The Chicago Bulls are a struggling NBA team with bad chemistry. They need to find an offensive solution and that’s where Damian Lillard comes in. The Portland Trail Blazers point guard is the perfect trade partner for the Bulls, if they want to build on their new found success this season-
This season, the Chicago Bulls have been a fantastic tale. They’ve gone from being a lottery joke to a playoff team in the congested Eastern Conference’s middle. That’s a really good one-year swing.
Fans in Chicago who want to celebrate a title in 2021-22 must, however, take a long drink of reality. The Bulls have a 21-21 record against teams above.500, and after going 3-7 in their past ten games, they are in serious risk of losing one of the Eastern Conference’s prized top-6 playoff positions to the Toronto Raptors.
The Bulls’ recent thrashing by the Suns is a prime example of their flaws. The number three defense of Phoenix threw Chicago for a loop. DeMar DeRozan, the MVP contender, was restricted to 19 points on 6-14 shooting from the field by Mikal Bridges. At the same time, Devin Booker, Cameron Payne, and Elfrid Payton harassed Zach LaVine into a dreadful 1 for 7 shooting night, turning the normally intellectual rookie Ayo Dosunmu into a fearful puppy looking for his mother. On the less glamorous side of the ball, Chicago had no answer for Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton, and even reserve players Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder appeared to score whenever they wanted. The Suns dominated the Bulls, winning by a score of 27 points. AND Phoenix accomplished it all without Chris Paul, the MVP favorite.
It’s difficult to picture Chicago scoring enough points to win a seven-game playoff series against the Bucks’ long-armed and athletic defense. The same can be said for the Bulls’ matchups with the Heat and Celtics, two teams with strong defensive units.
The Portland Trail Blazers were the most active club on the west coast at the 2022 trade deadline, completing three transactions in February.
To begin, they traded Norman Powell and Robert Covington to the Clippers for Eric Bledsoe, Justice Winslow, Keon Johnson, and a second-round selection.
Then they dealt Josh Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Tomas Satoransky, Didi Louzada, a protected 2022 first-round pick, and two future second-round picks to New Orleans for Josh Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Tomas Satoransky, Didi Louzada, a protected 2022 first-round pick, and two future second-round picks.
Finally, they participated in a three-team deal that sent Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Tomas Satoransky to the Utah Jazz in exchange for injured Joe Ingles, who is poised to become an unrestricted free agency following the season.
The Trail Blazers traded most of their starting lineup (McCollum, Powell, and Covington) for a slew of bench players (with the exception of Josh Hart, who is a true NBA starter), half of whom might be gone in the next two seasons.
Portland intended to free their salary space so they could pursue another max player to complement Damian Lillard, but the market is thin this summer. Players like James Harden, Bradley Beal, and Kyrie Irving have player options for next season, but none of them have shown interest in going to Oregon. Zach LaVine will be the best available unrestricted free agent this summer, but he’s already indicated that he’ll return to Chicago on a max contract. Deandre Ayton, Bobby Portis, T. J. Warren, and Joe Ingles are all possible targets for the Trail Blazers. Assume they sign Deandre Ayton and Joe Ingles to have the finest (realistic) summer conceivable. Will a starting lineup consisting of D. Lillard, A. Simons, J. Hart, J. Ingles, and D. Ayton be able to win a championship?
The Trail Blazers will end up as second-round playoff fodder for the Suns, Mavericks, Warriors, or a healthy Clippers squad if they have the finest offseason possible.
The Bulls are one superstar away from becoming a legitimate championship contender, while the Trail Blazers, led by Damian Lillard, are expected to be a postseason fringe club.
This summer, Chicago and Portland should finalize a contract that will assist both teams go where they need to go:
Damian Lillard has been acquired by the Chicago Bulls.
Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu, Coby White, Patrick Williams, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu, Coby White, Patrick Williams, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu, Ayo First-round selection in 2023, second-round pick in 2024
The advantages of our blockbuster transaction for the Bulls and Trail Blazers are outlined here.
The Chicago Bulls become the league’s best offensive team.
Let’s start with any worries you may have about Damian Lillard’s ability to rain offensive death following his terrible 2021-22 performance.
True, Lillard was an ineffective disaster for the most of his 29 games this season. He hit 32.4 percent from three-point range and 40.2 percent overall. He was playing despite an abdominal ailment before shutting it down and undergoing surgery to assure he’ll be 100 percent for the start of next season.
Lillard was a top-10 player last season, scoring 28.8 points per game and 7.5 assists per game. He also made a few game-winning buzzer-beaters for the Blazers, shooting 39.1 percent from three-point range. Then, in the playoffs, he scored 34.3 points per game while shooting 44.9 percent from outside the arc before falling to the Nuggets in the first round.
Damian Lillard was an MVP candidate in 2019-20. He averaged 7.7 fourth-quarter points per game, good for fifth in the league, with 30.0 points per game, 8.0 assists per game, and 40.1 percent shooting from outside the arc. In the playoffs, he continued to play terrific basketball, but his Trail Blazers team was overwhelmed by the aggressiveness of the eventual champion Lakers in the first round.
Damian Lillard, 31, is well into his prime, and there’s no reason to believe his 2017-18 season was anything more than an injury-plagued aberration.
Let’s get to the point of this conversation.
“We can’t trade up five guys and future draft compensation for one player, even if he’s top-10 in the league,” Bulls fans will likely cry, hands on hips, brows furrowed. “It’s not worth it!” says the narrator.
If the Bulls beat the Bucks, Heat, 76ers, or Celtics in the playoffs and go to the Eastern Conference finals, it would be a tsunami. AND it’s possible that this is the best Chicago has to offer.
DeMar DeRozan has gone from non-All-Star to MVP contender in the last three seasons, averaging about 21.0 points per game on a 22.0 percent mark from deep in San Antonio. We’ve seen players improve in their 20s, but we’ve never seen someone improve as much as DeRozan has at the age of 32.
DeMar DeRozan, like an in-form Kobe Bryant, has dominated the league with a variety of off-the-dribble mid-range shots. DeRozan is averaging 20.1 shots per game, with 12.1 of them being contested jumpers (closest defender within 2 to 4 feet). Despite this, he’s hitting 51.2 percent of the time on those tensely disputed shots, which is almost unheard of.
When you consider DeRozan’s elevation at the age of 32 and the manner in which he’s delivered his buckets, you have to wonder whether his 2021-22 season will be a one-off. Next year, he may easily revert to his San Antonio output of 21.0 points per game. If DeRozan falters, the Bulls, who have depended on DeRozan’s one-on-one heroics to win games this season, will be forced to participate in the play-in game in 2022-23.
Damian Lillard’s offensive prowess would protect DeRozan from a decline next season. With Lillard and LaVine establishing an off-the-dribble three-point shooting nightmare for opposing teams, the Bulls would have the greatest shooting backcourt in the Eastern Conference. Together, they’d create a slew of wide-open mid-range shots for DeRozan, who would grin as he drained his uncontested looks after shooting (I’ll say it again) 60% of his tries with a defender within 2 to 4 feet of him in 2021-22. Nikola Vucevic possesses a clean inside game and would like the open rim opportunities that the Bulls Big-3 would provide.
The starting lineup for the 2022-23 Bulls would put rival teams into fits:
Damian Lillard (PG)
Zach LaVine, SG
DeMar DeRozan (SF)
Tristan Thompson, PF
Nikola Vucevic (C)
The Bulls would have to hunt the free-agent market for a few quality two-way veterans yearning for a championship, and they could struggle to acquire stops. Even yet, this is a championship-caliber team that wouldn’t require a top-10 defense because it would pour torrents every night.
The Portland Trail Blazers Begin a New Season
The Trail Blazers have secured a trip to NBA no-land man’s if they don’t continue their in-season reconstruction and move Damian Lillard after gutting their squad at the trade deadline. If Portland’s superstar point guard is kept, the club will be a middle-tier playoff team with little chance of winning a championship in 2022-23 or beyond. At worst, they’ll miss the playoffs but win enough games to avoid a top-five pick and a future star. In any case, they’re not going to display a banner this decade.
Portland has to swallow its pride and take the last piece from the bottom of the Jenga set, collapsing the roster in order to rebuild over the next several seasons and offer their supporters actual hope of establishing a two-way club with genuine championship ambitions.
The Bulls gain four good guards in Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu, and Coby White, as well as youthful and athletic power forward Patrick Williams, in our exchange.
Four Bulls guards would join incumbents Anfernee Simons, Josh Hart, and Keon Johnson on the Trail Blazers’ 2022-23 roster, all vying for playing time in the backcourt. Portland would have to play small, with one of their guards beginning as a small forward and another coming off the bench. In the frontcourt, the Trail Blazers would be as thin as a dumpling wrapper, and they’d be without a star.
The Trail Blazers would finish last in the Western Conference, which is exactly the idea. They’d hit rock bottom for the next couple of seasons, giving them a great chance to select a superstar while allowing their young players a chance to iron out their kinks on the court.
The Trail Blazers would have a viable plan in place. With luck (and a lot of luck), Ayo Dosunmu might develop into a top-40 player in the NBA, developing a synergy with Lonzo Ball in the starting lineup. Alex Caruso and Josh Hart would emerge as the league’s top bench backcourt, dominating opponents with their two-way intensity. Over the following few of offseasons, Portland would add one (or perhaps two) frontcourt difference makers.
With Lillard in the fold, the Trail Blazers would have an exceptional two-way roster to surround their top lottery selections, and they’d be poised to fight for something genuine rather than chasing the second round of the playoffs.
Our agreement is beneficial to both parties.
The Bulls are a quality 2021-22 team, but they’re definitely missing a component to compete with the Eastern Conference’s big guns. Damian Lillard, together with DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, would form the league’s finest Big-3. Next season, they’d have a good chance of ascending the peak.
The Trail Blazers have two options: keep Damian Lillard and pursue second-round playoff success for the next several seasons before tumbling into the lottery, or deal their superstar for a group of talented young players and the potential to develop a future championship contender. The option is clear. It’s title or bust in the NBA.