How Artūras Karnišovas’ trade history could shape Bulls’ week

How Artūras Karnišovas’ trade history could shape Bulls’ week originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

In just over two months, Artūras Karnišovas will hit his four-year anniversary of being named executive vice president, basketball operations for the Chicago Bulls.

It’s well documented how much change Karnišovas enacted initially upon taking the job; only Zach LaVine and Coby White remain from the roster he inherited.

In fact, Karnišovas has made six trades in his tenure, including a roster-shaking flurry of five from March 2021 to August 2021.

But Karnišovas only has made one trade since, sitting out the last two NBA trade deadlines. And his NBA draft night acquisition of Julian Phillips‘ rights for two future second-round picks lands as a minor transaction, although Phillips has showed rotational promise.

A closer look at Karnišovas’ trades reveals something deeper: He had little trouble trading away the roster he inherited when his predecessor, John Paxson, transitioned into a senior advisor role.

Otto Porter Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr., plus two future first-round picks, left in the Nikola Vučević acquisition.

Chandler Hutchison, Daniel Gafford and Luke Kornet received new homes in the three-team deal that netted the Bulls Troy Brown Jr. and Daniel Theis.

–Tomáš Satoranský and a second-round pick, plus Garrett Temple (more on that later), went to the New Orleans Pelicans in the Lonzo Ball sign-and-trade deal.

—Thad Young, Al-Farouq Aminu, a first-round pick and two second-round picks traveled to San Antonio in DeMar DeRozan‘s sign-and-trade acquisition.

—And Lauri Markkanen moved to Cleveland in the three-team deal that netted the Bulls Derrick Jones Jr. and future first- and second-round picks from Portland and Cleveland, respectively.

But of those six trades, only two players—Temple and Aminu—represented players acquired by Karnišovas. And while Temple served a solid role as a minor signing in the pandemic-impacted 2020-21 season and still adds his leadership and culture-setting qualities to Toronto, Aminu only played 67 minutes for the Bulls and is no longer in the league.

In other words, both players Karnišovas moved on from that he first acquired represented small pieces.

This is significant as Karnišovas approaches Thursday’s NBA trade deadline. With LaVine out for the season due to foot surgery scheduled for this week and the Bulls sitting in ninth place with a 23-27 record, a ceiling for continuity seemingly has been established.

After all, the Bulls finished as a play-in team last season and merely swapped out minor free-agent signings Goran Dragić and Patrick Beverley for Jevon Carter and Jones Jr. for Torrey Craig this past offseason.

So the question becomes: Is Karnišovas ready to part with his own and begin the next roster iteration?

Of course, it takes two teams—sometimes three—for deals to happen. And while interest in Caruso is known—league sources indicated previously to NBC Sports Chicago that several teams, including the Golden State Warriors, have called on the first-team All-Defense member—the value of DeRozan’s expiring contract may be trickier.

DeRozan’s scoring ability, basketball IQ and low-maintenance leadership style would help any playoff team. The Los Angeles Lakers, for instance, would love to add DeRozan but seemingly don’t have assets that interest the Bulls. And the Bulls certainly aren’t going to trade DeRozan just to trade him.

But Caruso and DeRozan certainly represent the two players who would return the most value should Karnišovas pull the trigger by Thursday.

When Karnišovas enacted his flurry of trades in 2021, it was easy to see how he and his staff envisioned a three-year window at minimum for the roster given the way the contracts were structured. Caruso has a partial guarantee for next season. DeRozan could be headed to unrestricted free agency. Lonzo Ball has a player option that, now that he’s endured so many knee surgeries, he’ll certainly exercise.

The philosophy centered on LaVine and Ball serving as the bridge pieces between older veterans like DeRozan and Vučević while young players like White, Ayo Dosunmu and Patrick Williams developed. White certainly has—and will be one of the NBA’s best value deals over the next two seasons. Same goes for Dosunmu, another player development success story. The jury remains out on Williams, who is headed for restricted free agency.

Just over two months of games and four months on the NBA transaction calendar remain in that three-year window. The Bulls, in part due to Ball’s sad saga, have one playoff series and one play-in victory to this point.

Will Karnišovas begin the next version of the Bulls’ roster by Thursday? If he does, he’ll have to part with one of his own acquisitions to do so.

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