The Bulls were active toward the end of the NBA trade deadline on Thursday afternoon as the team traded away veteran big man Taj Gibson, three point specialist Doug McDermott, and a 2018 second-round draft pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder. In return, the Bulls received three players: Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne, and Anthony Morrow. Jimmy Butler, who was rumored to be on the market in recent weeks, was not traded and will remain with the team for the rest of the season.
This trade doesn’t come as much of a surprise considering the Bulls were actively shopping almost every player on the roster this season. As a fan, it’s hard to see how the Bulls benefited and improved after this trade. For what the Bulls gave up, I don’t see how any of acquisitions put the team in a better position to win. Gibson, who began the season as the longest tenured Bull on the roster, was arguably the best and most consistent big man for the team this season. The Bulls will not only miss his hard-nosed, energetic play, but also his strong veteran presence in the locker room. McDermott, though struggling of late, still has the potential to be a dangerous scorer in the league. Considering the Bulls gave up two first-round picks and two second-round picks to acquire McDermott on draft night, it’s hard to see him leave while receiving almost nothing in return.
Cameron Payne, in his second year in the league, is averaging 5.3 points and 2.0 assist per game. Payne, who was drafted with the 14th overall pick in the 2015 draft is a young player and has a lot to prove. He definitely has trouble shooting on the offensive end but does play solid defense. Payne seems to be like all four of the other point guards the Bulls currently have on their roster, great defense but nothing special offensively. Joffrey Lauvergne, a 25 year old from France, hasn’t been that impressive either this season. Averaging only 5.7 points and 3.7 rebounds, the major contribution he can bring to the Bulls is with his three point shooting abilities. Currently shooting .346% from three, statistically speaking he is now officially the best three point shooter on the roster. Anthony Morrow is an 8 year veteran known for his shooting ability and is averaging 5.8 points and is shooting .294 from three in 40 games played this season.
So to sum it all up, on paper it seems that the Bulls got nothing in return for Taj and Doug. As a fan I am perplexed why Gar Forman and John Paxson pulled the trigger on this deal. Taj was set to be a free agent this season so they could have possibly been trying to get something in return for him (as the Bulls have notably let players walk in the past without receiving anything). I hope these young players can add more depth to the team, because as it looks now the Bulls just gave up a fan favorite and a player with tremendous upside potential for three unnotable bench players.
Does this mean the Bulls are ready to tank? The truthful answer is yes and no. By signing younger players to the roster it’s obvious the team is ready for a fresh start, but at the same time by trading away draft picks they’re missing out on the opportunity to find young talent through the draft. Not to mention the team still has a large number of veteran players under contract. At this point it seems the Bulls are in an incognito phase of some sort where they’re partially rebuilding and partially trying keep a competitive roster on the floor. Unfortunately, it looks like dark days are ahead for Bulls fans. Taking a line from the Philadelphia 76ers, it’s time for Bulls fans to “trust the process.” As much as I believe it’s time to let go of Gar Forman and John Paxson, they are in their respective positions for a reason so hopefully they have some idea of the direction this team is headed toward. Once again, only time will tell.
The Bulls have their first game after All-Star break on Friday in Chicago against the Phoenix Suns. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to see the newly acquired players on the floor. Stay tuned to Intern Sports for more Bulls coverage.