Chicago Calibrating a Playoff Squad

Updated: August 3, 2021
derozan bulls

Unlike their sign and trade partners the New Orleans Pelicans, the Chicago Bulls have been eager and active. After what may have been the best acquisition of the offseason in the thievery of Lonzo Ball for contracts they needed to get off the books anyways, the Windy City wasn’t done. Chicago was able to pick up Alex Caruso on a 37-million-dollar 4-year deal, paying him just enough to price out the Lakers from retaining him. Two defensive-minded players with ball-handling skills, it looked like the Bulls had made their two big plays, and yet they had one more big signing looming. Today, they found a way to facilitate a sign and trade with San Antonio sending Thad Young, a first and two seconds, for DeMar DeRozan on a 3-year 85-million-dollar deal.

Draft capital and an overpay to get him, but the Bulls bluntly took the last serious piece left on the table outside of Kawhi. Does it look like a contender? No, it doesn’t. However, it also doesn’t look like a team anyone would want to match up with a first round playoff series.

1.) Lonzo Ball 2.) Zach LaVine 3.) DeMar DeRozan 4.) Patrick Williams 5.) Nikola Vucevic

The backcourt of Lonzo and LaVine may turn into one of the better guard duos in the East. With all the firepower now surrounding the young Patrick Williams, it must strike a sting of envy for Zion Williamson in New Orleans. With a play-making big who can stretch the floor in Vucevic and bucket getter 6th man in Coby White, there is a lot to be excited about for their upcoming season.

But with each gamble, there is always a set of risks. The number one potential problem is that LaVine has yet to finalize his extension. When interviewed about it, the word “respect” was specifically used by LaVine with regards to how he wishes negotiations to go when dealing with his upcoming contract. At least from LaVine’s demeanor, it would assume that he wants to be offered the max and not a penny less since he has “outplayed his current contract.” The problem is the salary that the Bulls are currently able to offer is only 105 over 4 years. Based on his current earnings, this is the “max” he is eligible for, yet if he were able to make an All-NBA team this year, he would be up for a 235 million 5-year super max next year. The Bulls could offer him more this offseason if they create cap space to add to this 105-million-dollar extension, yet their current moves appear to have declined this option.

Although it has been rumored Zach wishes to stay in Chicago until the deal is finalized a grade on the DeRozan deal remains incomplete. 28 million is already quite a steep price tag for a guy who didn’t seem to have any other serious offer near that range around the league, but to also need to attach the little draft capital they had left may end up being a misstep in the long run. If this roster construction gets them to the playoffs and they are able to retain LaVine in next year’s offseason, it will all be seen as a success. However, if something happens, like the end of last season with the LaVine injury and they missed playoffs even after the big Vucevic trade, that DeRozan contract may age like the Otto Porter contract they just got off of. As an outsider, I am quite excited for the basketball this year from the Bulls, but if I were a fan in Chicago, the Zach LaVine interview would make me weary, to say the least.

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