July 15, 2024

Bulls wake up and make a move, but will Josh Giddey make anyone happy in Chicago?

Giddey? More like angsty.

The hallmark of most meaningful Chicago Bulls moves over the last decade is how frustrated, furious and confused they make everyone who resides outside of the team’s insular front office.

So with that in mind, how about that Alex Caruso-for-Josh Giddey deal?

It’s not a shock the Bulls, who are desperately in need of a reboot, rebuild and/or retool, unloaded Caruso, their most valuable trade chip. He’s a bulldog defender who made an All-Defense team the past two seasons and a sharp 3-point shooter, and his combination of skill and cheap contract seemingly made him a hot commodity on the trade market.

So why would the Bulls jump the gun on a deal this early and get so little in return? Why would anyone make a deal like that with the Oklahoma City Thunder and not acquire draft picks? It’s like going to a brewery and ordering wine. Thunder GM Sam Presti has stockpiled draft picks over the years to make win-now trades exactly like this one. The Bulls, with an uncertain future and a veteran-laden roster, need more young talent.

There’s a reason, I suppose, that Sam Presti is Sam Presti and Artūras Karnišovas is Artūras Karnišovas. And there’s a reason, I suppose, that the small-market Thunder are an up-and-coming young team looking to make the NBA Finals, while the big-market Bulls are still living off the fat of Michael Jordan’s career.

Oh sure, there have been some outliers to the Bulls’ malaise since the end of the once-promising Tom Thibodeau-Derrick Rose era in 2015. The hiring of Billy Donovan, the free-agent sweep of DeMar DeRozan, Caruso and Lonzo Ball. The Coby White draft and later extension. Snagging Ayo Dosunmu in the second round. All good things.

But the Ball injury midway through his first season with the Bulls has crippled the franchise. Since he went down in January 2022, the Bulls have done nothing of note to really improve. They made the playoffs that year — thanks to their success with Ball — and then two Play-In Tournaments, where they were twice humbled by the Miami Heat.

Before this deal, Karnišovas hadn’t made a trade involving a player (not including acquiring a second-round pick last year) since dealing Lauri Markkanen for a draft pick in late August 2021. At the end of this season, he promised action, and he’s already delivered. But what did he get?
In trading Caruso for Giddey, the Bulls give up defense, 3-point shooting, savvy and leadership for potential and youth. That’s fine. That’s how these deals usually work.



Caruso-Giddey trade grades: Thunder add defense, shooting; Bulls get younger

Giddey, a 6-foot-8, 21-year-old guard out of Australia, is a nifty passer, a strong rebounder and a competent scorer, but he can’t shoot or play defense. Those are pretty important weaknesses, particularly for a Bulls team that was already light on 3-point shooting with Caruso.

Giddey will be a restricted free agent after the 2024-25 season, which means the Bulls barely have enough time to figure out if they should pay him. They could sign him to an extension this season, but why? Giddey has promise, absolutely, but that he was no longer needed by a Thunder team coming off a loss to Dallas in the Western Conference semifinals should be a warning sign, not an invitation to make him wealthy.

The Bulls already have a promising young backcourt in White and Dosunmu, but they could always use another lead guard to push the pace. If Giddey were coming to Chicago with two draft picks in his pocket, we’d be looking at this deal in a far different manner. But it’s just him.

While it’s inexcusable for Karnišovas to make this kind of deal and not acquire draft picks, it’s conceivable that he could have an actual vision on how he wants to remodel this tired team, and this was just the first move. It’s been rumored and reported that the team is desperately trying to move its “max player” Zach LaVine but isn’t exactly besieged by offers. The Bulls need to re-sign DeRozan and Patrick Williams, if that’s their plan.

Caruso was loved in Chicago, and provided he stays healthy, the Texas native will be a godsend for Oklahoma City. They’ll sing songs about him around the campfire. I’m happy for him. He deserves to be on a relevant team. There were reports the Bulls were offered multiple first-round picks for Caruso last season, but the organization was set on a predictably ill-fated playoff push.

Any hope that the Reinsdorfs’ long-awaited changes to their front office after the 2020 season would pay dividends has long been dashed. Karnišovas and GM Marc Eversley’s first real swing at free agency provided that unlikely windfall of DeRozan, Caruso and Ball. But ever since then, they’ve shown no signs of immediacy or creativity.

In that regard, they’re perfect for the Jerry and Michael Reinsdorf-run Bulls, who led the league in average attendance, pull in an exorbitant amount of revenue and do next to nothing with it. Since Jordan’s swan song in 1998, the Bulls have a .455 winning percentage. Since they kicked Thibodeau to the curb, they’ve had two winning seasons and two playoff appearances.

The Bulls don’t pay the luxury tax, and they don’t plan for the future. They are mostly irrelevant to the NBA landscape — all but invisible on national broadcasts and absent from the gossip and chatter that make the league a social-media juggernaut.

A Bulls game is a fun night out for casual fans, but if you’re emotionally invested in this team, I’m sorry. You can always rewatch “The Last Dance” for the 15th time or catch some old D-Rose highlights on YouTube. I wish I could say a Josh Giddey deal will make you happy, but I’d be lying.

(Photo of Josh Giddey and Alex Caruso: Kamil Krzaczynski / USA Today)