Early arrival of the trade deadline may not matter for Bulls
At the start of the season, Bulls management stated a goal of seeing how this team comes together.
The answer is not very well. Injuries can be blamed for the 12-41 record -- currently fourth-worst in the league -- but there are plenty of signs that changes are needed.
Will any of the Bulls' issues be addressed before the NBA trade deadline arrives on Thursday? That's tough to say. There's no point in trying to win more games when the Bulls are in position to land a good seat at the Zion Williamson draft lottery.
And their best asset at the moment is the lottery odds tied to their draft pick, which teams are reluctant to trade for or trade away until the results are known.
The concerns are obvious. The presumed backcourt of the future, Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, isn't clicking. And the Bulls have more offensive-minded power forwards than they really need, between Lauri Markkanen, Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker.
The loss in Charlotte on Saturday showed both sides of the power forward situation. Having two stretch-fours on the court has been a mildly successful formula for the Bulls and they got it going in this game. Portis scored 33 points and Markkanen 30.
In the second half, though, the Hornets exploited this lineup with ease. All they had to do was set a screen, get guard Kemba Walker switched onto anyone besides Dunn and the Bulls were powerless to stop him.
Portis has been effective as a scoring boost off the bench. But playing him and Markkanen at the same time seems to be a problem defensively, since neither is much of a rim protector. The second half of the Charlotte game probably emphasizes how valuable injured center Wendell Carter Jr. is to the rebuild.
The NBA moved the trade deadline up a couple of weeks to get it out of the way before the all-star break. So the Bulls have less time to make decisions. Here are some of the possibilities:
The Bulls could move Robin Lopez or Jabari Parker. These are two guys who are not expected to be part of the team next season. Since the Bulls don't seem interested in taking back any long contracts in return, this will be tough to pull off.
Lopez makes $14.3 million and Parker $20 million. Most teams don't even have enough expiring contracts to make a deal work and any team that might be interested figures the Bulls will release those guys after the deadline anyway.
They could trade Bobby Portis, since he's heading into restricted free agency this summer and the Bulls' power forward glut will be even worse if the dream of drafting Williamson comes true.
The obvious question is how much value does Portis have around the league. He's a talented, versatile scorer and willing rebounder. But he's also inconsistent, doesn't have the length or athleticism to be a difference-maker on defense, and the punch that sent teammate Nikola Mirotic to the hospital will hang over him for a while.
If the market for Portis is poor this week, at least the Bulls can head into the summer knowing they may not have to break the bank to keep him.
They could make a significant trade involving Kris Dunn or Zach LaVine, but this is probably not the right time. Since the Bulls matched LaVine's offer sheet from Sacramento last summer, he's allowed to veto any trade this season. A redirection of the rebuild is better suited for the summer, after the Bulls see what happens in the draft.
They could make an offer for a superstar like Anthony Davis. If Davis asked out of New Orleans because he wants to win, he's not going to like it in Chicago right now, even if it is his hometown.