Caught in a whirlwind of trade rumors and dramatic reports ahead of the NBA's February 8 trade deadline, Zach LaVine seemed to be on on the brink of being traded away. Right when LaVine's seven-year tenure in Chicago appeared to be coming to an end, however, he'll instead have to wait just a little while longer to get some closure on this chapter of his career.
That's because the Bulls have been informed Zach will undergo surgery to correct the foot injury that has plagued him for the majority of this season. Expected to miss the next four to six months, Chicago suffers a big blow here as LaVine will be listed out for the remainder of the season.
Among teams rumored to be registering interest in acquiring LaVine, the Detroit Pistons had emerged as an unexpected but likely candidate to land the All-Star shooting guard. It's safe to say LaVine won't be dealt away now that no contender can benefit by adding him for a playoff run.
Even the Pistons — who are certainly already well-removed from playoff contention this season — have very little incentive to risk trading for a max contract player. Instead, the Bulls will have to find a way to keep their heads above water even with a combined $60 million in salary between LaVine and Lonzo Ball stuck on the sidelines.
Zach LaVine has brought the Bulls down with him as the star guard opts for season-ending foot surgery.
The only silver lining here is that the Bulls have managed to fare well without LaVine so far this season, posting a 13-12 record in games Zach did not suit up for. It's not great, but it suggests the Bulls still have a chance to salvage the season if the team continues playing at this level.
This comes in no small part due to the tremendous efforts of Coby White and DeMar DeRozan. Although Chicago's front office has made several damning mistakes over the past few years, signing this duo to their current contracts has been enough of a steal to help offset the Bulls' struggles for now. DeRozan and White are currently averaging a combined 45 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds since December, giving Chicago enough firepower to remain entrenched in the playoff conversation.
Unfortunately, despite DeMar and Coby's success, the Bulls are still simply not a very good basketball team. This team struggles to shoot the ball, can't crash the glass whenever Andre Drummond is on the bench, and still lacks a true playmaker. With so many key rotation players on the injury report, the Bulls also lack any depth and are often forced to put players out there who would in all honesty be better suited for the G League.
As good as he's been, DeRozan is an impending unrestricted free agent this summer and Chicago would be foolish to not at least consider moving him ahead of the deadline, rather than risk losing him for nothing.
At the same time, Coby doesn't have any other dependable options on offense to defer to if the Bulls want him to become the lead guard moving forward. This is why blowing it up may be the Bulls' best option, as it would allow the team to retool around young talent that complements Coby's strengths and better suits this team's timeline.
It's clear to see that this team doesn't have the assets necessary to compete now. The sooner the front office finally accepts that unfortunate truth and starts accumulating a promising young core, the sooner Coby will have a real team around him capable of making a push. If the Bulls ignore the reality of their situation any longer, however, White may just be a few years away from ending up back in the same situation LaVine is currently caught in.