All season, there have been varying degrees of buzz, speculation, rumors and everything in between connecting the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls as potential trade partners on a deal involving Russell Westbrook.
Back in October, when discussing what deals the Lakers might potentially be waiting on in regards to why they didn’t do the Buddy Hield and Myles Turner trade with Indiana, Jovan Buha — one of the most well-sourced reporters on the Lakers beat — mentioned DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine as players the team was potentially hoping would become available if Chicago decided to blow up their roster and rebuild. Two months later, Zach Lowe of ESPN confirmed that the Lakers have had internal discussions on potentially waiting for a deal headlined by DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic after Bill Simmons speculated about such a hypothetical.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, it doesn’t sound like the Bulls are willing to entertain those scenarios... yet. Local journalist Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the Bulls front office is not willing to take on Russell Westbrook in a deal. And if that’s true, then there really aren’t many trade options to discuss between these two sides.
So while the Lakers might be looking to make a big trade and have their eyes on the Bulls’ roster, the feeling isn’t mutual. According to a source, executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has no interest in acquiring Russell Westbrook and his expiring contract, even if it means adding draft picks.
Might that change by the trade deadline Feb. 9? With Karnisovas, everything is usually on the table. As of right now, however, the Bulls are still set on monitoring Lonzo Ball and his surgically repaired left knee, with the hope he will return and give them a glimpse of what they will look like whole.
Given that, as Cowley mentions, Westbrook is expiring and acquiring him would mostly just be an avenue to get draft picks, this likely means that the Bulls at the very least want to project that they have no interest in burning down the sad remnants of their roster to rebuild.
The grains of salt here, however, are plentiful. The second paragraph of the above block quote makes it clear that there is room for Karnisovas and Co.’s stance to change between now and February, and the other thing is this: What else are the Bulls supposed to say? Are they going to enter a negotiation with the Lakers by leaking that they’re happy to take whatever Los Angeles will give them and are ready to demolish their current roster down to the studs? It seems unlikely.
So with all that context, I’m not sure how much this really means. Do I think a Bulls deal is particularly likely? No, because the Bulls are committed to the treadmill of mediocrity, and are probably going to hold out hope that with some better health they can get some of that sweet, sweet two-home-games-in-the-first-round revenue. The Lakers also may not see any Bulls packages as worth two first-round picks, which would likely make any deal there a nonstarter. It is also possible that the Bulls (10-14), Lakers (10-15), or both get more desperate in the weeks to come if their seasons continue unfolding the way they have so far and circle back to the table closer to the Feb. 9 NBA trade deadline.
But, if I can take a moment to appeal to Bulls ownership directly for a second: Jerry, I would like to note, the following deal is cap legal AND saves you $2.2 million this year, while allowing you to not have to pay DeRozan $28 million next year: