There are several ways to improve a team, the most difficult is the trade. With that in mind, lets take stock of what the Bulls have to offer and its value on the open market.
Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah don't appear to be for sale. It seems like those two pieces are going to be left out of any deal regardless of how good the other player is. I get why you don't trade the franchise player, especially when he's Chicago born and raised. I also get why they don't want to trade Noah, but he should be made available in the right deal.
One of the things likely holding them back on moving Noah is that any player good enough to move him for will probably cost them 20 million a year which is an additional disincentive to trade him. Maybe in the perfect storm like Noah for LeBron or Noah for Dwight Howard he'd become available, but he's not available at a reasonable price.
Carlos Boozer isn't going to bring much back in terms of trade. The Bulls don't have too much incentive to salary dump him at this point because they can amnesty him to save a good chunk of his cost anyway. On top of that, despite all the Boozer hate, you're not going to get a better player than Boozer at five million or less.
The second the Bulls lose Boozer for nothing they've weakened the team. That said, Boozer probably isn't so hard to move right now if you aren't pick about what you're taking back. Chicago might be able to move Boozer now for a really bad expiring deal and might be able to include him in a trade as salary filler in the right deal [including him would mean they'd likely need to give up more assets though].
Jimmy Bulter is probably the Bulls number one trade asset right now. There's a hint of Paul George like potential in his game where his offense is trending upwards and his defense is already amongst the best in the league. Unlike George, Butler doesn't have so much youth on his side though. He'll have fewer years to show improvement and is more likely closer to his ceiling after two years than George was.
That said, Butler should be very desirable to any team especially with two cheap years left on his deal. It will be interesting to see what he demands in terms of an extension in a couple years though because he may become one of those players too good to let go, but not good enough to pay big bucks to which becomes a difficult negotiating point.
The Charlotte pick gets a bit more valuable every year while not cashed in. The pick will come due sometime in the next three years now, and the Bobcats are still set up to be pretty bad. Interestingly with the addition of Al Jefferson, they don't appear to be going into total tank mode which could be the best scenario for Chicago.
If the Bobcats don't land a top thee or four pick in this upcoming draft, they likely don't get the star player they need to turn things around. However it's still three long seasons the Bulls need the Bobcats to suck for, and they need them to utterly implode on that final one, in order for this to really pay dividends. Not to mention they'd also have to hope for a strong 2016 draft.
The pick isn't really a gold mine, but it's clearly risen in value since it was given to Chicago, and it looks more and more likely to yield a lottery selection even if it's a late one.
Nikola Mirotic looks awfully good for a European prospect and he could be brought over next summer so the biggest reason teams passed on him (length of time before he could play) has now passed. That said, it's not a lock that Mirotic would come over for any team. There were rumors that he specifically wanted Chicago (and likely a few other markets), so there's no guarantee you could throw him in a Kevin Love deal and convince him to go to Minnesota.
That said, he's a young player decorated about as highly as any European player has been at his age. He should be viewed as a guy who likely becomes at least a starting caliber PF in the NBA. Unfortunately, he's not going to come over for the rookie salary scale contract, so a team will have to work out a better deal and negotiation may be tough.
Worth a bit more than an expiring deal
Luol Deng is an expiring deal, and he's also a pretty good player. The Bulls could obviously swap him out for an expiring of a lower caliber player pretty easily. The question is whether or not you could get anything back in the process while doing so. My guess is that in terms of future assets you could get back a player with low end starter / role player potential with a year or two in the league or a draft pick that's lotto protected which is valued similarly.
Not really much of a return in terms of giving up Deng, but it's something worth considering around the trade deadline in the unlikely even that things are going really, really poorly, and you know it's not going to happen this year.
Taj Gibson starts the first year of an extension that pays him 8-9.5 million per year depending on which incentives he hits. He may be overpaid by a million or two per season or maybe not. It kind of depends on what he shows he can do with more minutes, whether he can stay healthy, and whether he can improve his offense.
I think there's a good chance we'll see Taj improve this season offensively going from playing next to Nate Robinson to Kirk Hinrich. Say what you want about Kirk Hinrich, but he's pretty good at finding guys in their spots and getting them touches/looks to feel comfortable. He's not a dynamic playmaker in terms of getting people open looks, but he is good at running an offense.
If Taj shows a bit of an uptick in his production then his value can improve considerably, but like Deng, he's basically positive salary filler rather than a key piece in a deal. It would be tough to move Taj in any deal that didn't bring back a big man to replace him, but that might make sense both ways. Say you trade for LaMarcus Aldridge, Taj Gibson + Kirk Hinrich might be better filler than Luol Deng from Portland's perspective.
One problem with moving Taj as filler is that his salary isn't really high enough to get you where you want to go in terms of the players you might trade him for, nor do the Bulls really have a secondary filler player to add unless its Deng. If they trade both and don't get two core pieces back they'll be giving up on the season while making a trade even if strengthening themselves for the future which seems like a less likely move for them.
Marquis Teague likely carries some positive value. The fact he slipped to 30 in the draft means that this value isn't too high as every team in the league passed on him once, nor did he do a whole ton to improve it in his rookie year. However, Teague did show signs that first year and likely impressed anyone who saw him in summer league in back to back years with how he improved his attitude and approach.
Teague's probably a minor throw in to increase the value of a deal or possibly someone you could flip for a late first rounder (20+) in the upcoming draft. If he's able to find the court at all and show his improvement goes beyond summer league then his value might rise further.
Mike Dunleavy Jr signed a nice deal with Chicago. Relative to other signings this off-season, I thought he was under priced at his MMLE deal. Dunleavy can't be traded until December, but when that time comes, he's likely worth a bit more than his contract. Given his age/salary level, he's not going to draw a first round pick, but I'd bet you could flip him for a usable second rounder or he'd be a positive as a throw in to complete a deal.
Kirk Hinrich makes around four million a year, and I know plenty of Bulls fans aren't so excited about the captain. He's not a particularly great player and has had trouble staying healthy. That said with just one year on his deal left his contract isn't bad, he can run a team, shoot, defend, and provides plenty of veteran leadership.
While I doubt you can land anything for Kirk Hinrich, his presence in any trade is unlikely to be viewed as a negative.
Tony Snell didn't prove anything in summer league and may have been a reach on draft day. The best thing he might have going for him is that the Bulls have nailed their late round firsts. You could do worse than just assume the Bulls were right and trade for the guy they took. That said, I'm not sure at this point you'd get anything at all for Snell even another 1st rounder back. He'll have the chance to prove himself on the court though.
Erik Murphy is nothing but salary filler at this point if he even makes the team. He showed nothing at summer league and was selected at the point where you could buy a pick for probably 100k if wanted.
Nazr Mohammed isn't going to excite anyone, but he could be used as a non-negative guy to fill in an extra tiny piece of deal salary wise if necessary.
Guys at the minimum
Putting together the complete package
When looking over the Bulls assets, the good news is the lack of negatives. Only Boozer is toxic, and I don't even think his toxicity is that bad anymore. That said, their problem is the lack of truly desirable assets. Their best assets are Butler, the Bobcats pick, and Mirotic with Deng/Gibson/Hinrich available to match salaries.
When you start looking at what a combination of those things can get you, it doesn't seem all that pretty. Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge were both kept over taking the #1 pick in the draft this season [without a salary filler being necessary], so it doesn't strike me as likely that our assets add up to more than that even if the #1 pick wasn't that desirable this season.
In short, it seems to me the Bulls are most likely best off not making a trade unless something amazing falls in their lap. I don't personally think Aldrdige/Love are good enough to put them over the top, and I think there's a good chance in three years you're worse off for giving up two of your prime assets and a valuable role player to get one.
If a superstar became available, the Bulls should bid, but they likely don't have the kind of piece that puts them over the top in such a bidding process. In short, even if they offer all three of their prime assets and good filler contracts it likely won't close the deal due to lack of truly high upside players in the process, and they'd need to potentially replace four rotation players in the future after the deal.
Chicago finds themselves in a tough spot. They've got a very good team with plenty of positive things going on, but they appear a piece short still, and I don't see any likely way that piece is coming via trade.
Filed under: Trade rumors