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3 things Bulls we'd like to see in 2023, from trade to Lonzo Ball return


3 Bulls things we’d like to see happen in 2023 originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Chicago Bulls flipped the schedule in 2022 with Saturday’s last-second loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

These teams will host a rematch on Monday in Cleveland. But there are bigger picture elements to come in 2023.

Here are three things we would like to see this calendar year:

A market

Management has always insisted on continuity with this list. So if a trade is made, it is just as likely to be a buyer to bolster its current core.

But the safer route may be to move one of the Bulls’ Big Three. In the case of DeMar DeRozan or Zach LaVine, the right deal could help the franchise reset rather than rebuild.

The Bulls’ Big Three may not be a failure. But he has a ceiling, especially with the future of Lonzo Ball unknown. Ball seemed to be the straw that stirred the drink to unleash the trio’s full potential.

Trading DeRozan could help the Bulls perform a reset on the fly, much like the Utah Jazz did when it parted ways with franchise stalwarts Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. The Jazz remain competitive this season, with a stock of interim assets from both deals and a potential All-Star in Lauri Markkanen acquired in the Mitchell deal.

Trading DeRozan also keeps the Bulls away from deciding whether or not to extend it; he is eligible for extension this offseason and has signed through 2023-24. While DeRozan still plays at an All-NBA level and possesses the type of game that will seemingly age gracefully, the Bulls can’t tie their future to two players in their thirties like DeRozan and Nikola Vučević.

As a player headed to unrestricted free agency this offseason, Vučević will not mark the return of DeRozan or LaVine. But losing him for nothing this offseason if he chose to sign elsewhere would be tough for a franchise that traded two first-round picks and Wendell Carter Jr. for him.

As for LaVine, he’s in the first of a five-year max contract that’s bound to appeal to franchises looking to make a splash like the major markets Los Angeles Lakers or New York Knicks. The Lakers’ only draft capital are first-round picks in 2027 and 2029, which don’t seem to match the aggressively competitive team of executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas.

At 27, LaVine also represents the Bulls’ best bridge between the current win-now mentality and the need to grow the young stable of players like Patrick Williams and Ayo Dosunmu. But how long will LaVine be content to play DeRozan’s second option? Sources said LaVine has at times questioned his role internally.

Stay tuned.

The return of Lonzo Ball

For 35 games, Ball played with a selflessness that produced aesthetically pleasing basketball. He pushed the pace offensively. He threw 3 points effortlessly. He defended endlessly.

And then, in an almost cruel coincidence, a knee injury occurred, a return-to-play schedule followed, and that schedule passed without a guard returning.

Ball is not Derrick Rose, who won the most valuable player award before his first major knee injury. But he is one of those players who make winning plays and make his teammates better. It sometimes produces similar electrical parts.

Ball’s knee injury required two surgeries, and there is still no timeline for his return. Hearing him speak publicly about his injury is almost painful; you can hear how much he misses the game.

Rose has enjoyed a rebirth after its rugged road, but does not reach its same heights. Here’s hoping Ball gets that chance too.

Ayo Dosunmu re-signed

The local product is a restricted free agent this offseason. The Bulls have made it clear how much they value Dosunmu. But management said similar things about Markkanen and then failed to find common ground on an extension.

Dosunmu looks set for a double-digit career. He is tough, versatile and contributes whether he starts or comes off the bench. Although he could still improve his shooting and his ability to lead a team, he is reliable and relentless. A failure in play does not discourage him.

As a second-round knockout player, Dosunmu signed a modest two-year, $2.5 million contract. He’s about to earn a significant raise. Would a three-year, $30 million deal do the job? Time will tell us. But the Bulls should do everything to make this negotiation go smoothly.

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