Bulls' Updated Trade Targets with 2021 NBA Deadline Approaching
The Chicago Bulls have more than a playoff pulse.
If the 2020-21 NBA campaign closed today, they'd have a ticket to the play-in tournament. Survive that, and the Bulls would have their first playoff trip since 2017.
But Chicago also has a slew of veterans who can, have and will attract win-now shoppers. Given that the Bulls' best basketball could be several years ahead—five of their top six players in minutes per game are 25 and under—it might behoove them to at least consider the future in their trade deadline dealings.
As Bulls executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas put it, the league as a whole is headed toward "a very interesting trade deadline." Chicago belongs on the Association's short list of most interesting deadline teams, since this club could buy or sell (or do a little of both).
With both options on the table, let's examine three potential targets between now and the March 25 deadline.
This might elicit a groan from the playoff-focused portion of the fanbase, but young teams need as many scratch-off tickets as possible. That's especially true in the Bulls' case if they aren't prepared to cover the upcoming free-agency costs of Lauri Markkanen (restricted this offseason) and Zach LaVine (unrestricted in 2021).
Even if they plan to pay those players, they could use more high-upside prospects coming through the pipeline. They could potentially find some by swapping out veterans who aren't part of the long-term nucleus for draft picks.
Otto Porter Jr. and Garrett Temple will be unrestricted free agents at season's end. Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky have only partial guarantees on their 2021-22 salaries.
The Bulls don't need to undergo a full-on fire sale—though the option is on the table, particularly if they'd listen to offers for LaVine or Markkanen—but even some selective selling could increase their draft capital going forward.
Lonzo Ball, New Orleans Pelicans
His play has perked up considerably since. Over his last 18 outings, he has delivered 16.9 points on 46.3/45.9/85.7 shooting, plus 5.7 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals. It's possible that has removed him from trade consideration.
But the Pelicans continue treading water outside of the Western Conference playoff picture, so they probably shouldn't consider anyone untouchable beyond Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. Plus, Ball has a chance to get expensive this offseason when he heads into restricted free agency. A Ball trade might be less likely than it was a month ago, but it hardly feels impossible.
If it is possible, Chicago should be all over 2017's No. 2 pick. Ball has been on the radar for a while, which makes sense since the Bulls' scoring guards could desperately use a pass-first backcourt partner who can defend multiple positions. Let him focus on finding shots for LaVine, Markkanen and Coby White, and Chicago could give some serious helium to its 15th-ranked attack.
Patrick Beverley, Los Angeles Clippers
The Bulls might be able to stand pat and still sneak into the playoffs. But for them to actually matter in the postseason, they need to improve their roster at both ends.
He makes his biggest mark at the defensive end, which is where the Bulls need the most help (19th in efficiency). He pesters opponents the full length of the floor and has no problem defending up a position (or more). He is equal parts fearless and relentless, which is the exact combination a 6'1" stopper needs to be.
Offensively, Beverley wouldn't address the Bulls' need for a ball-mover, but he also wouldn't disrupt what they have going at that end. He's perfectly fine living off of spot-up threes, meaning he wouldn't step on the toes of LaVine or White and would actually help them by leveraging his three-point threat (career-high 41.4 percent this season) to give them wider attack lanes.