With Chicago facing a disappointing 5-9 start to the season, there’s growing speculation that Zach LaVine might be on the move. Despite being only a month into the 2023-24 season, the Chicago Bulls are acknowledging that their current roster is not good enough for playoff contention. The Bulls’ performance has been below expectations, particularly given that they retained the same roster from the previous season when they secured a spot in the Play-In tournament.
Developing: NBA teams are probing the availability of Bulls two-time All-Star Zach LaVine and there is increased openness from both sides about exploring a trade, sources say.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 14, 2023
While LaVine, a two-time All-Star, is experiencing a downturn in his performance this season, averaging 21.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game, with shooting percentages of 42.7% from the field and 34% from three, it’s not far off from his career averages of 46.4% from the field and 38.2% from three. On a new team that is in need of an offensive threat like LaVine, he could bump up those shooting averages back to his career averages.
Despite his current struggles, LaVine has showcased glimpses of excellence, such as his impressive 51-point performance against the Pistons in the Bulls’ third game of the season. At 28 years old, he remains in his prime, adding an intriguing dynamic to any potential trade scenarios.
Entering the second year of his five-year, $215 million maximum contract, LaVine’s substantial salary complicates the process of matching it in potential trades. However, numerous teams have the capability to fulfill the Bulls’ requirements or at least come relatively close. So here are the most likely landing spots for Zach LaVine if he gets traded.
Top Landing Spots For Zach Lavine
The Los Angeles Lakers
Why it makes sense
The Lakers have desperately needed additional support for LeBron James, who has shouldered an excessive offensive burden this season, averaging 35 minutes per game. As one of the league’s weakest three-point shooting teams, the Lakers face scoring challenges when LeBron James is off the court, underscoring the rationale behind their interest in LaVine. Given his lone college season at UCLA, LaVine might also be enticed to return to Los Angeles.
Despite Austin Reaves appearing fatigued from a swift transition from the Western Conference Finals to the FIBA World Cup, the Lakers are unlikely to consider trading him. D’Angelo Russell has struggled with shot selection, Gabe Vincent has struggled to find his shooting rhythm, and while Rui Hachimura has performed well, injuries have sidelined him for some games.
The Lakers could greatly benefit from LaVine’s scoring prowess to boost their offense, ranked 25th in the league. Additionally, LaVine’s defensive shortcomings might be addressed with the presence of a rim protector like Anthony Davis.
The Lakers have a first-round pick in both 2029 and 2030. To come close to matching LaVine’s salary, they would need to include both D’Angelo Russell and Rui Hachimura in the deal. However, contractual restrictions prohibit the movement of these players until Jan. 15. A trade to the Lakers will likely look something like this.
A trade to the Lakers might involve packaging Russell, Hachimura, Taurean Prince, and their 2029 first-round pick in exchange for LaVine and a Bulls role player like Julian Philips.
The Philadelphia 76ers
Why it makes sense
After the James Harden trade, the Sixers possess the resources to acquire a star player, and securing one more top-tier addition could position them as favorites over the Celtics.
While LaVine may not be the ideal match for Philadelphia, given that a two-way wing might better complement Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, Daryl Morey’s approach has consistently prioritized acquiring talent first and addressing fit considerations later.
Tobias Harris‘ salary of $39.2 million aligns closely with LaVine’s $40.0 million. Swapping Harris for LaVine and including one or two first-round picks would be a highly favorable outcome for the Bulls.
Alternatively, if the Sixers opt not to include Harris, they could consolidate the expiring contracts of Marcus Morris, Nicolas Batum, and Robert Covington. However, pursuing this option would require waiting until Jan. 1 to finalize the trade due to contract restrictions.
The Indiana Pacers
Why it makes sense
The Pacers have surprised many people this season as they put an offensive powerhouse of a team around Tyrese Haliburton, and the idea of intensifying their offensive firepower even further with LaVine will give nightmares to anyone who plays the Pacers.
LaVine hasn’t ever had a point guard of Haliburton’s caliber. The prospect of having someone facilitate his plays instead of shouldering the offensive load independently opens up the potential for LaVine to reach new heights.
Considering the Pacers’ historical challenges in attracting star-free agents, trading for a player of LaVine’s caliber is likely their best shot at pairing high-end talent with Haliburton.
The Pacers possess all their own first-round picks, and they also have an extra first-round pick in the 2024 draft. To match LaVine’s salary, a combination of Bruce Brown and Buddy Hield could be utilized, though it’s important to note that Brown is not eligible for trade until Dec. 15. Both players hold trade value, providing the Bulls with the option to flip them again after acquisition potentially. This package, comprising Bruce Brown, Buddy Hield, and two first-round picks, could be a substantial acquisition for the Bulls.
The Toronto Raptors
Why it makes sense
The Raptors have emerged as an unexpectedly dynamic team, showcasing a top-10 defensive performance. However, their offense lags behind, currently ranked 27th in the league, highlighting the need for additional scoring.
While Scottie Barnes has made noticeable progress, his skill set somewhat mirrors that of Pascal Siakam. Acquiring LaVine could introduce a different scoring dynamic, offering the Raptors a versatile scorer capable of spreading the floor and complementing Barnes.
While this move might not align perfectly with the Bulls’ strategy, which aims to avoid a complete rebuild, it could potentially enhance team chemistry by strategically reshuffling pieces.
Siakam and LaVine’s salaries align almost precisely, making a straight-up trade between them feasible.
Given that Siakam is on an expiring contract, the success of such a trade would hinge on the Bulls securing assurance that Siakam has a long-term interest in signing with Chicago.
The Miami Heat
Why it makes sense
The Heat currently rank as the No. 24 offense in the league, and Jimmy Butler is in need of additional support. With a trade package initially crafted for Damian Lillard, the Heat could make adjustments to target LaVine.
LaVine’s defensive weaknesses could be effectively mitigated within the Heat’s system. His strong work ethic aligns well with their team culture, and assuming a clear secondary role behind Butler could alleviate concerns about his decision-making in clutch situations.
Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro would be sufficient to meet LaVine’s salary requirements for the Heat. To align the salaries, the Bulls could include Jevon Carter, whose trade restriction lasts until Dec. 1. As part of the deal, the Heat might also contribute a first-round pick or two in 2028 and 2030.
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