One week before deadline, here's why Bulls need to make a deal

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • With just one week left before the NBA trade deadline hits, Mike McGraw explores reasons why it makes sense for the Bulls and GM Arturas Karnisovas should aggressively seek a deal.

    With just one week left before the NBA trade deadline hits, Mike McGraw explores reasons why it makes sense for the Bulls and GM Arturas Karnisovas should aggressively seek a deal. Photo by Denver Post

 
 
Updated 2/2/2022 8:12 PM

The NBA trade deadline arrives next Thursday, which basically means the Bulls have seven days to set their playoff roster.

And it's probably reasonable to say they're not a lock to make the playoffs. One bad slump or another key injury could create a quick drop in the standings.

 

There haven't been many Bulls-related rumors, but typically there are plenty of discussions, not much action until the final 24 hours or so before the deadline hits.

In this story, a case will be made for why the Bulls should find a deal before the deadline. There are reasons for extreme caution also, but we'll get into that on another day.

The advantage for the Bulls right now is they have two expiring contracts in Derrick Jones Jr. ($9.72 million) and Troy Brown Jr. ($5.17 million). In theory, the Bulls could flip those players now for someone on a longer-term deal.

It will be more difficult for the Bulls to add pieces this summer, because they'll likely be giving Zach LaVine a new contract and hefty raise. They'll have no cap room and signing someone with the mid-level exception is pretty much the only avenue.

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The management team of Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley were very creative last summer, using Thad Young, Garrett Temple and Tomas Satoransky in sign-and-trade deals, but there was likely higher demand for those players.

Anyway, the easiest path for the Bulls might be to look at a couple of familiar veteran names. Boston point guard Dennis Schroeder is said to be on the market and he spent two seasons with Billy Donovan in Oklahoma City. Brooklyn power forward Paul Millsap is currently working out on his own after requesting a trade and he spent several years in Denver with Karnisovas.

There was one report of Schroder for Brown and a second-round pick being discussed. Schroder is on a one-year deal, so he could move on this summer. If the Bulls went this route, it probably wouldn't be to replace Ayo Dosunmu as the starting point guard, but to give the team another ballhandler, which would take pressure off Coby White when Dosunmu is out of the game.

Millsap is a physical veteran with playoff experience. An argument could be made that he doesn't really fit with the Bulls' fast-paced style.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But they'll likely need some physicality in the playoffs, especially if they get matched against Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Miami or Toronto.

Millsap is on a one-year deal worth just $2.6 million, so it wouldn't take Brown or Jones in a trade. Or the Bulls could just wait for a potential buyout after the deadline if they think Millsap might help.

Could the Bulls aim higher? Well, yes, by combining those two expiring deals, the Bulls could bring back a player who makes up to $22.3 million.

The problem here is the Bulls will be looking to buy low, because they bought high to land Nikola Vucevic last year. The only near-term first-round pick they're allowed to trade is the one they got from Portland in the Lauri Markkanen sign-and-trade.

It wouldn't make much sense to trade Patrick Williams now when his value is low and upside is unclear.

Trading Dosunmu or White shouldn't be a discussion. The Bulls obviously hit the jackpot by getting Dosunmu with the No. 38 overall pick, while players who can average 15 points off the bench, like White's been doing, are gold in the NBA. The Bulls should try to lock up both players on reasonable deals this summer.

The bigger names that are thought to be available -- Indiana's Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, Houston's Christian Wood, etc. -- are likely out of the Bulls' reach.

Maybe they'd have a chance at someone like Sacramento's Harrison Barnes, who is owed $18.3 million next season. A trade like that would increase the Bulls' luxury-tax bill next year, so it's not a slam dunk. But Barnes is a veteran who was on championship teams in Golden State and has become a heady stat-sheet stuffer with the Kings. He'd be a nice guy to have in the playoffs.

If the Bulls want more size, they could make a run at Kings center Richaun Holmes. He's a Lockport native who could, in theory, play power forward against bigger teams and maybe even replace Vucevic down the road. Holmes has three years left on his contract at a total of $36 million, which means he's both expensive and also likely very attainable.

In Portland, Chicago native Robert Covington also has an expiring contract, while Larry Nance Jr. is owed $9.6 million next year.

Would New York center Nerlens Noel help? What about Phoenix forward Dario Saric? Both make around $9 million next season, which isn't ideal for their current levels of production.

But trades aren't easy. And the he Bulls' wish list may not match up with any other team's.

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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