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How Harrison Barnes Could Become A Chicago Bulls Trade Target

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at November 17, 2021

The Chicago Bulls are off to an excellent start in the 2021/2022 season, having beaten several teams – including Brooklyn, Utah, Boston and both L.A. teams – expected to partake in the NBA Playoffs in April, and standing 10-4 after their first 14 games.

Their rise is built off not just the acquisition of DeMar DeRozan, who is currently averaging just a hair under 27 points per game, but also a nasty swarming defense headlined by Alex Caruso, Lonzo Ball and Javonte Green that currently ranks seventh in the NBA.

After losing starting power forward Patrick Williams to a wrist injury on October 28th, however, the Bulls will likely need to gauge their options, since Williams is expected to miss the remainder of the regular season.

Going all-in

The stars seem to be aligning for the Bulls these days. DeRozan is enjoying a career-year (26.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists), Zach LaVine is having another All-Star caliber year (25.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists), and Coby White (14.1 points for his career) just made his return to the team after off-season shoulder surgery to insert some scoring off the bench.

With center Nikola Vucevic struggling early (13.6 points, 39.5 FG%), before testing positive for COVID-19, and LaVine having played most of the season with a torn ligament in his left thumb, it’s only further proof that these Bulls are able to win despite meeting several challenges.

As such, questions about a fully healthy roster is sure to spark considerable discussion in the greater Chicago area.

What if Vucevic comes back and returns to on-court form? How much better will LaVine become when he has full use of both his hands? How will White’s scoring punch help the bench?

One question, however, should be added to the pile.

If the Bulls end up becoming legitimate title contenders, should they push for upgrades before the NBA Trade Deadline?

The one thing the Bulls aren’t likely to get back is Williams. Even if he should return by the playoffs, odds are he’ll have to spend time re-integrating himself into the team at the most sensitive time imaginable.

As such, making him available before the deadline could open up a world of interesting possibilities, chief among them being Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes.

The Bulls/Barnes fit

Before we get into this, a crucial caveat: The only way the Bulls get their hands on Barnes is if Sacramento decides to pivot towards youth during the middle of the season. As of right now, the Kings are trying to be competitive, so they would need to experience a considerable rough stretch before deciding to move on from some of the team’s veterans, including Barnes. With Kings head coach Luke Walton on the hot seat, and Sacramento expected to miss the playoffs per FanDuel Sportsbook, this might not be at all unrealistic.

With that out of the way, let’s get into Barnes who – like DeRozan – is enjoying the best season of his career.

The 29-year-old is currently averaging 20.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game for the Kings, sporting an utterly ridiculous TS% of 65.7 which is over ten percentage points higher than league average.

Barnes, who generally has not been much of a foul-drawer, is taking 6.5 free throws per game, draining them at a 85.7% clip. He’s also upped his three-point volume to 5.6 attempts per game, and is nailing those at a 42.3% accuracy.

In recent years, Barnes has completely moved off the long two-pointer, instead opting for shots near the basket, or from behind the three-point line. In fact, only 0.5% of his shot attempts come from beyond 16 feet and to the three-point line, and only 2.2% come from 10-to-16 feet.

In Chicago, where DeRozan, LaVine and Vucevic all operate plenty in the mid-range area, Barnes would be an absolute zone buster, spotting up from behind the three-point line to provide more space for the established core. In fact, Barnes is assisted on 87.9% of his made three-pointers, suggesting a proper fit.

(In particular, Barnes has been outstanding from the corners, hitting 54.2% of his attempts, which account for 30.8% of all his attempted three-pointers.)

Alternatively, with LaVine, Vucevic and Lonzo Ball also being three-point shooters, Barnes could function closer to the basket as well, where he’s hitting 68% of his shots from within three feet.

DeRozan/Barnes pick-and-rolls, with Ball, LaVine and Vucevic spacing the floor, could be an interesting wrinkle that forces defenses to choose who to guard.

Cheat off of Barnes, and DeRozan has the passing chops to find him near the basket. Swarm Barnes, and the 10-year veteran has improved playmaking-wise to the point where he can swing it to the open man. Last season, Barnes averaged 3.5 assists to just 1.6 turnovers.

The Bulls, with Barnes, could become the league’s most multifaceted offense, without relinquishing much of the defensive versatility they have coming off the bench.

Trade parameters

Any trade of Barnes means a push of the reset button for Sacramento. Effectively, they go tanking to get their hands on Duke’s Paolo Banchero or Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren. With Williams coming back, the Kings get a player with considerable two-way upside, who is out for the year, thus helping their odds of losing games.

A healthy Williams is a fairly huge player, physically. He has a wide body, a near 7-foot wingspan, considerable athleticism, and a clean pull-up jumper that carries with it vast offensive upside. In Sacramento, he’d be given every chance to spread his wings, with De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell all setting him up.

The Bulls are high on Williams and would hate to see him go. He was the first draft pick made by Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley, selected fourth overall in 2020. The 20-year-old oozes potential, especially defensively where his frame, strength and athleticism could allow him to guard three positions with high regularity.

In order for the money to work, Derrick Jones Jr and his expiring $9.7 million deal will need to be added to Williams’ $7.4 million in order to take back Barnes’ $20.2 million. And should roster spots become an issue, the Kings could add guard Jahmi’us Ramsey and his $1.5 million cap hit to the trade, so it becomes a two-for-two framing.

Should the value feel off for the Kings, draft pick compensation from Chicago’s side could be explored to align value, but this base package is a solid start into trade negotiations, assuming Sacramento indeed wishes to pivot into youth.

Closing thoughts

There is a lot of speculation going on in this piece, but that’s part of the norm in the NBA. Team success can change plans in a hurry, making this just a proposed snapshot of where the Bulls and King could end up.

For this to have any legs, both teams would have to find themselves in the right circumstances, they’d have to agree to deal with each other, and value has to be aligned, and that’s before taking into account potential suspensions for Chicago’s managerial team.

For a trade to be thought of to reach completion is a daunting task consisting of a ton of internal dialogue, team-to-team discussions, long-term planning, coaches input, player input and external competition for a player’s services.

Additionally, teams work multiple trade scenarios at all times, most of which never materialize.

That’s a long-winded way of saying that trades like these don’t just pop up.

Yet, despite all of the above, this fit does appear seamless for the Bulls, to the point where they owe it to themselves to explore it, even if they’re eventually rebuffed by the Kings.

The Bulls are currently receiving a career-year from a 32-year-old DeRozan, and with LaVine entering unrestricted free agency next summer, now might be the best time to go all-in for a deep postseason run, which probably isn’t a sentence you expected to read five weeks ago.

But as the NBA keeps proving: Things can change in a hurry.

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