As the NBA draft and free agency looms, rumors have spread all around the league. Many key teams have been leaked as possible players in trade deals. Washington Wizards, New York Knicks, and the New Orleans Pelicans have been a part of key rumors. As these rumors surfaced, the Chicago Bulls joined in these rumors, with a possible interest in trading Zach LaVine.
For the first year of his $215 million max deal, LaVine averaged an adequate 24.8 points per game on 48.4% shooting from the field. This did not help the Bulls contend at the beginning of the season, as they were barely in the play-in for most of the season. After the All-Star Game, the Chicago Bulls’ playoff hopes increased minimally as they contended for the play-in spots, going 14-9 to end the year.
In this last quarter of the season, LaVine upped his game, averaging 27 points per game on 53% shooting. This last stretch was the best for LaVine this season, loosely continuing in the play-in where he scored 39 points in an elimination game against the Toronto Raptors but failed to score 20 points in a play-in loss to the Miami Heat.
This all to say, LaVine was playing some of his best basketball at the last stretch of the season. If these rumors are true, his value is higher than compared to the trade deadline. At the deadline, the Bulls were rumored to be in trade negotiations with the New York Knicks, where they offered Evan Fournier, Obi Toppin, and two first-round picks for LaVine.
Looking back, it was a low offer for Zach, even worse than it did at the time. Evan Fournier is towards the tail-end of being a reliable scorer and Toppin is older than one might think, as he turned 25 this March. The picks could have been good, but the deal could have been better.
With LaVine turning up in the last quarter, the Bulls could utilize it to trade him to another team to kick off another rebuild. It could be with a team like Portland that wants to compete, even possibly the Houston Rockets, who want to ramp up their rebuild by trading their lottery picks.
Realistically, these teams will likely have better options at their disposal this summer. I believe the Knicks will be the main target this offseason. Coming off a season, where they made it to the second round of playoffs, they will likely seek to upgrade their team.
A proposal that the Bulls can make is listed down below.
If the Bulls decide to rebuild this offseason, trading Zach LaVine to the Knicks would get the team off to an excellent start.
The Knicks are debating a trade for Bradley Beal, but Zach LaVine is just a safer choice overall. He is younger and had arguably a better season than Beal. As well, they will not have to deal with Beal’s no-trade clause. A starting lineup of Jalen Brunson, Zach LaVine, Josh Hart, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson could be a very solid playoff team. Offensively, the Knicks would upgrade. Especially in the playoffs, when Randle becomes inconsistent, they will need an offensive player to balance out that inconsistency.
For the Bulls, this is a long-term better decision. The potential for the Bulls to be a contender with Zach LaVine as the main star is not enough. Especially when noting, the supporting cast is aging, with DeMar DeRozan turning 34 and Nikola Vucevic turning 33 this year. The Bulls floor is decent but the ceiling is not great, a second-round exit at the very best.
R.J. Barrett is a younger player than LaVine, with a smaller contract. If anything, the Bulls need more time to build a roster, sticking with LaVine, will leave the team stuck by the 2025 season. RJ Barret’s ceiling is a 3-time all-star, with a floor as a solid roleplayer. As well, his contract is mostly team friendly, and not too difficult to trade in downline if necessary.
Grimes is the hidden prize of this trade, he is a young guard with a lot of upside. Bulls would acquire his bird rights. He could be a starting-caliber player or worst case be a six-man, he will be a good player in that range. Meanwhile, Derrick Rose is a filler piece but a coveted filler piece for Chicago fans. People would want to see Rose back in a Bull jersey. It would be a success for business and fan engagement. He could also be a mentor for the young players, especially when you can extend his contract later in a cheaper veteran deal.
The picks as well are very useful, likely being an unprotected pick from New York, and a protected top-10 Dallas pick in 2024. These picks will likely fall in the 14 to 20 range, but paired with the Bull’s own pick and Chicago’s possession of Portland’s 2024 pick, will have a solid rebuilding foundation.
Of course, it is possible that Knicks fans will think this is too much, I could see the argument due to LaVine’s limited defensive abilities. Or, even Bulls fans think this is too low an offer for LaVine. Whatever happens this offseason, there will be crazy trades for some team this offseason, let’s just hope Bulls management actually gets involved this time around.