October 18, 2018

With two historically great teams launching haymakers back and forth in the West, and a predetermined Eastern Conference champion with no threatening challengers, the Chicago Bulls head towards the trade deadline in a truly strange place.

Their coaching change was supposed to solicit immediate success, and their belated health primed them toward contention. But NBA life transpired, and the Bulls seem far from the team they hoped to be prior to the season.

Before Joakim Noah’s season-ending shoulder dislocation, Nikola Mirotic’s appendectomy, and Mike Dunleavy’s recovery taking far longer than advertised, the Bulls fancied themselves Eastern Conference contenders. So much so, that rumors spewed about the front office searching for a trade that would land them a wing in exchange for Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson and/or Noah. Since the injuries, there is far less of a chance for the Bulls to make a deal as the Bulls reassess their potential. Do they make a move to bolster their roster in hopes of a run against the Cleveland Cavaliers? Do they stand pat? The alternative is to blow it up, selling off parts to build for a future aournd Jimmy Butler and giving heavy minutes to Doug McDermott, Bobby Portis and Mirotic, when he returns.

The Bulls are facing two extremes. Their lack of success seems to signify the end of the current core, while the front office’s distaste for making trades points to the opposite.

Ultimately, Bulls management needs to decide what they are. If they want to be an Eastern Conference contender this year, they might decide to keep the team as is. If they don’t see themselves that way, they might decide to blow things up.

In classic Bill Simmons fashion, here is an estimation of the Bulls trade assets.

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Can’t Touch This

None. That’s right. Not even Butler makes this list. He’s damn close, but he isn’t quite untouchable. If the Bulls are going to blow things up, they have to at least take calls to see what they can get for Butler, on the off-chance they can find something worth dealing for. Butler is obviously the Bulls best player, and that makes him the best asset. They’ll have to get a sexy package of youth and high picks if they are going to let Butler go.

Take The Call

Butler, Portis, McDermott, Mirotic. But don’t get your hopes up. The price is probably the highest for these guys because of their youth and potential fit in Hoiberg’s system. With the exception of Butler, these guys are probably toss-ins to sweeten a deal for a higher level player to be a contend-now team. Realistically, this is the group they want to build around, so a move involving one of them is not likely.

“I’ll listen to offers all day, but I value him more than you do, so it’s going to be tough to agree to a trade for”

Derrick Rose. As much as his $18.86 million salary is burdensome and hard to match in a trade, some fans will continue to find ways to despise him. Even though he is playing better of late, the front office will never get equal or better returns on a trade for Rose. With the salary cap spike, his salary won’t be so hard to swallow, and his potential to be an explosive scorer still exists.

Any Takers? 

Noah, Gibson, or Gasol? The Bulls have been rumored to be shopping them. Injuries have turned a deep frontcourt into a thin one, and Gasol and Gibson are almost necessary now that Noah is out for the year. Still, the Bulls likely won’t move them, because their assessment of them is higher than whatever they might get in return. Gasol and Noah can both be free agents after this year, so rather than let them walk for nothing, they might be inclined to rent one of them out for a lower price.

Yours If You Want Him

Tony Snell, Aaron Brooks, E’Twaun Moore. Again, the Bulls tend to overvalue their guys, so they’ll want something in return, but they would likely not hesitate to throw one of these guys in a deal.

Probably Not Worth Your Time

Kirk Hinrich, Cameron Bairstow and Cristiano Felicio. With the exception of Hinrich, who could be considered a veteran leader, none of these are anything more than salary filler.

The Bulls have an identity crisis to solve before they pull the trigger on any trades. From an outside perspective, it’s fairly clear that, as currently constructed, this team is not talented enough to compete with the Cavs. However, due to the uncertainty in the East – a deeper talent pool without an obvious challenger – the Bulls front office may believe that they are good enough for their coveted fantasy of beating the Cavaliers in the playoffs.

More Trade Value Columns: 

Atlanta Hawks | Boston Celtics | Brooklyn Nets | Charlotte Hornets | Chicago Bulls

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Will Gottlieb

Lifelong lover of all things NBA, I'm thrilled to share my words through bballbreakdown. Formerly a contributor at SBNation's BlogaBull, I now run Bulls Confidential. You can follow me on Twitter @wontgottlieb

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