It was almost as if coach Billy Donovan was describing a mob movie.
Donovan knows the heads of the Bulls’ family will be meeting after the All-Star break and before the March 25 trade deadline. He even has a generic date and place. But the direction that meeting is going to go is another story entirely.
Donovan sounded as if he was on a need-to-know basis, and right now, all he needs to worry about are the Bulls’ upcoming games. The personnel will be ironed out.
“Yeah, we’re going to meet,’’ Donovan said. “I don’t think it’s going to be during the break. But after the break, we’re definitely going to meet. I don’t know what the back schedule looks like in terms of dates, but I know we open up with a back-to-back with Philly and Miami. We’re home for a little while, so we have the All-Star break, but certainly we’ll get together, and they want to do that a couple of weeks out from the trade deadline.
“I have not gotten anything from them in terms of direction or anything else other than to get together. I think I’ve mentioned my focus is on the team, and that’s all we really talk about is the current team and how to help these guys continue to get better collectively and individually. But obviously with the trade deadline coming up, there will be conversations that we have leading up to it.’’
Possibly some painful ones.
The Bulls are in a gray area.
They have several players who could bring back assets in a loaded 2021 draft pool, but sending those players out in a trade would lead to a drop in the standings. That wouldn’t seem like a big deal, considering the Bulls likely would be in for a short run if they made the postseason. But for a core that has never played meaningful games, that big stage — even for a short run — could be more valuable in the long run than yet another 19-year-old on the roster next season.
So who are the likely candidates to be moved? On a team in which no one should be deemed an untouchable, a veteran tops the list.
1. Thad Young — The Chicago Sun-Times reported this month that several teams were intrigued with the idea of Young bolstering their bench, as well as providing a versatile frontcourt option to close games. He would be an instant boost for teams going for that late-season push, such as the Heat or Knicks.
Young is signed through next season, earning $13.5 million this season and $14.1 million in the final year of his deal, but what would he really bring back in a trade? Besides the Bulls taking on an expiring contract of similar value, the hope would be a first-round pick. Considering a possible upcoming payroll decrease and a dried-up ’21 free-agent class, that might be a stretch with draft picks being the best capital out there.
2. Lauri Markkanen — The Bulls and Markkanen’s camp couldn’t agree on a contract extension in December, setting the stage for the 7-footer to test the restricted free-agent market. Donovan said he still covets Markkanen’s stretch-four skills despite his frequent injuries.
If there’s a chance to grab a lottery pick for Markkanen, that deal has to be explored.
3. Zach LaVine — Is there a deal out there that could give the Bulls a young up-and-coming star and the potential for a top-seven pick for LaVine? Doubtful, and that’s really the only kind of deal that would make sense right now.
The first-time All-Star basically has played his way out of being a real trade asset in the last month.