Nearly 20 games into the season, even the most pessimistic of fans probably wouldn't have expected the Chicago Bulls to limp to a lowly 5-14 record to start the year off. Nevertheless, that's where we are now, as the Bulls find themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference alongside perennial disappointing teams like the Pistons, Wizards, and Hornets.
Unlike those other teams, however, the Bulls actually have All-Star talent on their roster that they can use to peddle off to the highest bidder and potentially expedite a rebuild. Although I'd much rather have these players help carry Chicago back to the postseason, using them as trade bait to experience a quick bounce back to relevance — like we've recently witnessed with the Thunder — isn't such a bad alternative.
The Lakers are a team that has been repeatedly linked to having interest in Zach LaVine over the years, but the rumors rarely felt like there was ever any substance to them, This time, however, things just might actually play out differently. HoopsHype's Michael Scotto names LaVine among three Bulls in a list of players most likely to be traded this season.
Trading LaVine away feels like it's simply a matter of time until the news breaks at this point, but what I found most interesting was who the Bulls were reportedly looking to receive in exchange. Hoops Wire's Sam Amico reports the Bulls have their eyes on the Lakers' duo of Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura, as corroborated by The Athletic's Shams Charania.
If the Bulls trade Zach LaVine away, we just might see Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura wearing the red and white by the end of the year.
Whispers from Chicago's front office seem to indicate that Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley believe the Bulls may actually benefit by moving LaVine for unselfish team players, and this hypothetical haul reflects that sentiment. Here's what Amico had to say in his most recent report:
"As I wrote a few weeks back when the Zach LaVine rumors started to surface, the Chicago Bulls would want guard Austin Reaves in any trade with the Los Angeles Lakers . . . Chicago would also likely want forward Rui Hachimura in such a deal, one source told Hoops Wire."
Amico also claims the Bulls have been actively engaged in finding a deal to move LaVine, but aren't likely to pull the trigger on anything until December 15, when teams can trade away players who signed contracts this past offseason.
If this trade were to take place, Reaves would assume LaVine's position as the Bulls' starting shooting guard, while Rui Hachimura could immediately challenge Patrick Williams for his role on the team as an athletic two-way forward. The Bulls would be losing their biggest shot-maker here, but would become more capable on the defensive end and would hopefully see much more ball movement in the offensive scheme rather than low-efficiency iso possessions.
LaVine on the other hand, would fit seamlessly with the Lakers as the third option on offense. By taking the pressure off his shoulders to carry the team, I believe Zach could potentially enjoy his most efficient season to date, even if his usage takes a hit.
Would the Lakers accept? That much is hard to say. They seem adamant about keeping Reaves around as part of their future, but they may feel the pressure to go all-in on one last championship run closer to the trade deadline if LeBron James continues performing at his current level. Either way, the Lakers are one of few teams who have the assets to get this deal done and are close enough to championship contention to justify splurging on a player like LaVine. I'm not convinced this deal is the cure the Bulls need, but at this point, the Bulls are in such desperate need of a real direction that it may be worth gambling on.