Both the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls have had very disappointing 2013-2014 seasons. As a result, each is a candidate to be involved at the trade deadline.
With Kobe Bryant missing the beginning of the year, L.A. wasn’t expected to be one of the best teams in the Western Conference. Still, their 18-34 record has come as a surprise to many. Chicago was considered one of the favorites to make a run to the NBA Finals, but Derrick Rose’s season ending injury derailed their plans. The Bulls are on their way to the playoffs, but they don’t have enough to compete with the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers in the East.
The Lakers and Bulls are both operating with an eye towards the future and won’t be buyers come Feb. 20. Los Angeles is one loss away from being tied for the worst record in the conference, so their postseason hopes have been all but dashed. Even though the Bulls could earn home-court advantage in the first round, they’ve already started making moves that will benefit them next year. In January, they traded Luol Deng for a first-round draft pick and Andrew Bynum, who they immediately released.
Could more trades be coming from the two teams?
Recent rumors indicate that the Lakers could be active at the deadline. ESPN first reported that the organization had been discussing a possible deal with the Phoenix Suns. The proposed deal would send Pau Gasol to Phoenix in exchange for Emeka Okafor, as well as a first-round draft pick. Gasol, though, is battling a groin injury, which could prevent a deal from happening. The Lakers also want to make sure they get a high enough draft pick.
If the Lakers don’t move Gasol, they are likely to stand pat for the rest of the season. Los Angeles’ main focus is on the summer, when they will likely have enough space under the salary cap to add an All-Star caliber player. Making any trades for a player whose contract does not expire in the offseason would hamper their ability to offer a max contract to free agents like LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony.
After trading Deng, there’s a good chance the Bulls are done making any major deals. As currently constructed, the Bulls can compete for a championship with a healthy Rose. If Chicago plans on changing the core of the team, it will likely be done in the offseason.
Deng was disposable because his contract was coming to an end. For the same reason, Kirk Hinrich would be the most reasonable trade candidate on the roster. However, he doesn’t appear to be highly coveted around the league. The Bulls would probably like to rid themselves of Carlos Boozer’s contract, but they still have the option to release him using the amnesty clause.
The Bulls will head into the All-Star Break as the No.4 seed in the East. A loss for the Lakers on Thursday puts them tied for the worst record in the conference.