Lakers fans continue ridiculous trade proposals for Bulls’ star Zach LaVine

Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images) /

In a year where the Chicago Bulls made their first postseason appearance dating back to 2017, the 2022 NBA playoffs have no doubt been an exciting affair for many fans. As the festivities ramp up to their thrilling conclusion, the Bulls — among many other teams — have found themselves taking a seat to make way for this season’s true contenders’ pursuit of a championship ring.

Accepting defeat at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks grants time for reflection on an overall successful campaign in which the team showed marked improvement and proved it could be more than the sum of its parts. However, this also marks the beginning of Chicago’s 2022 offseason preparations, and the question marks surrounding impending free agent Zach LaVine‘s future with the team that shall soon follow.

Securing a spot in the playoffs means the Bulls have finally brought an end to their five-year-long tradition of attending the NBA Draft Lottery. While the days of praying the lottery balls may fall in our favor seem to be over, they appear to have been exchanged for perhaps an equally excruciating offseason tradition: withstanding an onslaught of Los Angeles Lakers fans desperately attempting to trade for other teams’ star players.

While DeMar DeRozan was coveted by a great many Lakers fans last summer, he instead inked an $82 million deal that brought him to Chicago via sign-and-trade. Spurned in their efforts to recruit DeRozan last summer, Lakers fans have now turned their full attention to DeRozan’s teammate and fellow All-Star Zach LaVine.

Bleacher Report’s salary cap strategist Eric Pincus notes that any scenario sending LaVine to LA may be a longshot, but details how the Lakers front office could still get the deal done.

It should come as no surprise that LaVine would demand a great deal of attention from other suitors this summer. Fresh off making his second-consecutive All-Star appearance, LaVine overcame a multitude of setbacks — injuries and bouts with COVID-19 — to post another successful season where he finished 12th in the NBA in points per game and 15th in offensive box plus/minus.

The Lakers may have their eyes on Zach LaVine, but it’s going to be extremely difficult to pry the All-Star away from the Bulls.

Make no mistake, this was no statistical anomaly for the eight-year veteran, either. Over the course of his last three seasons as the primary scoring threat on the Chicago Bulls, he has averaged an electric 25.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game on an incredibly efficient 60.2% true shooting percentage. In fact, LaVine has scored the 10th-most points in the entire NBA over the last three seasons — not far behind his own teammate DeRozan, who comes in three spots higher with the seventh-most points in that time frame.

This improvement is not only a testament to LaVine’s elite work ethic but also an indicator of what we can expect his value as an unrestricted free agent to be. LaVine is going to get paid a max contract, regardless of whether the Bulls are the ones footing the bill or not.

For a cap-strapped team like the Lakers who have to make external moves to improve, it makes a lot of sense that LaVine would be on their radar. However, the Lakers’ bargaining leverage is tenuous at best and no amount of wishful thinking is going to be able to change that.

"The wish starts with hoping LaVine—who signed with Klutch last August—gives the Chicago Bulls an ultimatum: sign-and-trade him to the Lakers or watch him leave as a free agent."

While the Klutch Sports connection isn’t nothing, it’s hard to say for sure that it’s something. LaVine joining Klutch certainly signals his intent to get paid as much as possible, but there’s little reason to assume he’d force his way to LA. Klutch Sports Group now represents over 30 NBA players and top prospects, and there’s just not enough room for them all to play with LeBron James.

As Pincus notes, the Lakers couldn’t afford to sign LaVine to a max contract even if LeBron and Anthony Davis were the only players left on the roster. The Lakers also cannot swap Russell Westbrook for LaVine directly in a trade. This means the only way the Lakers could possibly acquire LaVine is through a three-team trade where Westbrook ends up on the third team.

Bleacher Report’s Zach LaVine Longshot Lakers Trade Proposals

  • Bulls get a trade exemption and first-round picks; Thunder get Westbrook
  • Bulls get one of Malcolm Brogdon or Buddy Hield; Pacers get Westbrook
  • Bulls get Jerami Grant; Pistons get Westbrook
  • Bulls get Terrence Ross, Talen Horton-Tucker, first-round pick; Magic get Westbrook

The scenarios to land LaVine in LA are not only very limited and restrictive in nature, but also increasingly difficult to ever imagine coming to fruition. Most of these hypothetical situations involve a third party bending over backwards to support the long list of self-imposed obstacles to make a lateral move.

In typical fashion, many Lakers fans are only interested in trades that solely benefit LA. When several teams have enough cap space to offer LaVine a max contract, and the Bulls have every reason to want to retain him, the Lakers will have to try much harder than that to get a deal done.

Ironically, Pincus appears to be aware of the single biggest hurdle to cross in any trade scenario for the Lakers:

"Keeping Westbrook and his $47.1 million is a non-starter."

If the Lakers couldn’t make the playoffs with Westbrook and do not want to pay him in excess of $47 million in LeBron’s final contracted season, why exactly do they think anyone else wants to?

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The Bulls have done right by LaVine and prioritized building a roster around him. This team has proven it can win games. Chicago is a better team and can offer more money than any other suitor. That alone should be enough to get a deal done; but even if it’s not, I’m confident the Bulls can find a much more attractive sign-and-trade partner than the Los Angeles Lakers.