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Zach LaVine is asking out, professionally
LaVine's cosplaying as a superstar continues
This was because we knew a couple things already:
But it is more significant coming from this messenger, on this day. Shams is less a reporter and more an information broker for Klutch Sports, the agency that represents him and Zach LaVine.
Therefore, “league sources” in this case means LaVine and his camp. Who were seen that night in his home arena taking in some college ball.
As Will Gottlieb said on the Chuggo emergency podcast, this is pretty much as close as it gets to a trade request.
Maybe doing so on this day was because he had his reps in town, with other executives from around the league here as well (and Shams for that matter). Maybe it was because it was the day after another desultory Bulls loss where LaVine was blatantly stat-padding after getting worked defensively much of the competitive portion of the game.
Whatever his reasons, this is what LaVine is doing: expressly bailing on the season eleven games in, after already bailing so not-so-subtly before then with his play and comments to the media.
The local media is downplaying the significance of it, with KC Johnson maintaining that LaVine will “remain professional and committed to trying to right this sluggish start to the season”.
This indeed has been “professional” work by LaVine, much more successful than his decision-making on the floor, if it’s assumed he’s “committed”.
I mean…he’s clearly not committed, right?
I’ll be interested to see if anybody calls him out to explicitly deny what is obviously coming from him through Shams.
And what a disaster for Arturas Karnisovas, who pledged in the offseason his Bulls would be better equipped for the start of this campaign than other teams due to continuity of the roster and cohesion gained in their destination training camp. All while not-so-secretly trying to shop his highest-paid and longest-tenured player.
Now, LaVine (again, after eleven games), is applying pressure on management to just get on with it already.
Later in the day, Shams released LaVine’s preferred list…sorry, technically he cited “sources” of teams interested: Lakers, Heat, and 76ers.
As much as LaVine is trying very hard to not be seen as demanding his destination like James Harden or Damian Lillard did in the summer, this list is intentional and for his own benefit. As was the PR campaign over the summer to skunk any viability of the Knicks as a suitor.
LaVine may not have a no-trade clause and 2 additional team-controlled years on his contract, but he can make it uncomfortable for any team looking to trade for him that he doesn’t want to play for. And we’ve seen every game this season what it’s like for LaVine to be on the court for a team he doesn’t want to play for.
That factor, and LaVine’s standing in the league compared to his own opinion on said standing, narrows down the destination list:
No Knicks, because of the goofy CAA/Klutch agency war and because they aren’t really a great on-court fit anyway.
Don’t see a bad team that struggles to get free agents, like Charlotte or Detroit, because he doesn’t want to be on a similar squad to the Bulls in a worse market than Chicago.
Don’t see an up-and-coming team like OKC or Orlando or Indiana or Sacramento, because he’s just Zach LaVine and won’t push them into any higher tier to be worth accelerating their team building.
For LaVine to be successful in his new home, it has to be where that team is already pretty good and where there’s a set hierarchy of players better than him so he can thrive as a 3rd (or in some cases 2nd) option. Just spitballing, but in addition to the Lakers and Heat (I don’t see Philly as a serious suitor, but that’s just me hearing what Darryl Morey is saying.) I’d also throw in the Mavericks, Pelicans, and Grizzlies. Maybe the Warriors and Clippers, though the contracts involved on both of those teams makes it tough to figure.
But we’re not Zach LaVine fans, we’re Bulls fans. So what is a successful trade for the team we
like follow? This breakup is more interesting than staying the course. And while not the largest bidding war it just takes one team to give a great offer.
But the problem, as always, is AK’s Bulls have said and shown themselves to have no clue. They don’t know what success is, how to measure it, or how to execute a plan to achieve it. How can we even speculate what they’d consider to be a “good” LaVine trade?
If they’re serious about gunning for 10th place, and they keep telling us they are, I actually think it’s very possible bordering on likely to have both teams in a LaVine trade get better. Where the Bulls maybe don’t receive a blue chip asset or large quantity of assets, but some combination of a far-away or lotto-protected first round pick and/or a young prospect (do we trust them to scout the league’s rosters for undiscovered gems?) and a role player or two. Simply replacing LaVine’s minutes with more Caruso/Carter/Ayo may produce better lineups this season, and maybe it frees up money under the tax to make other additions.
That’s not as exciting as a full teardown, but I don’t think the Bulls believe a LaVine trade is some flashpoint where it determines the future of the organization. That’s why they were shopping him all summer while still indicating they do not want to go tank-tastic. (and, ugh, why they re-signed Vuc to a negative-value THREE YEAR extension). If they want to be terrible and get a high draft pick this year, then maybe just keep LaVine around.