Chicago Bulls reportedly scour potential landing spots for Zach LaVine while weighing options for DeMar DeRozan, Alex Caruso

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The Chicago Bulls are seeking out potential landing spots for Zach LaVine. But the wheels of change keep grinding slowly as executive vice president of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas appears to be set on a careful and steady approach.

The Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers are the two teams most interested in obtaining LaVine through a trade, according to a new report from The Athletic. But only days away from the Dec. 15 threshold — when the majority of players in the league become tradable — there isn’t much movement apparent in the Bulls front office.

It’s always been clear the Bulls wouldn’t make a trade until January at the earliest. And with LaVine likely sidelined until the new year with a foot injury, it can be difficult to gauge the market. But that won’t stop the steady flow of trade gossip from now until the Feb. 8 deadline.

One key piece of chatter gives important insight into the front office’s next steps — which other trades the Bulls are still willing to pick up the phone to discuss.

The Bulls still appear to be open to a trade for DeMar DeRozan, who has not reached a deal for a veteran extension despite voicing enthusiasm to remain in Chicago long-term. But according to The Athletic’s report, the Bulls have stopped hearing any interest for one key player — Alex Caruso.

So why would the team be more interested in trading DeRozan than Caruso? There are several pieces to this puzzle.

Despite their relative statures in the league, interest in Caruso can be more consistent than DeRozan. Any team in a playoff — or finals — push could benefit from adding Caruso’s defensive firepower while the flexibility of his contract makes him an easy fit under the cap.

Trading both LaVine and DeRozan would signal a full rebuild, even if Nikola Vučević remained in Chicago. But trading Caruso would be an equally drastic decision — given his market value, the guard is one of the easiest players to flip in a trade for building blocks in a roster overhaul.

Decision-making for either of these potential trades will rely on whether this current group can maintain its success without LaVine over the next 5-8 weeks. Defining what “success” means for the Bulls will also be a key for Karnišovas during that time.

Two things can be true at once. The Bulls have transformed in the four games since LaVine was shut down with his foot injury. The team is on a four-game win streak, the offense is humming and the defense is finally snapping out of its stupor from the opening three weeks of the season. In those four games, the Bulls were in the top 10 of the NBA in average assists (28.5) and steals (8.8) while registering a league-high 17.8 offensive rebounds per game.

Promising stuff, right? Win or lose, this is the type of Bulls basketball that is enjoyable to watch for casual and die-hard fans alike. Young players like Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu are showing sizable growth while veterans like DeRozan are still fulfilling expectations. LaVine noted his enthusiasm to attempt to fit into this style of free-flowing offense when — and if — he returns to the lineup.

But that doesn’t mean the Bulls are healed. Far from it. It’s completely unproven whether this success is sustainable for the Bulls. Players and coaches have continued to emphasize the intangibility of this small sample size. The team can’t afford to mistake a flash of prosperity for a long-term solution.

Even in the four-game win streak, the Bulls have serious flaws. Their shooting is only improving behind the arc. They’re still allowing first-half slippage against lesser defensive teams like Charlotte. And if White didn’t rip off eight 3-pointers against New Orleans (or four against Milwaukee, or five against San Antonio) this could easily be a team with 15 or more losses.

This is exactly what the front office needs to assess: how close is this roster to a desired product for 2024 and beyond? This is what Karnišovas will gauge over the next two months.

In the meantime, the Bulls are fun to watch — and that might be the easiest way to pacify the fan base, at least until the trade deadline nears.


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