Chicago Bulls are (surprisingly) rolling along, but could be looking to deal at trade deadline
From NBA media reports
Written off and ridiculed, and mostly for good reason, the Bulls are either fooling us or the joke’s on us. They’re one of the hottest teams in the league and doing so without adding a significant piece to the rotation, unless you count Nikola Mirotic’s return from a broken face on Dec. 8, and yes, that’s had an impact. They’ve won 10 of 12 with the two losses coming to the Celtics and Cavs, both on the road.
So what does this mean? This means they must trade Mirotic, of course.
Yes, they could keep the player who has suddenly become very dangerous and is averaging 20 points since recovering from teammate Bobby Portis’ fist. Yet he is now an asset who could also go the other way, meaning, if the Bulls play their cards right and another team shows some desperation/interest, the Bulls can get something for him prior to the approaching deadline.
The Bulls are somewhat stacked on the front line and can afford to reduce the herd if they can fill a need with an exchange, say, more backcourt depth (yes, Zach LaVine is nearing a return, but still) and a tougher low-post big man, they should seriously consider it.
Apparently, David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune agrees something must be done:
Trading Mirotic at the peak of his NBA career fits philosophically into the Bulls’ stated plan. Holding on to Mirotic and other tradable veterans such as Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday to see if this surprising team can sneak into the playoffs doesn’t. Chicago has seen that movie too often before, the same script with different co-stars. It always ends too early, or whenever LeBron James enters the scene. This latest plot twist adds intrigue but changes nothing.
In other words, Mirotic can’t be traded until Jan. 15, but at 12:01 a.m. that day, the Bulls should start taking calls — or making them. They need to maximize Mirotic’s rising value for draft assets likely to turn into solid players when the Bulls are contenders again. By the time that happens — 2019-20 seems realistic — Mirotic figures to be less valuable to the Bulls than the draft pick a playoff team might give up next month for his services. Same goes for Lopez and Holiday, key parts of a Bulls team flirting with mediocrity that 50-win teams could view as rotation players.
Technically, moving veterans to accumulate draft picks isn’t tanking. That’s prioritizing 2019-20 over 2017-18, which has become all the rage in professional sports. That’s an organization doing as much as it can to prepare for an NBA draft lottery that could include at least four players considered once-in-a-generation prospects: Deandre Ayton of Arizona, Marvin Bagley of Duke, Michael Porter Jr. of Missouri and Luka Doncic of Slovenia. That’s letting the head veto the heart.
Not sure if Mirotic will fetch anything close to a lottery pick and maybe not even a mid-first-rounder, but this is a great situation for the Bulls to be in, to have someone that another team might want. Did you suspect as much when the season began and the Bulls got rid of the only player anyone wanted, Jimmy Butler?