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They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. A year ago, the Chicago Bulls couldn't make it beyond the Play-In Tournament, losing to the Miami Heat with a playoff berth on the line. The front office made no changes. Head of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas claimed to be "optimistic about this group" in October. That group played similarly uninspired basketball for the first four months of the regular season. Chicago made no trades at the deadline. "This team is very competitive in every game and we have aspirations to compete for the playoffs," Karnisovas said at the time.

Well, the Bulls did the same thing over and over again. You'll be stunned to hear they endured the same result: a loss to the Miami Heat in the final Eastern Conference Play-In game. This one was worse than last year's. The Bulls fought a healthy Heat team to the final buzzer in 2023. This time? They lost to Miami in a blowout with no Jimmy Butler or Terry Rozier available.

Now the Bulls enter the offseason a year older, a year pricier and a year further removed from their promising start to the 2021-22 season. Their most expensive player, Zach Lavine, is such an injury risk that he may not be tradable. Their best player, DeMar DeRozan, is a 34-year-old impending free agent. Their best trade chip, Alex Caruso, is now 30 and on the last year of the bargain contract that helped make him so valuable to contenders in the first place. The Bulls did not make a first-round pick in 2023. They are set to send another pick out in 2025. The future here is dim. Significant changes need to be made.

Nothing in Chicago's history, before Saturday, suggested those changes were coming. The Bulls haven't acquired a single player through trade since 2021. That's almost three years. Despite winning six championships in the 1990s and playing in the NBA's third-biggest market, the Bulls have paid the luxury tax only once in franchise history. The way the franchise has operated for the bulk of the post-Michael Jordan era has seemingly emphasized spending just enough money to reach the playoffs, with little consideration given to winning once there. The Bulls have been Team Inertia for the better part of the past decade.

But Karnisovas addressed the media on Saturday, following Chicago's elimination, and acknowledged that the current state of affairs is no longer acceptable. "This group, something doesn't work. I have to find ways to find a group that's going to make improvements. We've done it for a couple years now and it hasn't worked," Karnišovas said. "Everything is on the table."

This would have been the right sentiment in 2022, but hey, better late than never. The question then becomes, what changes are possible, and which ones are probable? The immediate problem facing the Bulls is how much potentially dead salary they have. Trading LaVine for positive value no longer appears feasible. Lonzo Ball will almost certainly pick up his $21.4 million player option, and it is unclear if he will ever be healthy enough to play. Nikola Vucevic is healthy enough to play, but did so at more of a high-end backup level this season despite being locked in for two more at over $41 million in total salary.

If none of them have any trade value, any significant changes would likely have to start with the three best players on the team. DeRozan is an impending free agent, and the Bulls reportedly want to bring him back. A source told K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago that the Bulls have offered DeRozan a two-year deal in the neighborhood of $40 million per year. DeRozan reportedly prefers a longer-term deal. 

From a practical perspective, even a two-year deal at that price doesn't really make sense for the Bulls. Aside from the fear of significant decline as he hits his mid-30s, there's also just the reality that DeRozan raises your floor while limiting your ceiling. If the Bulls want to rebuild he probably wins them too many games to do so, a realization the Spurs arrived at in 2021. If they want to leap into genuine contention, they probably need to upgrade one of their ball-handling spots. More scoring renders DeRozan redundant. Would it even be possible to get $40 million worth of value out of DeRozan on a team with LaVine and Coby White?

White is the most interesting player here. His ascension to a borderline All-Star-caliber player at the relatively young age of 24 gives the Bulls a bit of hope for a briefer rebuild. Get rid of the older guys, draft well for a year or two, and you can still win with Young in his mid-20's down the line. That approach likely takes winning off of the table during the two valuable, cost-controlled years remaining on his contract, but the Bulls are so far away from contending that maximizing those years won't be possible anyway.

Caruso has to be traded. There's just no way around that. He is immensely valuable to teams that are ready to win now. That changes the moment he signs a market-value contract as suddenly those contenders would have to give up more just to match his salary in a trade. He could probably net at least one good first-round pick, if not two. His injury history makes him a dangerous long-term bet as he hits his 30s. Let a win-now team take that risk.

Re-signing DeRozan and Patrick Williams probably makes the Bulls a luxury-tax team barring a cap-clearing deal involving LaVine or Vucevic. Given the state of the team right now, Karnisovas himself called that unlikely. "My approach looking at the luxury tax is if you can prove that your team is going to be in the top-four, you go in the luxury tax," he said. "It just makes no sense to be in play-in if you're going to be in the luxury tax."

If a LaVine trade exists, make it. Perhaps some contender is watching the success Boston is having with an expensive injury risk in Kristaps Porzingis and wondering whether LaVine might have the same effect for them. Miami stands out in this regard given its desperate need for offense and the presence of Tyler Herro as matching salary that could fill a similar role in Chicago.

But at the end of the day, what matters for the Bulls is going to be the direction they choose to take. Karnisovas said the group as a whole wasn't working, not that he was looking at a rebuild. The latter falls under the heading of "everything," which is what Karnisovas says is on the table, but so does the likelier path of swapping out one or two veterans for others who don't materially change the team's fortunes.

Change for the sake of change rarely means anything in the NBA. Change works when it's targeted. Teams that succeed are teams with clear goals and visions. The Bulls have lacked direction for the past few years. Maybe they'll find it now. Maybe they won't. But if nothing else, Karnisovas is at least acknowledging that the Bulls don't plan to do the same thing over and over again. On that front, at least, we can say they aren't insane.