Discover more from BlogABull.com
Of course the Bulls should look to trade Zach LaVine for Damian Lillard
one is a capital-s Star, the other merely has a max contract
This is flimsy, but enough to snap me out of the doldrums of September NBA non-news: THIS LEAGUE has been pretty much dominated by a months-long stalemate of two trade requests of All-NBA players in Damian Lillard and James Harden. With them both dictating they only want to play for the Heat and Clippers respectively, it has totally suppressed any ‘market’ for their services otherwise.
The Chicago Bulls are also an NBA franchise, though based on buzz they are effectively relegated due to lack of interest.
So, again, not much and originally from a third-level rumormonger, but I’LL TAKE IT:
the wildcard get-in-the-mix team [for Lillard] is the Chicago Bulls. I know the Chicago Bulls this offseason, Zach LaVine’s name has kind of been thrown into the rumor mill a little bit. The Bulls shot that down publicly. The suggestion has been out there that if, slash maybe when, they trade LaVine that they would want a star-level return, young players, picks, things with upside as they try to retool and reimagine their roster.
What I have heard in the last few days is it looks like they might be trying to move LaVine as part of a multi-time deal just to see if they can get into the Dame Lillard sweepstakes
As mentioned there, the summer has been indeed full of Zach LaVine rumors that haven’t gone anywhere. Not due to the Bulls committing to LaVine, but because despite protestations from Bullsfans dying-Twitter (still shouting “he’s not a bad on-ball defender!”, just to an ever-deepening void), LaVine isn’t actually perceived by his own or other NBA teams to be on the same level of value as Devin Booker or Donovan Mitchell. And even if LaVine is more plausibly on the level of Dejounte Murray, that kind of trade return is now out of style compared to even a year ago.
Extending LaVine at the maximum last summer wasn’t a bad decision: his production has sustained as very good, and he looks to have improved his availability. But that durability is in a small sample, plus he hasn’t transcended other longstanding weaknesses. It’s telling that The Athletic’s Seth Partnow, though just one man’s opinion, has LaVine ranked in the range of #67-80 in the entire league.
Whereas Damian Lillard is #12
It’s not zero difference in the money, though both are on ‘max’ contracts. While Lillard only makes ~$5M more than LaVine this season, in both he and LaVine’s final contract season (player options) of 2026/27, the difference is more like $15M.
But we have to, as always, look at things from a Bulls ownership perspective. Yes you could start to analyze how that contract difference, and age, and closeness in production may make the two closer in value to the point where it doesn’t seem necessary or wise to include what’s necessary to make the upgrade.
But while there are a lot of max contracts out there, Damian Lillard is one of the rare actual stars of the league, who’d drive up interest and thus (wake up the ‘dorfs for this) revenue. And not only fan interest, but other players would want to play for the Bulls, even at a (this would surely wake them up if the last sentence didn’t) discount. That’s the kind of star quality that makes a difference above and beyond the contract.
With LaVine, the Bulls are getting only the downsides of ‘star’ level talent, inflated over his actual caliber of play: whether it’s being unreceptive to coaching or trying to dictate trade talks, and typically though his high-powered agency and associated media bullhorn.
Upgrading from LaVine to Lillard, with some future assets thrown in, would further commit the Bulls to a path of immediate contention that’d likely fall short, but it’d make an actual large impact. Currently, the Bulls are on this path anyway, just half-assed: they want to say they’re competitive and a destination to recruit players, but their shining exemplar of this is…Nikola Vucevic.
And while I never believed Bulls management would consider going into the tax for a team where their highest paid player is Zach LaVine, I would believe they’d reconsider if they had Damian Lillard in his emblematic red and black, just now with a big market city on the front of the jersey.
Obviously they’d have to convince Lillard of this, and even if they can’t plausibly convince him they’re a better franchise than Miami, at least Chicago would be one he’d play for with hope of immediate playoff success and promise of committed resources towards immediate improvement. Then they could go to Portland and beat the Heat’s offer in a trade.
The problem with this plan is LaVine’s trade value. It’s not even a secret that they’re having trouble generating interest to receive assets in a LaVine trade (to then use for Lillard) as LaVine’s contract is perceived to be neutral value at best.
In what has to be an upset result to long-time readers, I’m not preemptively mad that the Bulls aren’t trying. I think they are trying (Lillard shares an agent with DeRozan, that’s something*) but the reality of Lillard being so much more valuable than LaVine is why it’s very hard to make this happen.