The Bulls have acquired DeMar DeRozen from the Spurs. | AP
The excuses always surrounding Zach LaVine was he didn’t have the talent around him that other All-Stars had. That’s no longer the case, as the Bulls used a sign-and-trade on Tuesday to acquire DeMar DeRozan from the Spurs.
The on-the-court upgrades the Bulls made on the first two days of free agency will be immediate.
A pure play-making point guard in Lonzo Ball, who understands how to run a team with pace, as well as having positional size and a willingness to defend to impact both ends of the floor, and then a pick-and-roll defensive expert in Alex Caruso, who understands winning and doing the dirty work that impact games.
Then on Tuesday, a sign-and trade with the Spurs to land small forward DeMar DeRozan for a cost to the Bulls of three years and $85 million, sending out yet another first-round future pick, veteran Thad Young and an expiring contract in Al-Farouq Aminu.
Throw the price tags for each out the window for now, however.
The last two days were about the Bulls becoming a better constructed team for how they want to play this upcoming season.
The organization is now better constructed in case of a Zach LaVine exit — whether the guard wants to leave on his own or his financial asking price forces the front office to break the glass in case of emergency. Do DeRozan, Caruso or Ball have the same skillset as LaVine? No, but they offer a safety net for possibly the next three-to-four years that at least gives the Bulls a second wave of talent to build off of.
Something the franchise didn’t have before the free agent period began.
In a perfect scenario, the timelines will mesh where the 31-year-old DeRozan, LaVine and Nikola Vucevic can start pushing the Bulls into the postseason with a new cast of characters this upcoming season, while forward Patrick Williams and Ball continue pushing towards high-ceiling trajectories they had in the evaluation process.
If it doesn’t work with LaVine, however, Plan B is still in-house.
Because of his unselfishness and willingness to be a defensive-minded presence, Ball should be an attractive Robin to a pure scorer that suffers from Batman syndrome.
Then factor in what Williams should start becoming as early as this upcoming season. This is still a league where two-way wing defenders rule the land, and with a skillset that could blossom into doing just that, the Bulls could be looking at a Williams-Ball future with even more excitement than the immediate LaVine-Vucevic model.
DeRozan is almost a bonus, lurking for the next three years after spending the first12 seasons being a career 20.1-points per game scorer, to go along with a 2020-21 season in which he also had a career-best 6.9 assists.
Either way it works out, executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas can at least sleep well at night knowing that he provided LaVine with the best team he’s ever played on not named Team USA, and at least gave LaVine something to think about when it comes times to make financial decisions on his own future.
Because of the three additions, any chance the Bulls had of clearing more cap space to give LaVine a raise for the upcoming season and then extend him at a higher number off of that went out the window.