It could be an interesting next several weeks for the Bulls — and that’s not even considering what takes place on the court.
According to an NBA source, teams hoping to acquire talent by the tentative March 25 trade deadline are increasingly looking to the Bulls as a potential trade partner, with veteran forward Thad Young suddenly drawing the most interest.
Young’s contract is some-what salary-cap-friendly — he’ll make $13.5 million this season and $14.1 million next season — and he would be ideal for a key bench spot on a contending team. However, the source said Arturas Karnisovas, the Bulls’ executive vice president of basketball operations, has given no indication he’s willing to part with any players.
That jibes with what Bulls coach Billy Donovan said two weeks ago when asked about trade discussions he has had with the front office.
“For Arturas, his main thing right now [is] he’s evaluating,’’ Donovan said then. “We’re communicating, and the biggest thing right now is the investment we can make in these guys that are here now, and we want to continue to help them grow and get better.”
Unless Karnisovas gets an offer he can’t turn down, the Bulls might be better off hanging on to Young for several reasons. First, there’s minimal dropoff among Eastern Conference teams from the No. 6 seed all the way down to No. 13, so there’s a playoff push to be had, and Young could be a necessity in that being successful. Secondly, Young’s influence on younger players in the locker room has been huge.
He also could be a key bench presence next season, with fellow forward Otto Porter Jr. likely gone.
Entering Super Bowl weekend, Donovan was asked which of his current players would have made the best NFL player.
“Well, I’d say with his speed — this will probably be a name for you because I was a big fan — I think Zach LaVine could be like [former Bears receiver] Willie Gault,” Donovan said. “Fast up the sidelines — yes, he would be very good. I think Coby [White] could be a really good running back. . . . I think Coby actually may have played some football when he was younger, maybe early part of high school, if I’m not mistaken.”
As for Donovan’s own football background? He’s no Fred Hoiberg, the former Bulls coach who was recruited by Nebraska to play quarterback.
“[I played] just until eighth grade, Pop Warner or whatever that was called,’’ Donovan said.
While forward Patrick Williams has made an impact in the Bulls’ starting lineup, he seems to be fading out of contention for NBA Rookie of the Year. He entered Friday ranked eighth in scoring among rookies at 9.7 points per game. Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, the No. 1 pick, leads the class with 13.6, followed by LaMelo Ball’s 12.7.
Williams was ninth in rebounding among rookies, averaging 3.8 per game, behind James Wiseman (6.1) and Ball (5.9). He was seventh in minutes played at 25.8 per game.