Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images
After electing to keep their core group together by not making any moves at the NBA trade deadline, the Chicago Bulls have a decision to make about DeMar DeRozan when he hits free agency this summer.
Per The Athletic’s Sam Amick, DeRozan is “happy” in Chicago and “would like to return” to the team “if the money is right.”
Amick also noted the Bulls will attempt to keep the six-time All-Star this offseason.
Chicago’s inactivity at the trade deadline was a bit of a surprise. The team is hanging around in the race for the play-in tournament as the No. 9 seed in the Eastern Conference, but its 25-27 record doesn’t give the indication of a group ready to be a serious contender.
There are also significant injury concerns for key players on the roster. Lonzo Ball was back at the practice facility this week and did work on the court, though he didn’t take part in the team’s official practice.
Julia Poe @byjuliapoe
A bit more of Lonzo Ball’s corner shooting motion after Bulls practice this morning pic.twitter.com/yiBiRPTTs7
At this point, though, it’s hard to think Ball will be anything close to the player he was before suffering the knee injuries that have prevented him from playing since Jan. 14, 2022. He’s not going to return until the 2024-25 season, at the earliest.
Zach LaVine, who was often mentioned in trade rumors, had season-ending foot surgery on Feb. 2 that will keep him out for four to six months.
DeRozan seemed like the most obvious player for the Bulls to move. He’s 34 years old and in the final season of his three-year, $81.9 million deal that was signed in August 2021.
Instead, the Bulls did what they have done for almost three years by not making any trades involving a player.
Zach Kram @zachkram
The Chicago Bulls haven’t made a trade involving a player since August 2021. That’s 30 months and counting without a deal.
(They dealt future 2nd-rounders for a current 2nd on the night of the 2023 draft.)
There is an intriguing core in Chicago if Ball comes back next season and is anything close to the player he was in the first half of the 2021-22 campaign. Ball, LaVine, Alex Caruso and Coby White isn’t a bad starting point.
DeRozan has been a good fit with that group. He’s averaging 22.4 points on 46.8 percent shooting and 5.3 assists per game in 50 starts this season.
If the Bulls’ desire is to contend for a playoff spot in 2024-25, keeping DeRozan would go a long way toward helping them accomplish that goal.