The Chicago Bulls are stuck.
Gone is the optimism that comes with a top 10 offense and defense. Gone are the realistic hopes that this team could make any noise in the playoffs (other than whatever noise would come from Rondo's Instagram post after the Bulls lose to the Celtics in five games). What the Bulls need to do is call it quits on being competitive, and cash in on literally whatever assets they can. For this post, we'll focus on what Chicago could get for respectable big man and noble mascot warrior Robin Lopez.
Lopez is a good center, and he's on a very team-friendly, 13 million dollar contract for three more seasons after this one. He's an incredibly valuable rebounder on both ends of the floor, and he's the reason that the Bulls are the number one rebounding team in the NBA. He's got a nostalgia-inducing hook shot game that's good for two points in a pinch, and his elbow jumper isn't half bad either. Lopez would be a great addition to a lot of NBA front lines.
He's not perfect of course. Lopez has a lot of trouble defending out to the perimeter, and opposing offenses know it. Forcing him to defend in space is a pretty viable offensive strategy by itself, which makes it tough for him to stay on the court against particularly potent offenses at the end of games. To make matters worse, the NBA is overloaded with big men, and there are very few teams that are really hurting for one. Because of this, it's tough to make a trade (just ask the Magic ... or the Sixers ... or the Pelicans ... or the Kings).
The Bulls shouldn't head to the negotiating table looking to grab some big haul for Robin Lopez. He's not an all-star, he's just a solid player. I don't, however, think it's unreasonable for the Bulls to look for a first-rounder in a Lopez trade. Both Marco Bellinelli and Kyle Korver have been traded for first-round picks in the last twelve months, and Lopez is arguably better than both of them. Here are three potential trades that aren't sexy by any means, but give the Bulls a concrete asset while they look towards the future.
Ian Mahinmi is a solid defensive backup center, and while it's hard to argue that he's worth the 16 million dollars per year that he's making, he can contribute in very clear ways. I was hoping that Chicago would make him an offer this past offseason, but as we've learned, they had other targets in mind.
The problem for Mahinmi this season has been health, and it's been a big problem. As of last Saturday, Mahinmi had played in only three games and logged 39 total minutes for the whole season. He won't be helping any team this season, but the Bulls shouldn't care about that. He's really just here to match salary.
The Wizards have been on a tear recently and could use a player like Lopez to shore up their bench as they head into the postseason. Having a reliable backup to Marcin Gortat could be huge for Washington as they look to rub elbows with the contenders of the Eastern Conference.
In return, the Bulls get a first round pick in the 20s, and one more shot at landing an impact player in a loaded draft.
This trade is incredibly unlikely to take place, especially because it's not outside the realm of possibility that Bulls fans kidnap GarPax and hold a witch trial if they see Asik in a Bulls uniform once again. It's also unlikely to happen if the Pels end up trading for Jahlil Okafor like they've been rumored to do.
However, this trade does check all the necessary boxes. The Bulls get a first-rounder back, and a good one at that. The Pelicans get a functional center which means they can keep appeasing Anthony Davis to the chagrin of their defense. The Pelicans also get to keep that center on a very reasonable contract for several years, providing stability and continuity that New Orleans hasn't seen for a long time.
This final trade suggestion is similar to the first. The Mavericks have gotten very few substantial contributions from Bogut this year, and it seems like they're still trying to make the playoffs so they can lose to the Warriors in four games.Lopez could solidify their starting front court and provide some much needed defense to pair with Dirk Nowitzki.
In return, the Bulls eat one more season of Bogut's contract and get a first-round pick in the mid-teens. The only problem? It's just not that easy to obtain quality players when drafting in the mid-teens, isn't that right John Paxson?
Trading Robin Lopez doesn't have to jump-start some grand rebuilding strategy for Chicago, but if there is a scenario in which the Bulls could get their hands on a future asset in exchange for Lopez, then they should jump at the opportunity. Robin Lopez is great, but he isn't moving the needle for anyone, and he's too old to be on the next great Bulls team. It's time to send him elsewhere.