Bulls potentially the new target of a bad Lakers trade

Can The Lakers Make The Playoffs With Westbrook
Nov 23, 2021; New York, New York, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Russell Westbrook (0) reacts during the third quarter against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

We’re in a new cycle of teams linked to a Russell Westbrook-Los Angeles Lakers trade, as the Chicago Bulls have been rumored to be the latest Laker trade target.

For about a year now it’s been one of the worst-kept secrets in the NBA that the Lakers would like to move on from Westbrook and his gargantuan contract with $47.1 million owed to him. The Lakers have struggled since acquiring Westbrook in a trade from the Washington Wizards during the 2021 offseason, and have looked around the league for a team willing to take on his contract for a decent return package.

Typically, the rebuilding Indiana Pacers have been the favorite linked to a potential deal, as the Lakers have long coveted the services of wing shooter Buddy Hield and center Myles Turner. The Pacers haven’t been as receptive.

With the Bulls off to a disappointing 9-14 start while the Lakers struggle to field a competitive team around aging superstar LeBron James, naturally they’ve become a target in what-if trade scenarios and some reported genuine interest from the Lakers.

Bill Simmons of the Ringer proposed the Bulls should blow the roster up and tank for French prospect Victor Wembanyama by sending All-NBA forward DeMar DeRozan and former All-Star Nikola Vucević in return for Westbrook, a 2027 first and a top-five-protected 2029 first, among two other trades to “save the Bulls.” Oct. 24 must’ve unnerved Mr. Simmons a bit.

Zach Lowe of ESPN reported on his podcast that the Lakers have had internal discussions about such a deal. Well of course the Lakers have.

I wouldn’t put it past the Lakers to view this as a great deal for them – it would be. Their underwhelming, aging and erratic former-superstar point guard and two distant first-round picks for a 2022 All-NBA Second Team member and a former All-Star center? What a package! On top of that, they’re both over 30 – we know how the Lakers love their over-30 players. The one variable the media, fans and probably the Lakers are missing in this whole line of thinking are the Bulls.

Why would the Bulls do this? The trade package in itself is not great, especially considering the fact every team the Lakers have kicked the tires on haven’t taken it at this point. So the Bulls are expected to give up two of their three best players for an asset that won’t play for the team and two picks that will amount to players likely still in middle school? Not to mention the 2029 pick would likely be lightly protected – wonderful.

As for tanking for Wembanyama, recent NBA draft lottery rules have made the quest for the top pick a crapshoot. Four teams will have an equal chance at the top pick, and any of the 10 teams outside of that have a chance to jump in and knock one of those four out. I don’t like those odds, assuming the Bulls finish as a bottom-four team.

It’s a long-term risk for a light return while the Lakers get a guaranteed boom to their roster. Why should the Bulls help their longtime-archrival King James in a quest for another title? The thought makes my stomach turn.

As I’ve said in my previous column, the Bulls are waiting to see what the roster looks like at full health. A trade with the Lakers (and a very bad one at that) at any point in the near future goes against everything the franchise has been trying to do; reestablish a winning culture that attracts free agents.

Giving up on the core put together over the 2021 offseason would be hasty, and a bad look for a franchise trying to pick up the pieces GarPax left behind. Waiting for Lonzo Ball to come back and see if the team can recapture what made the Bulls one of the league’s best teams for nearly half of the 2021-22 season should be the only course of action for now.

Sorry Laker fans, find your salvation elsewhere because Chicago will not become the answer to your franchise’s dysfunction. The Lakers chose Westbrook over DeRozan a couple of summers ago, and they should have to continue to live with that decision.

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