Bulls need help, but it doesn’t have to arrive this week

Since the end of the Michael Jordan era, the Bulls made one significant contribution to the NBA landscape.

They've demonstrated how rebuilding is a horrible idea. The Bulls have tried it twice since 1998 and both attempts were miserable disasters. Take it from someone who sat through both.

There are bound to be plenty of strong opinions about the Bulls this week, with the NBA trade deadline approaching Thursday. But please don't buy into the misguided lines about how head of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas must do something.

If a trade makes sense, do it. If not, there's no point in forcing a deal just to put a ledger in the transaction column.

Look, Karnisovas made a bad — and very predictable — mistake in the summer of 2022 by giving Zach LaVine a maximum contract. It made no sense at the time, because LaVine has never shown he's the type of player who can lead a team into championship contention. And that contract has made LaVine virtually untradeable for now.

If you think Karnisovas should be fired for that decision, fine. Send an email to Michael Reinsdorf. Or Jerry maybe.

But LaVine's season-ending foot surgery doesn't change the storyline much. The Bulls have been better without the two-time all-star this season and will have a chance to make the playoffs regardless. There's no reason to throw in the towel.

The future of the Bulls is actually brighter today than it was at the start of the season because they've finally conquered the art of developing players. They were good at it when Tom Thibodeau was head coach, but have struggled since.

Coby White deserves the most credit for his massive improvement, but an expanded player development staff and better use of the G-League affiliate could be paying off for the Bulls. Ayo Dosunmu has also made a nice step forward this season, while rookie Julian Phillips is on a good path.

So how do the Bulls get better? Easy, it starts with nailing the first-round draft pick this summer. Unloading LaVine to create some payroll flexibility would help, but won't be possible for a while.

The Bulls are actually in a decent spot right now. If the season ended today, they'd make the play-in tournament and have the No. 11 draft pick if they didn't reach the playoffs.

The belief that a team like the Bulls is stuck in some sort of neutral no man's land is wrong and outdated in today's NBA. The draft is much more of a crapshoot with the number of young players chosen in the first rounds, which also makes player development a more valuable tool for the organization.

You don't have to search very hard for an example. Three players from the 2020 draft were selected as all-stars. One was drafted first (Anthony Edwards), one was drafted 12th (Tyrese Haliburton) and one was drafted 21st (Tyrese Maxey).

If they make a smart decision, the Bulls can add a valuable piece in the '24 draft regardless. No reason to tank.

One respected NBA podcaster opined this week the Bulls should trade Alex Caruso because “He's not going to lead you to a championship.” So what? You could say the same thing about Luka Doncic and can't be proven incorrect. In the NBA and any other sport, you win with good players. If you have one, keep him, unless you can clearly improve the roster.

Since they've come this far waiting for Lonzo Ball to rehab his left knee, why not wait until the fall to see if there's even a slight possibility Caruso and Ball can re-create their defensive magic from the early part of the 2021-22 season?

What the Bulls really need right now is a star-caliber forward, preferably someone with some length to be a factor on defense and can run the floor with the White-Dosunmu backcourt. Patrick Williams is probably not that guy. He should focus on his strength, which is shooting, and maybe a sixth-man role.

DeMar DeRozan should be an ideal veteran to guide a group of younger players, if he's willing to stay in Chicago. Nikola Vucevic isn't an ideal fit, especially when the Bulls refuse to get him the ball in the post. Some nights, Vucevic looks like one of the league's better centers. Other nights, it's easy to think Karnisovas missed an opportunity to retool the roster when Vucevic hit free-agency last summer.

Anyway, just judge the state of the Bulls by what's happening on the court, not the number of players they trade. The Bulls have made enough poor decisions since the turn of the century. They can't afford a bad deadline week.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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