Chicago Bulls bet on health after 2022 NBA trade deadline

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All signs pointed to the Chicago Bulls not being busy at the 2022 NBA trade deadline on Thursday. But based on what happened last year, there was still hope for last-minute moves to help a depleted roster that has been staggering over the past month due to key injuries.

There were no surprise moves, however, as the Bulls patiently awaited the return of their injured players. With that came a flurry of moves around them, including the James Harden-Ben Simmons blockbuster that bolsters the Philadelphia 76ers and gives the Brooklyn Nets another star who really wants to be there. Other Eastern Conference rivals in the Milwaukee Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets and Washington Wizards made notable trades before the deadline.

KC Johnson reporting from NBC Sports Chicago Chicago never really considered making an all-in trade with Patrick Williams, who is expected to return from wrist surgery in March. There have apparently been no serious conversations involving Coby White either. The Bulls didn’t have many other ways to improve via trade, with Derrick Jones Jr., Troy Brown Jr. and the lottery-protected first-round pick Portland Trail Blazers the main available plays. There is also a $5 million trade exception in place which has not been used at this time. Johnson reports that financial concerns over the luxury tax have not been a barrier to deals, although Arturas Karnisovas was shady when asked about it.

Chicago can still make additions to the roster through the buyout market, which will be reviewed in the coming days. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski previously named the Bulls as an interested suitor for Goran Dragic once he reached a buyout deal with the San Antonio Spurs following his trade to the Raptors, although the Dallas Mavericks have long been considered Dragic’s favorite.

Dennis Schroder was a reported trade target before the deadline, but he was sent to the Houston Rockets and could get a buyout. Paul Millsap and Tristan Thompson have been mooted as possible frontline targets in recent days. A reunion with Robin Lopez, DJ Augustin or even both could be explored. The Nets waived Deandre ‘Bembry after acquiring Simmons and others, and he would be an intriguing option. Moses Brown could be another possibility. Chicago has dead weight at the end of the bench that could be eliminated for redeemed players.

While the Bulls’ inaction at the trade deadline cannot be fully judged until the buyout market is eliminated, it is still somewhat disappointing that no action was taken to at least shake the depth. Karnisovas cited a desire for continuity and a belief in a healthy roster as reasons for the lack of moves.

“I think it reflects that we like this group,” Karnišovas said when asked about standing, according to Johnson. “(Head Coach) Billy (Donovan) obviously said that all along. We’re just waiting for guys to come back from injuries to put this group together because we had a small sample of 16 games where most of our guys were healthy. This does not include Patrick. In those 16 games, we were top five on offense and defense, so we liked how we looked when everyone was healthy. Hopefully we’ll get this group back and see what we can do.

The Bulls are expecting Williams, Jones, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso before the end of the regular season, and this team has proven they can compete with anyone healthy. As Karnisovas notes, this is an elite two-way team with a full roster of players.

However, it’s a bit dangerous to bank on all of these players’ returns given the nature of their injuries and, in Williams’ case, lack of experience. The way the roster is currently constructed, there could be a ton of pressure on Williams to come back and make an impact.

There’s also the fact that Chicago is staying afloat until those players return, which won’t be the case for some time and could lead to some trying minutes for top stars thanks to the mediocre bench. The Bulls 34-21 need to pick up wins against a light schedule before the All-Star break because things get much tougher again after. With the East so tightly clustered at the top, there is a real danger of falling down the rankings into the play-in range if things don’t go well. They are currently 3.5 games ahead of the No. 7 Celtics.

So the Bulls missed an opportunity (or squandered one) to improve on Thursday, but all is not lost for this team, which still boasts three top offensive stars in DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic in the lead. The defense has been a disaster lately thanks to injuries, but they should still be competitive with these stars in place. Chicago must now add depth via the buyout market, pray for no more injuries, and do enough to stay afloat until the cavalry returns. Then they will hopefully see what this team is really made of.

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