The NBA trade deadline has come and gone, but the dust has yet to settle regarding the buyout market. Teams that stood pat at the deadline are almost guaranteed to pursue players that reach buyout agreements, and the Chicago Bulls could (no pun intended) lead the charge.
Chicago moved into a tie for the top spot in the Eastern Conference after the Miami Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night in South Beach. The Bulls have kept afloat on the back of DeMar DeRozan’s brilliant scoring streak, but they still need reinforcements.
Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso remain sidelined with injuries. Knee soreness continues to bother star 2-guard Zach LaVine, leaving Chicago’s backcourt even more depleted. Additionally, the Bulls have a real shortage of quality size.
With various needs, where will the Bulls turn? Here are the three best options for team president Arturas Karnisovas and Co. to consider in the NBA buyout market before the March 1 deadline for playoff eligibility.
3. G D.J. Augustin
Reports linked the Bulls to Dennis Schroder before the NBA deadline, which seemed resonant concerning the team’s backcourt needs. Chicago could still look to add a backcourt player.
Ayo Dosunmu has been immensely productive at the point guard position in Lonzo Ball’s stead and has shown why he’s the steal of the 2021 NBA Draft. However, Chicago could use added playmaking on the bench as it awaits Ball’s return. Veteran guard D.J. Augustin is a decent option.
The Houston Rockets waived Augustin to create space on the roster after acquiring Schroder, Enes Freedom, and Bruno Fernando from the Boston Celtics. That move essentially acted as a buyout, with Augustin now free to sign with a team of his choosing.
The 34-year-old had a forgettable stint with the Milwaukee Bucks at the start of the 2020-21 campaign, but he averaged 10.6 points and 3.9 assists in 20 games with the Rockets last season and shot it well from the perimeter in limited minutes with Houston this season.
Augustin is the kind of guy who can provide scoring and floor-spacing off the bench while also making plays as a slasher. The drawback is that he struggles defensively, but perhaps Bulls head coach Billy Donovan could find a rotation that could mitigate those issues.
Chicago might prefer to add someone of Goran Dragic’s caliber, though he may prove more expensive. Perhaps Schroder or Detroit Pistons guard Cory Joseph are options if they reach buyout agreements. However, Augustin is probably the most plausible.
2. F/C Derrick Favors
The Oklahoma City Thunder have a young core to build around for the future, one headlined by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, and Tre Mann. Veteran big man Derrick Favors does not fit into the picture.
Favors, 30, seemed like a trade candidate ahead of the Feb. 10 deadline. Instead, the Thunder retained him. Will he eventually reach the NBA buyout market? He has the kind of style the Bulls should welcome if he does.
Through his first 37 games, Favors is averaging 11.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per 36 minutes. He’s a willing screener and rim-roller who shows relentless activity without the basketball, especially on the offensive glass.
But Favors’ defensive acumen is more important for the Bulls. He has been a positive player in defensive box-plus minus for most of his career, and the Thunder concede nearly three fewer points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor.
Chicago can slot Favors next to Nikola Vucevic on occasion or even let him get minutes at the 5-spot because of his size and rebounding ability. The Atlanta native is the kind of gritty, high-energy player who can make a difference for the Bulls.
1. G/F Gary Harris
The Orlando Magic appeared destined to trade Terrence Ross and Gary Harris before the deadline. Surprisingly, they kept both, and the enticing possibility of Harris now entering the NBA buyout market should hearten Bulls management.
Harris is the kind of switchable, two-way wing who could fit perfectly in Chicago. Although his defense has slipped in recent seasons, he’s still an athletic presence capable of defending both guard spots or opposing wings.
Additionally, Harris has regained his shooting touch. He’s converted on 38% of his three-pointers on 4.9 attempts per game and is shooting 50% from deep on high volume in February. Given Donovan’s tendency to roll with small-ball lineups, it’s not a bad idea to add Harris as a guy who can space the floor, defend, and add some tertiary playmaking.
The Bulls could face a crowded market for the 27-year-old, but they would offer him the chance to play for a top contender. That’s pretty priceless for any coveted player who suddenly has the opportunity to pick and choose where they end up.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.