Bulls' Complete 2022 NBA Trade Deadline Preview, Predictions

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 3, 2022

Bulls' Complete 2022 NBA Trade Deadline Preview, Predictions

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    The 2022 NBA trade deadline looms as the next crossroads for the resurgent Chicago Bulls.

    Should they use their newfound success as motivation to cash in their top trade chips for a difference-maker? Or will their recent brutal luck on the health front—knee surgery for Lonzo Ball, a fractured wrist for Alex Caruso and Derrick Jones Jr.'s broken finger—give them pause about pursuing instant gratification?

    There are arguments to be made on both sides. There is also just a single week to settle those debates.

    Let's not waste any more time, then, and get into the nitty-gritty with a comprehensive guide to trade season in the Windy City.


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    Justin Ford/Getty Images

    While Chicago isn't swimming in assets, the ones at its disposal offer significant value—if the front office would actually give them up.

    The crown jewel is Patrick Williams, the 2020 No. 4 pick who offers towering potential at both ends of the floor. The issue is he's been out since October after tearing ligaments in his left wrist, and it's uncertain if he'll return at any point this season.

    If the Bulls dangled the 20-year-old swingman, they could ask for the sun, moon and stars in return. With his age and upside, he has "a mountain of trade value," per B/R's Jake Fischer, though the front office must decide whether there are present upgrades worth sacrificing his future to get.

    Beyond Williams, the Bulls could also shop Coby White, the third-year scoring guard who was plucked ninth overall from the 2019 draft. They also have two first-round picks in this summer's draft (their own and the Portland Trail Blazers', which has lottery protection), but they are out two future first-round picks from last year's Nikola Vucevic trade and last offseaon's sign-and-trade for DeMar DeRozan.

    Chicago cannot trade its own picks in any of the next seven drafts due to protections on previously traded selections.


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    Assuming Ball and Caruso eventually return to full strength, Chicago's biggest opportunity to upgrade is pretty obvious.

    The starting spot held by Javonte Green—a dogged defender with offensive limitations—would ideally be filled by a player with more two-way ability. A forward with size, shooting and defensive versatility (a player not unlike what the Bulls hope Williams can become) would complete this starting five and nudge the team even farther ahead in the championship race.

    Expect to hear the Bulls linked to everyone who fits that play style. Jerami Grant is the most obvious example, but Harrison Barnes, Robert Covington and Nicolas Batum check similar boxes.

    The issue, of course, is that players like Grant and Barnes would almost certainly cost them Williams, so Chicago would have to be convinced they would complete the championship puzzle.

    Looking past the forward spot, the Bulls could target higher-volume shooters and a backup big. A defensive-minded center is the likely aim here, although the ideal pickup would offer both paint protection and floor spacing.


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    If this was written even a few weeks back, it would predict a major move for the Bulls. Now, though, those injury issues create some confusion.

    The possibility of a trade for Grant, Barnes or someone of a similar ilk is still on the table, but it has dropped from maybe 75-plus percent likely to 25 percent. If Chicago thinks it can win a championship now, it should part with Williams to make it happen. Sure, he might be a two-way star one day, but it's more likely he settles in (at least) a rung or two beneath that. Taking the sure thing now certainly has its appeal.

    Still, those injuries should force the Bulls to tread carefully here. So, too, should their tumble down the defensive efficiency ranks, where they sit 24th since the start of December, per NBA.com. Making a one-year leap from not very good to the best team in basketball is as hard as it gets. Chicago could decide that jumping to really good is good enough, hoping for the best with this playoff run but also planning for even bigger things in the near future.

    Some type of activity seems likely, though. Turning White's scoring into a defensive-minded forward with a jumper makes a lot of sense if the right player is available. Sacrificing a lesser asset to beef up the backup center spot makes even more.