DeMar DeRozan #11 of the Chicago Bulls
DeMar DeRozan #11 of the Chicago Bulls Getty Images | Stacy Revere

The Chicago Bulls went all-in last year to become potential contenders in the Eastern Conference. They traded for All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic and went on a spending spree in free agency to sign Lonzo Ball and Alex Curso. Those transactions along with the talent that was already present on the roster made the Bulls one of the most interesting teams in the league last season.

The Bulls started off hot, winning 27 of their first 42 games. DeRozan was having a career year in Chicago, scoring, playmaking and hitting game-winners seemingly every week. DeRozan was also gelling nicely with Zach LaVine who was having an All-Star season of his own. Ball was the perfect orchestrator on the offensive end in both the half court and in transition for the scoring duo. Vucevic gave Chicago a solid inside scoring presence and rebounder. Caruso off the bench complemented the starters as another facilitator and made his impact known on defense. Previous skeptics started to be convinced that Chicago could actually be a serious playoff contender come April. Then things took a turn for the worst.

Ball suffered a season-ending knee injury in January. Around the same time, Caruso went down with an injury that kept him sidelined for nearly two months. Chicago was able to rally a bit and win five in a row heading into the All-Star break, but went 8-15 to close out the year. They finished 46-36 to make the playoffs as the sixth seed where they eventually fell to the Milwaukee Bucks in five games in the first round.

Entering the 2022-2023 season, there was optimism that Chicago could be in the mix as a top seed in the East as they once were for a period of time last season. However the Bulls so far have failed to capture the magic they had and it looks as though we’ve already seen the height of this present Bulls squad. They’re currently 14-19 this season and Ball is likely to miss this year while recovering from his knee surgery. While DeRozan is having another All-Star year he simply isn’t getting enough from the supporting cast. Chicago is stuck in the NBA’s no man’s land, they’re not a bad enough team to tank for a top prospect and they’re not good enough to be a significant team in the playoffs. So where does that leave them? The Bulls have two options, either play out the coming years with this regime and see moderate success or trade away assets to begin a rebuild.

Chicago has never tanked or started the process of a rebuild for the better part of a decade. They’ve zigged where other teams have zagged, opting to retool their roster through the years rather than tear it down completely. It is admirable and respectable for the Bulls front office to find ways to remain competitive however it hasn’t gotten them any closer to winning a championship.

The Bulls have two assets that can be traded this season in DeRozan and Vucevic. A potential trade with the Los Angeles Lakers centered around their coveted 2026 and 2028 first round draft picks could be on the horizon with Anthony Davis out for an extended period of time. The Lakers have been rumored to make a trade all season and a DeRozan deal could make sense for both sides. Los Angeles was previously interested in DeRozan before he signed a three-year, $81 million contract with Chicago. From the Bulls standpoint they could receive the most sought after trade asset in league. Vucevic is on an expiring $22 million contract this year that could easily be moved for draft compensation. A team that believes they’re on the brink of a Conference Finals or Finals appearance may be willing to forfeit a future pick in exchange for the Swiss big man.

Chicago has choice of staying stagnant for the next couple of seasons or start the process of a rebuild that rewards the franchise towards the end of the decade.

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