The Bulls are 'quietly gauging interest' in trading Zach LaVine, per (encouraging) rumor
why trading the Bulls highest-paid player isn't necessarily 'blowing it up'
From Jake Fischer of Yahoo! Sports , someone I consider not a first-tier rumormonger but also not easily dismissible:
the Chicago Bulls have started contacting teams, quietly gauging the trade interest in Zach LaVine, league sources told Yahoo Sports. It remains to be seen just how willing Chicago is to part ways with LaVine, or if it receives a commensurate offer for his services. LaVine has four seasons remaining on his five-year, $215 million contract, and multiple teams have indicated the Bulls are holding a steep valuation
This sourced rumor - saying the Bulls have contacted teams is fairly ironclad verbiage - is presented in context of the news yesterday that similarly-fringe-All-Star Bradley Beal is likely going to be traded by the new Washington Wizards front office, plus the much-better Damian Lillard is being monitored but unlikely to be moved.
This is good news that the Bulls front office is actually doing their jobs this summer. I think most have realized by now that any prior lack of rumored activity wasn’t Arturas Karnisovas and team being secretive, but instead indicating a dereliction of duty.
We all can see the self-imposed cap crunch and lack of flexibility AK faces this offseason, and the idea of trading LaVine at least suggests that AK sees it too.
Yesterday, the Wizards used very couching language funneled through Woj in saying though they’re looking to trade Beal, it wasn’t necessarily picking a direction towards rebuilding (I mean, they’re already bad enough to get the 8th pick in next week’s draft). Counter this with AK, who said a bunch of disqualifying things yet still managed to show his hand in saying they were definitely NOT rebuilding this summer.
Now, trading LaVine could mean a rebuild depending on the return, and I’d have zero problem with AK saying afterwards that he changed his mind.
But I don’t think this rumor means that AK is intending to go back on his word.
Zach LaVine is the Bulls highest-paid player, and arguably most productive, but I don’t believe he’s the most essential to their current goal, which AK (and ownership-set payroll) has indicated as: being ultimately average but a “tough out”, and where making the playoffs is nice but winning a bunch of games in April against tanking teams is also promising(?).
LaVine would also get a pretty good trade return given his age (though turning 29 in March, not quite as young anymore) and that he’s under contract for 4 more seasons. I don’t think it’s plausible that he’d get the rumored-to-be-available #2 or #3 overall pick in the draft, but between the savings from whatever downgrade under his $40M+ cap number, and other assets, the return can be re-allocated in other parts of the roster and perhaps even create a better team, while certainly possible they’d be at least similar.
For example, if the Miami Heat think Lillard is staying put, and Beal makes too much, they’d hypothetically be willing to give up more to get the lower-salaried (and better) LaVine instead. Tyler Herro is a poor man’s version of LaVine, and literally poorer in that he’s making $13M less next season. And the difference in player quality would mean the Bulls get additional picks, cap relief (Lonzo?) or role players to fill out all the other holes on the roster.
Is this a good path or just being cheap? Maybe a bit of both, or more accurately it’s just a fact of life that they’re cheap, and so the path of downgrading from LaVine while still being ‘competitive’ is better than the current path of ‘continuity’. If the Bulls were a serious big-market franchise, they’d hold on to LaVine, try to stay ‘competitive’ yet incrementally improve, and have themselves be the ones who troll for Lillard or the next star wanting out (and LaVine is either used in an upgrade deal or is a player other stars want to play with). That is the benefit of trying to be good/promising/interesting instead of trying to get a high draft pick, but as we’ve seen the past two seasons the Bulls are committed to improvement only slightly less than they are at rebuilding.
So this rumor is potential confirmation that the Bulls aren’t totally serious, but at least they’re not totally UNserious like other scenarios would indicate. I find the idea of trading DeMar DeRozan instead as fundamentally different, because DDR is essential to maintaining a competitive floor, makes less money, and would get less in a trade return. The continuity path of keeping LaVine, DDR, and the so-completely-replaceable-he-shouldn’t-even-be-included Nikola Vucevic is, as we know, not only a bad path but an extremely depressing one. AK trying to be proactive and actually winning a Zach LaVine trade is encouraging by comparison.
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