Getty Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan.
The Chicago Bulls may actually be ready to significantly reshape their roster, and a big move could be the way to go.
“If … the Bulls are ready to make a big move, all eyes should be on New Orleans and the brewing volcano between the Pelicans and forward Zion Williamson,” wrote Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times on November 14. “The often-injured Williamson told the media he was “doing my best to buy in at the moment” and questioned the game plan and the way it is being used.”
Williamson – the 23-year-old former No. 1 overall pick by the New Orleans Pelicans in 2019 – is averaging 21.3 points on 54.2% shooting this season. Both numbers represent career lows for Williamson, as do his free throw rate of 43% and his three-point attempt rate of 0.7%.
But Williamson’s 30.6% usage rate is a career high and somewhat undermines his argument.
Williamson has posted career-highs of 27.0 points and 7.2 rebounds (2020-21) and 4.1 assists and 1.1 steals (2022-23).
However, the most important thing Williamson has done this season may be that he appeared in nine of the Pelicans’ 11 games to start the season. That’s no small feat for a player who has missed no fewer than 11 games in a season since entering the league, including missing the entire 2021-22 season due to a foot injury.
This is particularly important for teams that might consider trading for him while the Pelicans are off to a 5-6 start and Williamson begins a five-year, $197.2 million contract extension this season. As Cowley notes, there is a deal that is workable for both sides.
Insider targets Pelicans’ Zion Williamson in Bulls trade offer
“How about we trade LaVine and forward Patrick Williams for Williamson, forward Larry Nance Jr. and guard Kira Lewis Jr.,” Cowley mused
– Zion Williamson
– Kira Lewis Jr.
–Larry Nance Jr.
– Zach LaVine
There is some speculation on Cowley’s part that sentimentality may factor into the equation.
“Former Bulls general manager Gar Forman is a special advisor to the Pelicans and once fell in love with LaVine when he acquired him from the Timberwolves in the Jimmy Butler trade in June 2017,” Cowley continued. “Such a trade would be a way to fix the bulls’ problem and shake up an outdated product.”
Cowley’s proposal also assumes the Pelcans want to terminate the remainder of Williamson’s contract because he was the more efficient and effective player, even if he wasn’t as durable.
This deal includes no draft capital and increases the Bulls’ earnings by approximately $5.6 million; a tax-shy organization that is $1.7 million under the luxury tax limit, according to Spotrac.
LaVine is in the second year of a five-year, $215 million contract.
The Bulls were linked to Nance two offseasons ago before acquiring former teammate Derrick Jones Jr. from the Portland Trail Blazers. And Lewis, at 22, is young enough to be intriguing, even if his stats have fallen for the fourth straight year. The biggest change in the deal on the Bulls’ part would be finally admitting they missed out on Williams, which is risky.
Zach LaVine changes his mind on trade rumors
Given all the rumors, LaVine changed his public stance on the speculation surrounding his name. He usually downplayed the veracity of the whispers, usually saying that they didn’t come from him or anyone in his camp.
He talked about understanding the business side of things before the Bulls’ game against the Orlando Magic on Nov. 15.
That in itself isn’t too much of a departure from LaVine’s previous message.
LaVine even reiterated his affinity for the city of Chicago and what living in the area meant to him, from growing as a player to fatherhood. But when it came time to talk about whether or not he wanted to be traded, LaVine dodged answering the question, saying the time to discuss that part of things hadn’t come yet.
I wrote this yesterday. Multiply it by 10 based on his public comments today.
However, it may take a while for a trading market to materialize. Stay tuned. pic.twitter.com/ffC0dEdZzc
— KC Johnson (@KCJHoop) November 15, 2023
“That’s why I have representatives like Rich Paul,” LaVine said of changing his answers on Nov. 15, according to KC Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “My job is to go out here and play. As simple as that.”
Cowley also notes that there is increasing frustration in the locker room over LaVine’s lack of accountability. They faced a similar problem last season.
It could all turn into a powder keg situation.
Josh Buckhalter covers the NBA for Heavy.com, with a focus on the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. He lives in Villa Park, Illinois. Follow Josh on Twitter and Instagram: @JoshGBuck More about Josh Buckhalter