Jan 24, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg talks with Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler (21) and guard Dwyane Wade (3) during the second quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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As is the case with every other NBA team during this time of year, the Chicago Bulls have been mentioned in multiple trade rumors as the deadline nears.
The good news is the Chicago Bulls entered the All-Star break on a two-game winning streak. The bad news is they are 28-29 and lead the Detroit Pistons by just one game for the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference.
Like most teams during this time of year, the Bulls have been mentioned in multiple trade rumors. One of most recent scenarios included sending Jimmy Butler to the Boston Celtics for possibly Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and one other non-Nets first-rounder (per ESPN’s Zach Lowe).
Another rumor that didn’t gain too much traction had the Bulls testing the trade market to see what they could get in return for Robin Lopez (who was acquired from the New York Knicks as part of the Derrick Rose trade) and third-year forward Doug McDermott.
Make no mistake; the Bulls are no more than a .500 ball club right now. Despite the mediocre play we have seen from this team during the first half of the team, one right move could help them move up in the standings before it’s all said and done.
The question is: will they make a move or stand pat and possibly risk missing the playoffs for a second straight year?
Here is a look at some of the options the Bulls may explore with the trade deadline rapidly approaching.
Dec 31, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard/forward Jimmy Butler (21) celebrates with teammates during the first half against the Milwaukee Bucks at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports
Trade Jimmy Butler And Start From Scratch
Based on the moves they made during the offseason, the Bulls front office is not in favor of a complete rebuild at this point. And to be perfectly honest, I can’t say I blame them.
When a team goes this route, it can be risky because it usually takes a few years to build a roster that is capable of competing for a playoff spot on a yearly basis. Even though this dates back nearly 20 years, it is worth noting that the last time the Bulls were forced into a rebuild phase following the 1997-98 season, they endured a painful, six-year absence from the postseason.
During that stretch, the Bulls compiled a woeful record of 119-341, which equates to a dismal winning percentage of .259. Being that the front office does care about keeping the seats occupied at the United Center, it is safe to say they will think twice before going that route again.
If the Bulls were to exercise this option, however, the only player they could net a sizable return for is Butler. The caveat with that plan is that the players they get in return may not be as good as Butler has been over the past three seasons.
Additionally, if the Bulls and Celtics are truly interested in negotiating this trade, the Celtics would more than likely have to offer up the 2017 pick they received from the Brooklyn Nets in order for talks to continue between the two sides. The chances of that happening are between slim, as it is being reported that the Bulls are not shopping Butler right now.
Jan 25, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson (22) reacts during the second half against the Atlanta Hawks at the United Center. Atlanta defeats Chicago 119-114. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Move Taj Gibson
During his tenure with the Bulls, Taj Gibson has evolved into a solid player at both ends of the court. He has a nice midrange jumper and is a solid rebounder who can defend around the rim.
After coming off the bench in previous years behind the likes of Carlos Boozer, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Nikola Mirotic, Gibson was finally inserted into the starting lineup prior to the start of the 2016-17 campaign. In 55 appearances for the Bulls this season, his averages include 11.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game on 52 percent shooting from the field.
Due to the fact that Gibson continues to produce while thriving in any role he is given, his name has come up in trade rumors over the past few seasons and this year is no exception. But despite the craziness that comes at this time every year, Gibson doesn’t appear to be bothered by all of the chatter.
“Of course it’s gonna get hotter,” said Gibson to CSNChicago.com about the trade talk. “No matter what happens, you’re still in the NBA. You’re still getting paid a lot of money to play basketball. People don’t understand that. They think it’s bad half the time. No it’s not. It’s the same paycheck, just on a different team.”
From the Bulls’ perspective, they don’t want to risk getting nothing in return for a talented forward as was the case last year with Gasol. As far as other potential suitors are concerned, though, would other teams be willing to give up assets for a player who may not re-sign with them during the offseason?
That being said, the Bulls may want to consider trying to hold onto Gibson and possibly sign him at a reasonable discount, especially since there isn’t a lot of quality depth at the 4-spot on this roster.
Jan 12, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Michael Carter-Williams (7) passes the ball during the second quarter against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
What About The Younger Guys?
While the Bulls didn’t get more athletic during the offseason, they do have a relatively young team as there are nine players on the roster with three years or less of NBA experience. With such a makeup, the front office was heavily depending on the younger guys to develop and/or take the next step.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t come to fruition. Doug McDermott is averaging a career-best 10.2 points per contest, but he hasn’t become the complete player the Bulls had hoped he would in year three.
Nikola Mirotic continues to struggle with consistency. Not only is his scoring average (9.0 points per game) down from a season ago (11.8), he is also shooting just 38 percent from the field overall and a less-than-impressive 30 percent from beyond the arc.
Furthermore, the rest of the young core — including Jerian Grant, Michael Carter-Williams, Bobby Portis, Isaiah Canaan and Denzel Valentine — have been in and out of the rotation at various points of the season. Taking that into consideration, one would think that some, if not all of these players are expendable.
The problem is there probably won’t be a high level of interest from other teams in regards to a group that has failed to live up to expectations this year.
For better or worse, the Bulls may be stuck with this second unit until the end of the season.
Feb 10, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade (3) with guard Jerian Grant (2) during the second half against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns won 115-97. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
The Bulls have been average at best, and even that description may be a stretch on some nights. But despite their up-down-season thus far, they are still in the playoff hunt. Along with that, they have a formidable one-two punch in Wade and Butler, both of whom are capable of taking over games down the stretch.
In the minds of some Bulls fans, I understand why this may not be the ideal road to take. On the flip side of the coin, this option may not be as doom and gloom as you think. For instance, given the uncertainty pertaining to the other aforementioned options that have been discussed, standing pat may not be a bad idea.
Secondly, if the Bulls decide not to pick up the second year of Rondo’s partially guaranteed contract for next season, they could utilize that money to make upgrades to the roster.
Last, but certainly not least, considering the fact that the Bulls have now turned their sights towards making a serious playoff push compared with restructuring their roster, keeping everyone intact more than likely gives them that best chance of doing exactly that, thus securing their eighth postseason appearance in nine years.