Grade the Trade: Bulls swap All-Stars in proposed blockbuster with 76ers

Chicago Bulls, James Harden, Zach LaVine. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Bulls, James Harden, Zach LaVine. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Chicago Bulls are back and plan on contending. They re-signed Nikola Vucevic this summer and added role players in free agency. Chicago believes they are close and can compete with any of the heavyweights in the Eastern Conference.

Zach LaVine was back in the trade rumors (subscription required) this summer, but no team was willing to meet the Bulls’ massive asking price. Chicago owes the two-time All-Star $178 million over the next four years. It is a scary contract, but can the Bulls trade him and stay in title contention?

Lonzo Ball is out for the season, which leaves Chicago with a massive hole at point guard. James Harden is the best option available. The 76ers want draft capital or a player that can help them win now in return. Does that make the Bulls the perfect trade partner?

Can the Chicago Bulls turn Zach LaVine into James Harden?

The Bulls fancy themselves contenders but have missed the playoffs in five of the last six years. James Harden is entering his 15th season and his team has qualified for the postseason 14 times.

He wants out of Philadelphia and would prefer to be sent home to Los Angeles. The Sixers are not close to a trade, but things can materialize quickly in the NBA. The Clippers have some interest but are unwilling to meet the Sixers’ asking price. The door is open for another team to jump in.

Zach LaVine has played in just four playoff games in his first nine seasons in the NBA. He has struggled to stay healthy, including playing over 67 games just once since 2016. If the Bulls want to make the postseason in 2024, upgrading to James Harden seems like a better situation. It would let them get off of LaVine’s contract and get a bit of a fresh start. Can the Bulls pull off that deal?