Bulls

Here’s How The Bulls Save Their Franchise

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If “the blow it all up” attitude could be epitomized by a single franchise, it would be the Chicago Bulls. After half a season of excitement, a first-round exit, and a play-in exit, it’s clear that the Bulls’ messy amalgamation of stars did not achieve the ‘Big 3’ status that once seemed so promising. This season, the LaVine/DeRozan/Vucevic trio has a NEGATIVE RATING of 11.2 points per 100 possessions when playing together.

The stars have dis-aligned, and the writing has been on the wall for quite some time. Speaking of stars, the Bulls should view LaVine’s injury as a message from the universe to find a new home for the 2x All-Star. And while the Knicks and Lakers have emerged as potential suitors in a potential Zach LaVine package, shipping LaVine ALONE is not enough to end the mediocrity that has defined this era of Bulls basketball.

Throwing some young players and picks into a roster with DeRozan and Vuc doesn’t solve any problems– it might even create more. Too bad for a playoff run but too good for a high lottery pick–No man’s land is where franchises go to die. Mediocrity can no longer be the answer. The Bulls need to blow it all up. And that includes finding a new home for DeMar DeRozan as well.

To facilitate the financial needs of this trade, a team with plenty of expiring deals and cap space would be required. Enter the Charlotte Hornets, who currently have a desperate need for shooting, perimeter defense, and a backup point guard.

Here’s my proposal:

Knicks Receive

  • Zach LaVine (4yrs/$160M)
  • 2029 1st Round Pick Swap (Best of Hornets/Knicks)

Hornets Receive

  • R.J. Barrett (4yrs/$95.2M
  • Jevon Carter (3yrs/$18.3M)
  • 2024 1st Round Pick (via Trailblazers, Top 12 Protected)
  • 2029 1st Round Pick Swap (Worst of Hornets/Knicks)

Bulls Receive

  • Gordon Hayward (1yr/$31.5M) (Waived on completion of deal)
  • Evan Fournier (2yrs/$37.6M)
  • De’Andre Hunter (4yrs/$80M)
  • Jalen Johnson (2yrs/$5.4M) (+TO)
  • James Bouknight (1yr/$4.5M) (+TO)
  • J.T. Thor (1yr/$1.8M) (+TO)
  • 2024 1st Round Pick (via Knicks)
  • 2024 1st Round Pick (via Sacramento, Top 12 Protected)
  • 2030 1st Round Pick Swap (Best of Hawks/Bulls)
  • 2024 2nd Round Pick (via Miami, Top 50 Protected)
  • 2024 2nd Round Pick (via Boston)

Hawks Receive

Knicks Analysis

The Knicks have one major flaw heading into their inevitable 2024 playoff berth: lack of offensive firepower. With only two ‘All-Star caliber’ players on their roster in Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson, an Eastern Conference powerhouse (think Celtics, Bucks, Sixers) could double Brunson and force Randle to beat them. This is further amplified by Julius Randle‘s streaky (to say the least) shooting so far this season. A third offensive weapon in Zach LaVine may be just what the doctor ordered for the Knicks.

Now, you can’t afford to double-team anybody on the court, as they are either an elite scorer or a knockdown shooter. On top of that, when it comes time to bring in the bench rotation, here comes Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes, two of the best microwave bench players in the league.

An added bonus is the clearance of Evan Fournier and R.J. Barrett’s contracts, who are owed up to $132.8 million over the remainder of their contracts. They also retain other key, but most importantly, tradeable, contracts and an arsenal of 1st round picks for whenever the next superstar wants out.

Knicks Depth Chart

Hawks Analysis

For the Hawks, mediocrity has been the name of the game since their Cinderella conference finals run in 2021. They attempted to buy in on the core a couple of off-seasons ago, mortgaging their future on all-star Dejounte Murray. 18 months and a ‘perfect coach for the future’ later, it’s time to buy in for real.

They add a third offensive weapon, and similarly to the Knicks, allow their current star duo some space to do what they do best. It’s a nearly identical starting lineup, with three scorers (Trae, Murray, DeRozan), two good perimeter defenders (Dejounte Murray, Saddiq Bey), and bigs ready to rack up offensive rebounds (Clint Capela/Okongwu).

The major problem plaguing the Hawks for years has been their defense or lack thereof. This is largely due to their point-of-attack defender being Trae Young. Are we getting scored on? Ok, let’s roll out a lineup of Caruso/Murray/Bey/Okongwu/Capela. Can’t get the lid off the bucket? Young/Murray/DeRozan/Griffin/Capela. Best part? All it takes is a poor contract, a distant pick swap, and an unproven young player.

Hawks Depth Chart

Bulls Analysis

Previously idealized by fans, we recently learned about the lack of a market for Zach LaVine. In this deal, the Bulls get two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and a 1st round pick swap. On top of that, they gain two players whose stats they can inflate and flip for more draft assets at the deadline (Evan Fournier, DeAndre Hunter).

They also gain a genuine building block for this rebuild (Jalen Johnson), two high-ceiling projects (James Bouknight, J.T. Thor), and $31.5 million in cap relief (Gordan Hayward waived on arrival). What did they give up? One of the league’s most ‘untradeable contracts’, a 34-year old on an expiring contract, and their backup point guard.

They also don’t have their 1st round pick in 2025, meaning after adding a foundational piece in the upcoming draft, they can really go after it and attempt a play-in berth similar to the Rockets this season.

Bulls Depth Chart

Hornets Analysis

It’s time to buy in on this core. When they are together, we’ve seen how good they can be. They currently have a 10.3 +/- with their best players on the floor, in the 66th percentile for any lineup in the league (with at least 100 minutes together). The only thing missing? Shooting. According to Basketball Reference, the Hornets are 27th in three point attempts per game and 23rd in three pointers made. In the modern game, this simply isn’t good enough. They aren’t guarding the perimeter well enough either; they give up on average 115.8 points per 100 possessions, in the 34th percentile in the league.

R.J. Barrett is slowly becoming one of the premier 3&D players in our league. So far this season he’s averaging 18.9 points per game, on 38.2% from three. He adds exactly what the Hornets need; stops, and pops. He’s the perfect addition for a team that needs the physicality, perimeter defense, and spot up shooting that Barrett offers.

The only other major hole in the Hornets’ roster is the backup PG position. Whenever LaMelo’s ankles give way, the Hornets offense ends up in complete disarray and inevitably puts the team on a three or four-week slide down the standings. Jevon Carter would allow an added sense of security, knowing the world doesn’t end with LaMelo out.

The only drawback I can imagine for the Hornets is the long-term addition of R.J. Barrett to the books. But the fact remains that until they become a legitimate contender, what big-name players want to join them through free agency? The point of contention is at least 4 years away, coincidently aligning right with the end of R.J. Barrett’s contract.

They would still have the BIRD rights to Miles Bridges, meaning the Hornets can still offer him a substantial enough contract to re-sign him, even with the added contracts. They would still have a remarkable $20 million in cap space (including the mid-level exception) should an opportunity come up in free agency.

Hornets Depth Chart

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