Bulls draft-pick leverage could lead to trade with Trail Blazers

The Ping-Pong balls at the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery didn’t fall in favor of the Chicago Bulls. In turn, they won’t have any picks in this year’s draft, as their second-rounder was stripped after they broke the NBA’s tampering rules when engaging in talks to sign Lonzo Ball. However, the Bulls not only have one first-rounder next season, they have two.

In addition to their own first, which is completely unprotected and owed to no one, they also have control over the Portland Trail Blazers’ selection. In fact, they have an obscene amount of control. The pick is top-14 protected, meaning it belongs to Portland if it lands in the lottery, but if it doesn’t convey in 2024, the same protections move to 2025. That trend continues until 2028, and the Bulls have had this control since 2022.

Portland will continue to retain their picks if they land in the lottery, and if the Bulls don’t get the pick by 2028, it becomes a 2028 second. However, that also means the Trail Blazers aren’t able to trade any of their first-rounders until after the protections are up.

This gives the Bulls some sneaky leverage.

The trade that landed the Chicago Bulls the pick

Here are the full details of the trade that saw Chicago land Portland’s first-rounder with the wild protections:

Bulls receive: Lottery-protected 2022 first, 2023 second-round pick via DEN (forfeited), Derrick Jones Jr.

Trail Blazers receive: Larry Nance Jr.

Cavaliers receive: Lauri Markkanen

How the Chicago Bulls can leverage the pick

Unless they avoid the lottery, the only way for Portland to regain control of their draft selections from now until 2028 would be to strike a deal with the Bulls. Essentially, they would have to make another trade with Chicago that would see them reacquire the pick, giving the Bulls something in return.

This isn’t enough to net the Bulls Damian Lillard or anything of significance, but it’s still a tidbit worth noting.

Considering the Trail Blazers’ desire to put a competent team around Lillard, they must utilize all their assets perfectly.

Trail Blazers have been in contact with Bulls in the past

Portland GM Joe Cronin spoke about the dilemma in February during his post-trade deadline press conference, noting that he is in constant contact with the Bulls.

“Chicago and I talk pretty much during every transaction window where it’s ‘Hey, if it becomes necessary, would you be open to this,’ we lay a real light foundation to where ‘I’ll call you if things heat up,'” Cronin said. B”asically trying to tee that up a little bit in case we have to hurry.

“It’s negotiable, it’s whatever we work out, whether we change the protections to a certain year and deliver it or whether we incentivize it somehow just to get the full pick back. It could be a player, it could be all kinds of variations.”

Trail Blazers predicted to seek trade with Bulls this summer

Adrian Bernecich of Blazers Edge believes that Portland and Chicago will make a deal involving the pick this offseason.

“The Larry Nance Jr. trade has made things difficult for Portland,” Bernecich wrote. “Nance Jr. was a decent player, but he’s now gone while the pick obligations remain.

“Chicago has some questions to answer as well and may not hold all the leverage in this scenario. The Bulls have a lot of money on the books for a non-playoff team that owes its short-term first round pick future to other franchises.

“Whether the Blazers can sell the Bulls on a young, cheap asset like [Trendon] Watford, the Knicks first, or multiple seconds remains to be seen, but I’d be pretty confident in the two teams reaching terms this summer.”

What the Chicago Bulls could get in return

Again, the Bulls wouldn’t be getting anything crazy in a potential deal with the Trail Blazers. They wouldn’t have all the leverage in a potential trade, but they’d have enough to get some sort of value in return.

At the very least, they could ask for a pick in return. Portland owns the New York Knicks pick in this year’s draft, so Chicago should keep an eye on that, as they don’t own a selection in either round. If they can leverage the Portland pick and trade to get back into the 2023 NBA Draft, that would be a huge success.

Regardless, the Bulls need to keep an eye on this situation, as the Trail Blazers may want to strike a deal at any moment.

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Story originally appeared on Lonzo Wire