The Memphis Grizzlies continue their stretch against the Eastern Conference tonight against the Chicago Bulls. This is the first of two games against the Bulls this week, as the Grizz will travel to Chicago on Friday night to close out the season series.
Both teams are battling in their respective conferences to get into the playoffs – Grizzlies are currently 8th in the West, while the Bulls sit at the 10 spot in the East.
I reached out to Jason Patt from SBNation’s Blog a Bull to chat a little bit about this year’s Bulls team. Spoiler alert: The chances of the Grizzlies putting something together to get Zach LaVine in the offseason are slim and none.
What’s the feeling about Zach LaVine — will the Bulls build around him or will they look to trade him in the offseason?
The trade for Nikola Vucevic would seem to cement a belief in Zach LaVine and a desire to make him a long-term piece. He has taken the next step this season and is truly one of the best scorers in the NBA, while also improving his game in other ways. A LaVine-Vucevic star duo obviously has defensive concerns, but they should be extremely potent offensively as they develop chemistry. There’s no reason to think the Bulls will trade LaVine unless he asks out or says he’s leaving as a free agent in 2022. But he seems to be happy in Chicago and seems like a good bet to stick around. The Bulls can always pivot to a trade in a few years if things don’t work out.
Follow Up on #1 — What do you think it would take for the Grizzlies to get LaVine?
Given LaVine is close to untouchable and entering his prime, it would take quite the haul for the Bulls to consider a trade assuming he wants to stay, and it should still take a lot even if he asks out. The Bulls would probably ask for Ja Morant to start, but I’m guessing that’s a non-starter. Jaren Jackson Jr. would likely work as a centerpiece, plus other young players/draft picks. I’m assuming the Grizzlies wouldn’t want to give up that much given LaVine could bolt in 2022, though, so it could be tough to find a deal if they tried.
Impressions of Billy Donovan in his first year as the Head Coach of the Bulls?
After the Jim Boylen debacle, Billy Donovan has brought a level of professionalism to the bench, and the players seem to like and respect him. Donovan has had to thread the needle of competing while developing young players like Patrick Williams, Coby White, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. before he was traded for Vucevic, putting him in a position to make some tough lineup choices. There have been some questionable rotation decisions and some disappointing late-game collapses that he can be somewhat blamed for, but he has done a solid job overall.
Like the Grizzlies, the Bulls are battling for one of the final playoff spots in their conference. Would it be more beneficial for the future of the Bulls to miss or make the playoffs?
By trading for Vucevic ahead of LaVine’s free agency in 2022, the Bulls are trying to win. LaVine has never made the playoffs and is dying to get a taste of postseason basketball. So, it’s time to win games and get in the playoffs. However, it certainly wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if the Bulls made the play-in tournament but lost and got a lottery chance. Because the 2021 first-round pick traded in the Vucevic deal is top-four protected, some lottery luck would give the Bulls a young stud to add to their core.
What’s the matchup the Bulls need to take advantage of most to beat the Grizz?
The Bulls don’t have to take advantage of this matchup because the Grizzlies have the advantage at the position, but they need to make sure Ja Morant doesn’t totally control the game like Trae Young did on Friday night. The Bulls struggle guarding the point of attack and the rim, so good point guards can carve them up. The Bulls also need other guys to step up to help LaVine and Vucevic. The bench unit can be potent when White and Markkanen are hitting shots, but those guys are streaky. Thaddeus Young has been a consistent presence who also needs to play well.
A big thank you to Jason for helping us out and giving us some better insight on the Bulls heading into tonight’s matchup. You can follow him @Bulls_Jay and check out his work on Blog a Bull.