Should the Chicago Bulls trade Zach LaVine to the Knicks, Lakers, Nuggets, or 76ers?
Zach LaVine (luh-VEEN) sure knows how to put that orange ball into the hoop. But leading the Chicago Bulls to regular season wins? Not so much.
Since joining the Bulls during that blockbuster Jimmy Butler mega trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves, LaVine’s Bulls have basically been in the lower tier of the Eastern Conference. They’ve been so below mediocre that Chicago has never reached the 30-win plateau with LaVine as their star attraction.
LaVine is a very nice player, and he’s arguably the most underrated isolation scorer in the NBA. But are the Bulls going anywhere unless they can get another star player in Chicago? The answer to that question is an obvious, “No.” And with the New York Knicks now showing promise, and the Bulls still hovering around .500, it might once again be hard for LaVine and company to try and entice free agents to sign with Chicago this summer.
So if Arturus (are-TUR-us) and his front office mates can’t persuade free agents to play their home games at the United Center, is there really a point in keeping LaVine? Once again, LaVine is an excellent player to have on your team, but if you’re never competing for a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference, then what is LaVine’s true value to the Bulls?
In my opinion, LaVine creates more harm to the Bulls than good stuff. And this has nothing to do with his game...well, mostly. His defense is still spotty at best, but you can’t argue with his current stat line in 2021: Over 27 points per game and shooting over 51% from the field. Former Bulls 2-guard Jimmy Butler is obviously a better two-way player than the very athletic LaVine, but LaVine’s shooting numbers can’t be ignored.
The real issue with LaVine’s presence on the team is his scoring numbers can’t single-handedly carry the Bulls when they aren’t getting significant contributions from their second and third-best scorers. Why is that the case? Well, LaVine isn’t necessarily a great distributor of the pumpkin. If we consider all guards, his 5.3 assists per game are barely scratching the Top 10 in the NBA. So if he can’t pass the ball well, he needs major contributions from his teammates. Don’t expect too much: Besides LaVine, none of his teammates are presently in the Top 50 for both Player Efficiency Rating or points per game.
The problem is because LaVine is such a gifted scorer, he can help lead the Bulls to some games they really shouldn’t win. This is of course problematic because if the Bulls win too many games, they can’t qualify for a Top 3 pick. And until the draft lottery rules change, there just isn’t much value in getting the 7 or 8-seed and losing in the first round of the playoffs.
Therefore, the most logical option for Arturas is trying to trade LaVine. The other issue is the NBA is part of a salary cap collective bargaining agreement. This just means that the Bulls have to get players in return where the contracts add up. This isn’t too problematic, though. For example, if the Bulls want to dump LaVine, they could easily add Gary Harris’ contract from the Denver Nuggets and take a flier on R.J. Hampton. The main prerogative for the front office is Bulls GM Marc Eversley wants unprotected draft picks and LaVine off the roster. In essence, a LaVine trade means the Bulls are in a full rebuild with the potential for getting a Top 3 pick this upcoming June.
So should the Nuggets trade for LaVine? Absolutely. The problem is head coach Mike Malone has to consider if adding a prolific scorer like LaVine to the team would create some locker room chaos. In other words, Malone has to determine the pros and cons of keeping Gary Harris versus taking a chance on LaVine. Would adding LaVine hurt the overall team chemistry? It’s hard to definitely say, but probably not.
Honestly, the Nuggets probably advanced as far as possible last season with their current roster. A Western Conference Finals appearance is great, but when you have an elite frontcourt player like Jokic (YOH-kitch) on your team, you need to take a chance at competing with the Lakers, Clippers or even the Jazz.
Adding LaVine might still not be enough to compete with LeBron James and the Lakers, but it’s worth a shot. The good news for Denver is LaVine’s contract is very similar to Harris, so you basically get an upgrade at shooting guard without having to go into the luxury tax to address the upgrade. It seems like a win-win situation for Denver.
What other teams should trade for LaVine? The Philadelphia 76ers come to mind as a great fit for going after the Bulls two-guard. The 76ers could trade Danny Green, which would be very appealing to the Bulls since he’s on an expiring deal. The easiest way to rebuild is picking up expiring deals and then starting from scratch in free agency. Like Denver, Philadelphia’s draft picks aren’t that appealing. However, when they’re unprotected, there’s a chance that the Bulls could pick in the Top 15 during the 2022 Draft. LaVine is a good enough player where Chicago could demand unprotected picks in 2021 and 2022. A 2023 76ers unprotected pick is very unlikely to happen for the Bulls, but anything is possible.
Denver and Philadelphia are the two teams who desperately need LaVine in order to compete for an NBA title. Denver is especially in need of an isolation player like LaVine since they’ve been such an enigma on the offensive end. If Philly goes after LaVine, they’re pretty much telling the fanbase that they’re all in when it comes to competing for an NBA title. With their current core of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias (toh-BYE-is) Harris, it’s definitely worth a shot. Brooklyn has yet to play unbeatable basketball, but I expect that to change as we get closer to the postseason. However, even with a Big 3 of James Harden-Kevin Durant-and Kyrie Irving, the Big 4 of Embiid-Simmons-Harris-LaVine might be even better than Brooklyn’s Humongous 3.
If Denver and Philly don’t pull the trigger on dealing for LaVine, expect the Lakers to factor into the LaVine sweepstakes. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is an excellent role player wing, but he’s nowhere the same scoring threat as LaVine. The Lakers have young role players that the Bulls would love to have: Alex Caruso and Montrez (MAWN-trezz) Harrell.
The issue for LA is the Lakers have an excellent closer as is, and the main reason they went after Harrell is to weaken their in-city rival, AKA the Clippers. The defending champions might also not see a lot of value in LaVine’s game. Remember: the Lakers are the best defensive team in the NBA, something LaVine isn’t well known for during his tenure in the Association. Would acquiring LaVine actually make the Lakers a worse defensive unit? In my opinion, LaVine’s offensive attributes more than make up for his defensive liabilities.
Don’t sleep on the New York Knicks. They would love to keep winning games and possibly sneak into a 5-seed for the playoffs. Then again, Madison Square Garden won’t have any fans during the playoffs. If anything, M-S-G would be less than 20% capacity. Is it worth it for James Dolan to trade for LaVine and possibly ruin the chemistry they’ve finally started to get with their good young core? I think that it is, but it might not be for head coach Tom Thibodeau (TIB-uh-dough).
That being said, the Knicks are certainly making a push for the playoffs. They recently traded for former MVP point guard Derrick Rose, and with COVID-19 still very prevalent in American society, making the postseason would be huge for the Knicks. Even without fans in the stands, New York City sports fans would still watch the NBA playoffs, and with LaVine on the roster, that gives them an even better chance to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
But what do you think? Should the Nuggets, 76ers, Lakers, or Knicks trade for LaVine? Make sure to comment below and subscribe to Sports Broadcast Solutions.