Bulls’ slow start puts the organization in crosshairs of rumor mill

The NBA trade deadline is still two months away, but an underachieving Bulls team already has clouds of trade rumors swirling above.

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Zach LaVine

Even victories aren’t very impressive for the Bulls these days.

Barely beating the Bradley Beal-less Wizards at home Wednesday doesn’t exactly scream ‘‘contender.’’

What it did was keep the Bulls in the rumor mill. That’s where underachieving teams usually reside in mid-December, leaving the fan base and media to decipher fact from fiction.

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.

The issue? Ball still hasn’t even started running, cutting or jumping — all pretty important steps to take in playing in an NBA game.

Karnisovas has proved to be very deliberate in the way he handles his business, so playing the waiting game is in his wheelhouse.

But if Ball can’t return by the trade deadline and the Bulls continue to underachieve, deliberate can become aggressive very quickly.

Karnisovas set the bar at reaching at least the second round of the playoffs in the preseason, and there’s no backing down from those expectations now.

The unknown is whether it would take a tweak or an all-out blockbuster deal to get the Bulls there. Here are some players and teams to monitor:

Jae Crowder, power forward, Suns

With an expiring $10 million contract and the Suns waiting for the best offer to move him, Crowder would be the perfect mentor for Patrick Williams and would provide the toughness the Bulls’ starting unit has lacked the last two seasons.

The problem is, there’s more than a handful of contending teams that will be in on Crowder and have better assets to offer. A package that includes a player such as Coby White wouldn’t move the needle.

Myles Turner, center, Pacers

The Pacers have been looking to move Turner since last season, but they have been adamant about getting players and draft capital in return. That’s where the Bulls fall very short.

Does Nikola Vucevic for Turner work from a money standpoint? Sure, but the Pacers never would trade one expiring contract for another without having draft picks included.

As is the case with Crowder, there are teams with more to offer than the Bulls.

Hawks

Like the Bulls, the Hawks have been muddling through the first third of the regular season and have growing issues. Trae Young might be developing into a problem child, and power forward John Collins always seems to be a trade candidate.

Would Karnisovas entertain a blockbuster deal of max contracts by sending Zach LaVine to the Hawks for Young? LaVine and Dejounte Murray share Seattle roots, and Young would give the Bulls a legitimate high-volume three-point shooter.

This would seem more fantasy than reality, however.

Knicks

The Knicks want to make a splash and have young talent — see Cam Reddish — and draft capital to give. Would a deal for DeMar DeRozan or LaVine play well in the Garden? Absolutely, but that would mean Karnisovas would have to think the Bulls had hit rock bottom. It’s not even close to that yet. 

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