The Chicago Bulls enter 2023-24 NBA training camp surrounded by a ton of questions. The biggest question of all concerns the immediate future of the Bulls' roster. Will the Bulls trade their best players ahead of the Feb. 8 deadline?
The Bulls have been stuck in no-man's land for the last few years. Chicago last won a playoff series in the 2014-15 season. This iteration of the Bulls isn't good enough to compete in the Eastern Conference. The roster is also too good to bottom out and give Chicago a pick near the very top of the NBA Draft.
Chicago owns its 2024 first-round draft pick. The Bulls will only keep their 2025 first-round pick if they leave the lottery with a top-10 pick. Otherwise, the selection will be conveyed to the San Antonio Spurs. The Bulls have a few players who could be worth first-round picks on the trade market.
Don't expect the Bulls to make any blockbuster deals at the start of training camp. They re-signed Nikola Vucevic in the offseason, hoping that this might be the year that their core can make an extended playoff run. If Chicago gets off to a poor start this year, don't be surprised to see the Bulls trade their most prized veterans.
Let's take a look at three potential Bulls' trade candidates at the start of 2023-24 NBA training camp.
There is no more obvious Bulls trade candidate than DeMar DeRozan. Last year. a report from Bleacher Report suggested that DeRozan could soon try to force his way out of Chicago. The small forward is 34 years old and in the final year of his contract. A six-time All-Star, DeRozan is arguably Chicago's best player. If the Bulls make DeRozan available, there will be plenty of teams lining up to trade for the veteran.
DeRozan has enhanced his value during a couple of seasons in Chicago. He's made the All-Star team each year. DeRozan is averaging 26.2 points on 18.9 field-goal attempts per game in a Bulls uniform, scoring with incredible efficiency. DeRozan has also been among the most clutch players since joining Chicago, a trait that won't be lost on potential suitors.
DeRozan's contract status highlights his trade candidacy. The Bulls can't afford to let him walk in free agency while getting nothing back in return for one of the league's best scorers. In the event that DeRozan appears likely to head elsewhere next summer, it would make sense for the Bulls to start fielding offers for the veteran.
2. Zach LaVine
We're not breaking any news by calling Zach LaVine a trade candidate. The LaVine trade rumors started only shortly after he signed his five-year, $215 million contract with the Bulls in July of last year. The New York Knicks have reportedly checked in on LaVine's availability. Other teams would make sense as a landing spot for the Bulls guard.
A rebuilding effort in Chicago would almost certainly include a LaVine trade. Keeping LaVine and his average annual salary of $43 million over the next four years on the books would make little sense for a team that is trying to get high draft picks and develop young players. LaVine has averaged at least 24.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game in four straight seasons.
The Bulls could even explore moving LaVine without intentions of tanking. There have been rumors of a shaky relationship between LaVine and Bulls coach Billy Donovan. The LaVine-DeRozan pairing is thought to be a clunky one by some observers. It doesn't exactly make perfect sense to build a team around two smaller ball-dominant players, particularly when neither ranks among the NBA's elite superstars.
1. Patrick Williams
A Patrick Williams trade won't move the needle in the same that the Bulls trading DeRozan or LaVine would. The power forward is still young with some promise and could potentially have increased trade value if he gets off to a good start.
The Bulls took Williams with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Williams averaged 10.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game last season. Williams is a career 41.4% 3-point shooter. At just 22 years old, Williams can develop into an important contributor on a winning team because of his ability to play defense and make shots from behind the arc.
Williams is in the final year of his rookie contract. He's set to be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2024. If the Bulls don't want to commit big money to Williams, they might explore moving him ahead of the trade deadline to a team that will take a chance on signing Williams long-term. Williams could be used as another avenue for Chicago to improve its future draft assets.