Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson will soon have the Chicago Bulls running again. Although seemingly trivial, the moves that Paxson made prior to Thursday afternoon’s NBA trade deadline will ultimately improve the team’s flexibility. Paxson traded Milovan Rakovic to the Portland Trail Blazers for Noah Vonleh and cash and sent Jameer Nelson to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Willie Reed. The Bulls almost immediately waived the 27-year-old Reed after acquiring him.
The Charlotte Hornets drafted the 22-year-old Vonleh out of Indiana University with the ninth overall pick in 2014. The 6-foot-9, 245-pound Vonleh disappointed in The Hornet’s Nest and was sent to Portland in November 2015. Vonleh, a restricted free agent this summer, is averaging 3.6 points and 5.1 rebounds in 33 games this season. Although primarily unproductive, Vonleh is an unfinished project that could mature in the Windy City. Regardless of how Vonleh performs, the Bulls’ young nucleus of Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis is brimming with talent. Moreover, according to the Real GM, the Bulls are projected to have roughly $37.5 million in salary cap space and two first-round picks this June. In spite of such a massive rebuild, Paxson was determined to retain veterans Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday to mentor Dunn, Markkanen and Portis.
“If you don’t have good veterans to give examples to young players, that can be detrimental to an organization. You know you’re going to have tough times when you’re young and rebuilding, and wins may be hard to come by,” Paxson told the Chicago Tribune. “Justin and Robin, these guys come every day. They don’t sit out practices. They work hard. They show the commitment. That’s the model you want your young guys to see.”
The Bulls remain stuck in the basement of the Central Division at 18-35. Still, while the state of affairs in Chicago’s organization may seem gloomy from afar, John Paxson is potentially creating something special on 1901 West Madison Street.