After pulling off a three-player deal with the Memphis Grizzlies, the Chicago Bulls have one too many players. Maybe the Philadelphia 76ers can help to fix that.
Both teams boasted rosters filled to the brim with young, mostly unproven players attempting to latch onto a role in the NBA thanks to an abundance of playing time, and a decided desire to actively deal any players deemed expendable in their long-term plans for future draft day compensation.
Case and point the Bulls’ latest move; sending Justin Holiday, the older brother of Jrue and the team’s starting small forward to the Memphis Grizzlies for MarShon Brooks, Wayne Selden Jr., and a pair of future second-round picks.
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On the surface, this deal makes sense.
While Holiday is the best player involved in the deal, his ceiling is nowhere near All-Star level. He’s a role player through and through who could be an asset to a team like the Grizzlies looking to punch their ticket to the postseason once more.
As for the players returning in the deal, well, they don’t really matter.
I know that’s a bit of a cold reaction, but it’s one that rings true; Chicago’s brass made this move to procure future assets while subsequently making their current team just a little bit worse in this newly flattened draft odds-era. Had the Bulls retained Holiday, they would have continued to be among the worst teams in the league but may have sneaked out another win or two based on his veteran experience alone.
Now, the Bulls can instead continue to focus on developing their young corp while setting their eyes to the future.
However, this deal, first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, creates a bit of a predicament for Chicago, as the team now holds 16 contracts for 15 roster spots, meaning someone has played their last game in a red and black jersey (if they have played in one at all).
But who could it be?
Well according to Woj, conventual wisdom would suggest that the team could use this as an opportunity to waive seldom used trade bust Cameron Payne, but he’s far from the only player who will be looking for a new home before the season is done.
Who knows, maybe Chicago will finally conclude that no one is going to make a move to acquire Robin Lopez and his $14 million deal and simply waive the 11th year vet who’s averaging less than 18 minutes of action a night thanks to the dynamic trio of Wendell Carter Jr., Lauri Markkanen, and Bobby Portis.
The 76ers are desperate for an upgrade behind Joel Embiid at center and Robin’s addition could surely turn that deficiency into an asset, even if he doesn’t possess the deadly 3-point shooting prowess of his brother Brook.
Furthermore, while conventional wisdom would suggest that the Bulls would opt to waive a seldom-used player to free up the required roster spot, what if a team like the 76ers used this as an opportunity to make a trade of their own, and secure an immediate contributor like, say Ben Simmons‘ LSU teammate Antonio Blakeney or Villanova National Champion Ryan Arcidiacono?
If the Bulls are serious about amassing a Sam Hinkie-sized war chest of second-round pick, why not move on from a player on a partially guaranteed deal (Archie) or a cost-controlled role-player (Blakeney) in exchange for future assets who will, you know, still be under contract when the team is ready to contend?
The 76ers did this once upon a time with K.J. McDaniels, an at-the-time fan favorite, by flipping him for a 2015 second round pick and Isaiah Canaan. Now granted, the pick ended up being used on J.P. Toko, a player who didn’t play a minute in the NBA, and Cannon ultimately walked in free agency, it was a net positive deal for a team looking for long-term pieces.
If the Bulls come to a similar conclusion that neither Arcidiacono or Blakeney is a ‘guard of the future’, it may be wise to move on while the duo still have value and secure a future draft pick, either a second rounder, or a protected first depending on which player is involved in the deal.
Simply put, by shipping Justin Holiday out-of-town in a mid-week acquisition, the Bulls have created a unique chance for buyers across the league before the deal becomes official. While the team could simply opt to move on from Cameron Payne and keep things business as usual, if they instead choose to waive Lopez or open up the phone lines for another trade, the possibilities become a whole lot more interesting for a certified buyer like the Philadelphia 76ers.