5 moves the Bulls could make this summer

Trade the pick? Free agency? Sam Smith suggests 5 possibilities
Mike Conley of the Grizzlies shoots in a game against the Bulls
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later


The Bulls Tuesday received the No. 7 selection in the 2019 NBA draft, which meant America's holy cow mountain of a man, Zion, will be in New Orleans. And for the Bulls, it's not going to be a time to laissez les bon temps rouler. Really, does anyone understand what they are saying down there? They are smiling and dancing, which they always seem to do, anyway. But now they have a reason with the coming of Zion. And the Bulls—and plenty of other teams—have more draft time decisions to make than usual.

Williamson at No. 1 and Ja Morant at No. 2 to the Memphis Grizzlies are virtually assured for this draft.

But both the New York Knicks at No. 3 and the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 4 are likely candidates to try to trade their draft picks. Along with perhaps the Phoenix Suns at No. 6 and the Bulls at No. 7. It's unusual in this era for teams to trade high lottery picks, and perhaps even more unusual for the Bulls to consider doing so since their post-Jordan history has been modeled on developments through the draft.

But this season may be different as the team appears to be setting a priority on making a vast improvement in the standings and relying more on the addition of veterans. Basketball operations chief John Paxson indicated yet again following Tuesday's lottery drawing the team is open to variations other than simply making a draft pick. Paxson also identified Bulls starters Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. as the prime core of the team. Paxson has said several times the team still has hopes for point guard Kris Dunn. Though point guard certainly remains, at the very least, a competition position going forward.

The Bulls should have a fortified bench with the return of Denzel Valentine from injury and the development of second year swingman Chandler Hutchison. So the addition of a point guard could be a priority.

Morant is regarded as the premier point guard in this draft. But there are others who are talented, like Vanderbilt's Darius Garland and North Carolina's Coby White. Though one or both could be unavailable by the time the Bulls select at No. 7. So here are some possibilities, though only theoretical and hypothetical, that the Bulls could pursue before the draft and into free agency to upgrade the point guard position.


Trade for Memphis' Mike Conley. The widespread speculation around the NBA is Memphis intends to trade Conley to conclude the breakup of its former grit-and-grind group with Marc Gasol, Tony Allen and Zach Randolph. Though Conley will be 32 before the start of next season, he is one of the most underrated point guards in the NBA, a high IQ veteran with a good three-point shot who averaged 21 points in 70 games last season after a return from injury. Memphis is said to be motivated to trade because Conley averages about $33 million the next two seasons and the Grizzlies are a low revenue team.

Mike Conley #11 of the Memphis Grizzlies handles the ball against the Chicago Bulls on February 27, 2019 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee.

The acquisition would make sense for the Bulls to add a near All-Star veteran point guard. Plus, the two seasons of large salary would match the two years left for Otto Porter Jr., after which the Bulls could move into free agency again with significant room. The cost? The Bulls could absorb most of Conley's salary in their cap room and send Memphis a player like Dunn. It might also cost the No. 7 pick, though it depends on how badly the Grizzlies want to move Conley's salary.


Create more cap space to pursue Kemba Walker. Walker may remain in Charlotte because they can by far pay him the most money. And at 29, this is likely to be the last big contract for the small scoring point guard. There's little or no chance point guard Kyrie Irving would be interested in Chicago despite it being relatively flat. The Bulls have perhaps $20 million available in free agency, though it could get higher without their draft pick and if they get an appeal over the buyout salary of Omer Asik. But this sort of move would require a transaction like in 2010 when the Bulls gave up a draft pick and Kirk Hinrich to create cap space to pursue LeBron James.

Kemba Walker #15 of the Charlotte Hornets drives to the basket during the game against the Orlando Magic on April 10, 2019 at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Bulls would have to get at least $30 million in salary cap space, which probably would require finding a team with salary cap space and not confident about free agents. It would probably require attaching first round picks from this year and next to players like Dunn, Valentine and/or Hutchison. Big risk/big reward? Time to take a shot?


Trade for the Lakers' Lonzo Ball. The Lakers offseason, if not immediate future, is built around putting together a package to trade for New Orleans' Anthony Davis. With the expected drafting of Zion Williamson, the Pelicans are saying for now they will try to get Davis to change his mind about being traded. Plus, there are indications New Orleans might keep Davis until the trading deadline. So the Lakers will be motivated to add more parts to their package.

Lonzo Ball #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots the ball against the Houston Rockets on January 19, 2019 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.

Ball doesn't fit as a player with James because of his lack of shooting and ball domination. Though there are concerns about his voluble family, Ball is a talented 6-6 guard who pushes the ball and plays unselfishly and said to be a popular teammate. It likely would cost the Bulls the No. 7 pick and a player, perhaps Dunn, Valentine or Hutchison or two of the three. Is Ball worth it?


Swap picks with the Lakers. If the Bulls want a chance to select one of the point guards in the draft rated after Morant, they'd probably have to get to No. 4. It's unlikely the Knicks at No. 3 would want a point guard after trading for Dennis Smith Jr. The Lakers at No. 4 likely don't need a point guard with James. The Suns at No. 6 are in desperate need of a point guard. And even though the Cavalier at No. 5 drafted Collin Sexton at No. 8 last year, the speculation is they are uncertain if he is their point guard of the future.

Deputy Commissioner of the NBA, Mark Tatum, holds up the card for the Los Angeles Lakers after they get the 4th overall pick in the NBA Draft during the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery on May 14, 2019 at the Chicago Hilton in Chicago, Illinois.

The Lakers likely would want to add to their possible Davis package, so they might entertain a swap that includes a player or perhaps next year's draft pick perhaps lottery protected.


Make a free agent offer for Boston's Terry Rozier or Brooklyn's D'Angelo Russell. The Celtics backup point guard had a rough season with the return of Kyrie Irving after a hot playoffs last year. He's more scoring oriented and only about six feet tall. But he's a swift and bold guard. He is a restricted free agent, which means the Celtics can match an offer. They usually do. It might take all of the Bulls' salary cap room, and then still not enough. Would the Celtics be interested in a sign and trade?

D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Brooklyn Nets reacts in the second half against the Philadelphia 76ers at Barclays Center on April 20, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.The Philadelphia 76ers defeated the Brooklyn Nets 112-108.

There are unrestricted free agents, like Ricky Rubio, Darren Collison and Patrick Beverley, though none with the scoring potential of Rozier. Russell came in to be an All-Star last season with the Nets' surprise resurgence. They already signed Spencer Dinwiddie. The Nets could pursue Irving, which might cause them to let go Russell. He probably also would cost all the cap room and the Nets could match.

Got a question for Sam?

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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