Bulls begin the offseason changes, trading Alex Caruso to Thunder for Josh Giddey

Changes were coming.

Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas made that loud and clear in his end-of-season interview in April after watching his team get eliminated again in the play-in tournament.

That first domino fell Thursday.

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Bulls public relations confirmed that defensive standout Alex Caruso was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who’ve pursued him for two seasons, for playmaking guard Josh Giddey.

“We will look for ways to improve, and we will address our shortcomings through the draft, trades and free agency,” Karnisovas said in April.

“I take full responsibility, however, and recognize when changes need to be made, and I believe that time is now.”

But why now, especially when there were numerous offers for Caruso since last summer that included 2024 draft picks?

First of all, Karnisovas and the front office were working under the marching orders of reaching the playoffs. Doing that without Caruso was thought to be all but an impossibility, especially with Zach LaVine and Patrick Williams out after foot surgeries and Lonzo Ball again sidelined for the season because of his surgically repaired left knee.

There also was an understanding of what was ahead.

The ’24 draft class is a crapshoot from the first pick all the way through the second round. Adding assets from that class would be like throwing darts at a board with a blindfold on. If dealing a two-time All-NBA defensive player for the 21-year-old Giddey, who has shown promise, means taking a step back in the standings, so be it.

The Bulls can retain their first-round pick for the loaded 2025 draft class because it is top-10-protected. If they finish above that, it goes to the Spurs as part of the DeMar DeRozan sign-and-trade.

Giddey doesn’t make the Bulls better in 2024-25. He was stripped of minutes and a starting spot in the playoff series against the Mavericks, who exposed his weakness from three-point range — he’s a career 31% shooter from long distance — and his defensive inconsistency.

He heads to a team that needs him to be the initiator on offense, while also allowing him to work on his three-point shot.

And if it doesn’t go well for Giddey and the Bulls, there’s an exit strategy in place. The No. 6 overall pick from the 2021 draft can negotiate a rookie-scale extension or become a restricted free agent and let the market set the price on him.

Caruso had completely outplayed his current deal and was eligible for a huge payday.

The Thunder inherited that, with Caruso able to sign a four-year, $80 million deal six months from now.

So with one domino down, what’s next for the Bulls?

A source told the Sun-Times that the LaVine market has picked up since the end of the regular season, giving Karnisovas and the front office hope that they can move him.

With only a few coveted free agents hitting the market at the end of the month and more than a handful of teams already being told through back channels that they likely will be out of the running, adding a two-time All-Star such as LaVine through a trade might be the only option.

That doesn’t mean the Bulls will be getting much value back long-term, but it will again fit into the mindset of taking a step back for ’25 and looking to push forward after that draft plays out.

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