Help is not on the way for the Bulls

title image via Sports Illustrated

After slogging through the 2023-24 season to a 39-43 and getting blasted in the play-in game 112-91 by the Miami Heat, which was the second straight season their postseason ended before it got started, the Chicago Bulls currently find themselves in the worst place an NBA team can find itself, the basketball purgatory of mediocrity.  The Bulls are not a team that is making deep postseason runs, nor are they a ballclub that is amongst the bottom feeders of the Association. They are in the much less desirable position of being not good enough to compete with the upper-echelon teams while also being too good to be able to bottom out to initiate a rebuild. 

Chicago had the ninth-highest payroll in the NBA this past season, with $167,689,263; every team with higher payrolls, except for the Golden State Warriors made the postseason, with two of them, the Boston Celtics and the Denver Nuggets, still competing in their respective conference finals. 

Zach LaVine ( image vi

Conventional wisdom would lean to the Bulls turning over the roster, to acquire the players or draft capital that will set the team on the right path, however for this franchise, that will be arduous. Zach LaVine’s trade requests would have seemingly forced the Bulls down that path, however much to the surprise and dismay of both the Bulls and LaVine, the services for the two-time All-Star have not been in as much demand as both parties would have hoped. With the likelihood that the Bulls will not receive a return on LaVine that will drastically increase with each passing day, the possibility of Zach LaVine not only being on the roster on opening night but also well into the regular season appears to be more of a reality. 

Nikola Vucevic ( image via Liberty Ballers)

The market for Nikola Vucevic is even icier. Since being acquired, along with Al-Farouk Aminu, in a midseason trade for Wendell Carter Jr, Otto Porter Jr, and two first-round draft picks, Vucevic has been solid, averaging 18.1 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 0.9 blocks, but by and large has not been the difference maker he was during his time with the Magic. Although he did make an All-Star team in 2021, Vucevic has struggled to find his way in the Bulls offense, this issue has been exacerbated by the Bulls’ coaching staff’s inability to put him in a position to best utilize his strengths. There are not a plethora of teams, calling Artūras Karnišovas or Mark Eversley inquiring about Nikola Vucevic, and if those conversations are happening, the Bulls would have to attach an incentive in the form of draft picks or players to entice a team to make such a move.

Chicago did not trade DeMar DeRozan before the trade deadline, nor were the sides able to agree to an extension, so there is a very real possibility that the Bulls’ best player can walk out the door for nothing in return, barring a sign-and-trade. 

As the Bulls have not, at this point, shown an interest in trading Alex Caruso, the avenues for upgrading this roster have become more limited, which unfortunately for Bulls fans their time languishing in the doldrums just north of mediocrity will endure for at least another few and excruciating seasons. 

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