Since the end of last season, one prominent question has hovered over the NBA: what team will Damian Lillard be playing for in the 2023-24 season? While most reports center around a Lillard-to-Miami Heat deal, another candidate has arisen: the Chicago Bulls.
Is Chicago a Potential Landing Spot for Damian Lillard?
In a segment on NBA Today, Marc J. Spears revealed rumors that a secret Eastern Conference team was in talks with Portland about acquiring Lillard. As a result, speculations about basically every Eastern team’s potential trade packages for the superstar arose. The mystery began unraveling just a few days later when NBA insider Kyle Neubeck reported hearings of Chicago being the sneaky candidate.
On today's @PHLY_Sixers pod, we discussed the ongoing Lillard saga and a wild-card team I've heard is making calls to get in the mix — the Chicago Bulls
— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) September 20, 2023
Chicago’s Potential Trade Package
Moving on From LaVine
Nuebeck mentioned Zach LaVine’s name when discussing potential trade assets that Chicago has to offer. Last summer, LaVine signed a five-year contract with the Bulls for about $215 million. He averaged 24.8 points, 4.2 assists, and 4.5 rebounds in the first season of this contract. He shot efficiently, hitting nearly 50% of his shots from the field and 40% from deep. This was, by all means, a statistically good season. However, there was discontentment from both the team and LaVine following Chicago’s disappointing 40-42 season. If the reports are true, it’s likely the Bulls’ front office is dangling his name in trade talks for Lillard.
Future Draft Picks (Or Lack Thereof)
The Bulls will likely look to package LaVine with picks and some young talent. As far as first-round picks go, Chicago has limited options. For several reasons, they cannot trade their first-round picks from 2024-2026. As a result of the DeMar DeRozan trade, Chicago owes the San Antonio Spurs their 2025 first-round pick. Due to the Stepien Rule, they can’t trade their 2024 or 2026 first-round pick until those respective draft nights. Portland will surely target first-round picks in return for Lillard, leaving Chicago to look elsewhere for assets.
Looking for a Multi-Team Deal
Realistically, the Bulls will likely have to engage in a multi-team deal to bring in Lillard. The third team will probably be buyers and have some draft capital or young talent to contribute. The Bulls have some valuable young talent in Patrick Williams and Coby White, who could be shipped to Portland. Lavine is 28 and a nine-year veteran, so a rebuilding Portland team isn’t the ideal spot for him.
Here is Chicago’s ideal chain of events: they find a team wanting to take on LaVine’s max contract. In return, the Bulls get more assets to send to Portland, who are entering a new era with Scoot Henderson. Chicago is then gifted with one of the best point guards of this generation in Lillard. Led by him on their hot pursuit for that coveted championship, the Bulls return to their former glory as NBA Champions. Sounds easy enough… right?
It’s an exciting fantasy for Bulls fans to imagine, but we’ll have to wait and see if the front office can make the necessary moves. This also comes with this caveat: would Lillard even be happy to play in Chicago? He still has his eyes set on Miami and will reportedly request a trade to the Heat if he lands elsewhere. So, this all may be for naught. Either way, the front office must be aggressive in their pursuit if they want Chicago to be a landing spot for Lillard.