Thursday, February 22, 2024

NBA Preview: Chicago Bulls (1-25) at Portland Trail Blazers (13-32)

Two teams showcasing potential top available talent at the Feb. 8 trade deadline meet Sunday night when the Chicago Bulls visit the Portland Trail Blazers.

The meeting is the first of the season between the teams, and the rosters might look quite a bit different by the time they see each other again in Chicago in March.

The Bulls are more likely to make the playoffs, but at 21-25, they currently find themselves in what would be an Eastern Conference play-in spot, where only one postseason game is guaranteed.

Chicago had made a bit of a move up the East standings with six wins in eight games from Jan. 5-20. But while competitive, the Bulls have dropped their first two games on their current three-game Western swing, falling 115-113 at Phoenix and 141-132 in Los Angeles to the Lakers.

With stars DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, both of whom have California ties, hounded at both previous Western stops with trade speculation, Bulls coach Billy Donovan has taken time to look at the other end of the transaction spectrum — the possibility of being a buyer in an attempt to move up the standings.

If increasing trade value was the primary goal, DeRozan did the franchise a favor with a 32-point, 10-assist performance in Los Angeles. He has averaged 23.8 points on 47.9 percent shooting over his past four games.

LaVine, meanwhile, has missed the past three games with a sprained right ankle. It’s possible he won’t return until after the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

The Trail Blazers will be opening a three-game homestand after going 1-3 on the road. They could be doing so without Jerami Grant and Scoot Henderson, both injured in Friday’s 116-100 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

The most popular Trail Blazer in trade talks, Grant couldn’t finish the San Antonio game because of a sore back. Henderson suffered a bruised quad and also had to leave the contest.

Both Grant and Henderson’s status is up in the air for Sunday, as is Malcolm Brogdon’s. Brogdon missed the Spurs game due to a right knee contusion.

Unlike the Bulls in the East, the Trail Blazers are well out of contention in the West. It makes them one of the first calls as needy teams prepare a shopping list for the run to the trade deadline.

No doubt, interest in veteran center Deandre Ayton has increased after consecutive double-doubles to finish the recent road trip. He went for 18 points and 17 rebounds in a win at Houston, then 20 points and 12 rebounds at San Antonio.

Simons had 10 assists to complement 40 points in the San Antonio loss.

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