clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Bulls bosses answer questions about the trade gone wrong this season

On paper, it seemed that the March 25 trade-deadline deal that brought Nikola Vucevic to the Bulls to team with Zach LaVine was a home-run swing. But the Bulls didn’t reach their goal of making the playoffs and could be without a first-round pick on top of it. Explain away, Arturas Karnisovas.

“I think when you have a foundation of let’s say two All-Stars in one place, I think it’s easier to add additional things that we need. So we’re going to discuss the needs of the team and we’ll attack it during free agency,” Bulls vice president Arturas Karnisovas said.
“I think when you have a foundation of let’s say two All-Stars in one place, I think it’s easier to add additional things that we need. So we’re going to discuss the needs of the team and we’ll attack it during free agency,” Bulls vice president Arturas Karnisovas said.
AP

Monday morning was a bit too soon for Bulls center Nikola Vucevic.

A more realistic timeframe could be in a little more than a month, when the NBA draft lottery takes place, or midway into next season, when the team can truly be evaluated as a playoff threat.

But less than 14 hours after the end of the regular season, Vucevic was hoping for a little more time to make an assessment.

“I’m definitely a guy that’s like, let’s let this play out and see how it turns out,’’ Vucevic said in his end-of-the-season Zoom meeting with the media.

OK, let’s.

But until that time, it’s only fair to have immediate questions about one of the biggest swings any organization took at this season’s trade deadline.

While most teams went into the end of March looking to add a piece, executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas was looking for the whole pie. That meant adding Vucevic from the Magic and teaming him with fellow All-Star Zach LaVine.

“Generally the [deadline] trades are guys coming off the bench or filling a hole,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. “This was — I don’t want to say a blockbuster trade, close to it — a trade where immediately a guy comes in here, and now he’s unequivocally 1A or 1B. Right away. Those things don’t normally happen in the NBA.’’

So a big swing was taken.

That also meant the organization was leaving itself open for a big miss.

The worst-case scenario that lingered in the wake of the deal was adding an elite player in Vucevic, still missing the play-in tournament and losing their top-four-protected first-round pick in the 2021 draft.

Snake eyes were rolled, and the perfect storm of bad happened, at least for this season, and that’s how Vucevic was approaching it. In his mind, it was bad only for this season.

“I think that it was made for the future of the franchise,’’ Vucevic said. “Our goal this year was to make it, and we didn’t make it, so that’s disappointing, but I think moving forward, people around the league, players around the league, everybody around the league, especially us, we know that this franchise is about winning, and we want to get there.

“It’s very, very early to judge the trade. I mean, it’s only been two or three months. Things happen. Sometimes things take longer to come together.’’

As for Karnisovas, who repeatedly expressed disappointment Monday over how the season turned out, he still sees promise in the deal.

“The disappointment is short term, which is we assume that if you add another All-Star to your roster, usually you get better and improve your record,’’ Karnisovas said. “It’s a result-driven business. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

“It’s very seldom you get an opportunity to add an All-Star, and we went after it.’’

They did, but the immediate price, along with the decision to win five somewhat meaningless games in the last few weeks, dropped the odds of keeping the top-four pick from 31.9% to 20.3%.

Karnisovas didn’t ignore that but seemed confident that he has a roster and a plan in place to make improvements with or without the first-rounder.

“If we don’t get our pick, we still have a second-round pick,’’ Karnisovas said. “We have free agency and trades to get better.

“When you have a foundation of, let’s say, two All-Stars in one place, it’s easier to add additional things that we need. So we’re going to discuss the needs of the team, and we’ll attack it during free agency.’’

In other words, there are more big swings to come.