It appears that Gar Forman and John Paxson are ready to make moves before the NBA’s trade deadline on February 23. Earlier today, Taj Gibson’s name reemerged in trade speculation with the Toronto Raptors. The Bulls have also reportedly been shopping Nikola Mirotic and Rajon Rondo. Will the front office orchestrate a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers to bring young big man Jahlil Okafor back home? And of course, the biggest trade deadline story in Chicago: the talks with the Boston Celtics about Jimmy Butler.
Now, two more names have been thrown into the Bulls’ trade bait waters: Doug McDermott and Robin Lopez. Moments ago, Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders reported that the Bulls are exploring the trade market for both players, hoping to land a first round pick for either.
Know Your Personnel
Let’s break this down by individual.
Testing the trade market for Lopez makes sense. He’s performing admirably for Chicago since arriving in the Derrick Rose trade last summer. He’s a stellar offensive rebounder, and his scoring skillset inside the arc is underrated. The big man also has two team-friendly years remaining on his current contract. Unlike his fellow frontcourt veteran Gibson, Lopez provides potential suitors with some guaranteed longevity in their team’s plans.
Speaking of that frontcourt, trading Lopez would open up opportunities for younger guys on this Bulls roster. Let’s say GarPax trade Robin but keep Taj. They could play Taj almost exclusively at center, going with more of a small-ball lineup. Cristiano Felicio could keep his minutes as the backup center, and Bobby Portis could finally get real minutes playing the four. The 2015 first round draft pick is enduring a down year, mostly because he’s averaging just 11.8 minutes per game in Fred Hoiberg’s ever-changing rotation.
Portis might not be what the Bulls thought he was when they called him “a steal” two years ago, but they won’t know if they don’t play him. Use the back end of an already-dead season to see if Bobby has potential and is worth a continued investment of time and money.
Similarly, the Bulls could give rookie Denzel Valentine more minutes in March and April if they trade McDermott. The Sparty kid is trapped behind too many guards in the backcourt, but he might be capable of playing small forward in the NBA. Like dealing Lopez and playing Taj at the five, this fits with a small ball lineup. Isn’t that what Hoiberg should be using if he wants to play with pace and space? (Hint: that’s a rhetorical question. The answer is yes.)
Unfortunately for GarPax, the market might not be big enough for either player right now. There’s a higher demand for power forwards than centers league-wide, and McDermott is a defensive liability who’s currently in a shooting slump. It’s a huge drag when you remember the Bulls gave up not only two first round picks, but also two second round picks to get Doug in 2014. He hasn’t developed into a player worthy of that investment, and it would be very surprising to see any team offer the Bulls one first round pick for Doug three years later.
If either player gets moved, I’d say Robin is the more likely candidate. Then again, the Bulls could trade Taj instead. In that case, they might decide to keep Robin as the veteran they need to help mentor and develop the younger guys in the frontcourt.
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