Wendell Carter Jr. and Otto Porter Jr. are currently out. Lauri Markkanen is still out with a stress reaction in his right pelvis, and Kris Dunn was added to the list of Bulls struggling with injury. He suffered an MCL sprain that leaves him with an uncertain timetable for return.
So if the Bulls want some reinforcements to chase the playoffs they could be a buyer. If they are ready to punt this season, they have some pieces to sell. They could also just decide to let the season ride and see what they have if and when everyone gets healthy.
It also means there's some buzz out there about what direction the team will go. Here's a round-up of the latest reports.
Thaddeus Young, Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn Among Possible Trade Options
Should the Bulls look to make a move it appears that any one of the trio of Thaddeus Young, Denzel Valentine or Kris Dunn are among the most likely to be shipped off.
That's according to Bulls insider K.C. Johnson writing for NBC Sports Chicago. In breaking down the entire roster at the trade deadline he identified the triumvirate as the most likely players to go who are generating interest.
Young is a player that makes sense for contenders looking to add a piece that could give them a bump. The 31-year-old has recently seen his role increase for the Bulls with Markkanen out, and he's responded with 11.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per contest over the last 10 games. Johnson reported that the Clippers are at least one team who has reached out, and a deal involving Maurice Harkless is a possibility.
Harkless' expiring contract could be enticing, his $11 million comes off the books at the end of this season. However, the cap relief might not be worth losing Young who has played an important role in Markkanen's absence and could be dealt in the summer.
Teams have also reached out about Valentine. The former 14th pick has had sporadic playing time with the team this season and doesn't appear to be a part of the rebuild. The Grizzlies and Sixers are interested, according to Johnson.
Given Dunn's recent injury it seems unlikely that he would be included in any deals, but he still gets a mention in the report as someone the team would be willing to deal in the right situation. Of the three he seems like the least likely to be moved.
He is a restricted free agent this offseason. The Bulls will have the opportunity to match any offer sheet he gets.
Markkanen Considered Untouchable
Of all the possible players to be on the move by Thursday don't count on a swap involving Markannen. The 7-footer has had an up-and-down season, but the organization still considers him "all but untouchable," according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.
That's a strong endorsement for a young player who hasn't quite lived up to expectations. Injuries have now held him back in two seasons. He was only able to play in 52 games last season. However, he looked like a vital piece moving forward in those games.
He averaged 18.7 points and nine rebounds per game last season. When he's been active this season, he's fallen short of those numbers. Some of that can be chalked up to his usage where the team hasn't allowed him to be a presence on the inside.
Last season he attempted 8.9 two-point shots per contest. This season, that number is down to 5.6 while his three-pointers attempted per game (6.4) has remained identical.
The result has been a lack of progress and production as the fit within the team remains unclear. It doesn't look like that has the Bulls looking to move the third-year player, though.
That makes sense. At this point giving him away seems like it would be selling low, which is never advisable. Even if the team does eventually part ways with the forward it wouldn't make much sense to do it while he is injured and underperforming.
Markkanen should and most likely will be a hold during this trading cycle.
Teams Calling about LaVine
Of all the players the Bulls have under contract Zach LaVine seems like the least likely to be dealt, yet that hasn't stopped teams from calling.
"I know teams have called the Bulls about Zach LaVine—recently. Good teams. The Bulls typically throw the phone out the window when people call about Zach LaVine, just don't even bother. I assume that is still their stance, in part because Wendell Carter Jr. is injured, Markkanen's injured, Porter's injured."
Lowe also noted that the Bulls promoted LaVine's ultimately failed bid to make the All-Star Game, and he was the centerpiece of the deal that moved Jimmy Butler. Walking away from the biggest star on the roster to gain more assets would be a hard move to sell to fans.
LaVine would definitely help boost a contending team's title chances. He's averaging a career-high 24.9 points per game and would offer playmaking on the wing that pretty much anyone could use.
Given what the franchise already has invested in him in marketing and trade capital, he's probably still more valuable to the Bulls than he is to anyone who would be trying to trade for him.