And just a week after the news broke, OnSmash is reporting that the Bulls offered Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn in exchange for Paul before the deal fell apart at the last minute. The report seems unlikely, considering how adamant the Bulls have been about keeping Markkanen as a centerpiece of their new lineup.
But assuming the Bulls could find a trade package that the Rockets would agree to, would Paul be an asset to the Bulls team as it stands? Theoretically, let’s assume that Markkanen, Zach LaVine, and Wendell Carter were off limits in the trade since they seem to be the Bulls new core.
That lineup would certainly need a point guard, especially with Dunn likely to be moved during the trade. Paul’s pass-first style would fit with a lineup full of ball handlers and he’s more than capable of keeping up with the Bulls’ pace.
But at 34 years old, Paul is still making superstar money. He made $35 million from the Rockets this past season, will make $38 million next season, and $41 million the season after that. His contract also includes a $44 million player option for the 2021-22 season that he’s sure to pick up.
Paul was a vital member of the Rockets this season, but the Rockets were paying him with the expectation of making the NBA Finals. Meanwhile, the Bulls would be paying him with the hope of squeaking into the playoffs.
Also to consider is Paul’s injury history. He played 58 games in this past regular season and the number of games he plays each season has been slowly declining since 2014.
During the 2018-19 season alone, Paul missed 20 games spanning from November to January for a hamstring strain, missed one game in February for lower back soreness, and was held out for rest in two other games. He also missed two games due to suspension over an altercation with the Lakers’ Rajon Rondo.
The Bulls are no strangers to having important players miss games, with Dunn, Markkanen, LaVine, and Carter missing a combined 123 games this season, most of which came at the same time. But none of them were making $38 million and none of them were over the age of 30.
And it’s also worth remembering that the Bulls would be giving up assets to get Paul, they wouldn’t be signing him in free agency. Dunn or Otto Porter or whoever else is included in the trade may not be valuable to the Bulls, but they might have value to another team that’s willing to give up a player with more upside and less of a financial burden than Paul in return.
Aside from the risks and downsides that he would bring, there is also the very real possibility that the Bulls just aren’t ready for a player like Paul. Even in a mostly open Eastern Conference, the Bulls will be struggling to make the playoffs next season. And Paul is accustomed to making it through the first round of the playoffs, if not the first two rounds, automatically.
The Bulls may need to pursue someone with lower expectations, a younger player that is still hungry to make the playoffs and ready to put in some really difficult work to get there.
Follow Katy on Twitter @katyduffy_ for more Bulls news and opinion.