The Chicago Bulls may already be looking to make significant changes. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, there is increased openness between the Bulls and Zach LaVine in exploring a trade. Such trade conversations could begin this week in Chicago, where many executives are gathering. According to The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry, a league source tells him that the Bulls won’t have the same roster in a month.
Earlier this week we took a look at the Bulls’ rough start to the season and evaluated their most important players’ potential trade candidacy. They are a team with a lot of pressure heading into the season that has already spilled into the locker room when they held a players-only meeting following their season debut. They are expected to be a team to be monitored ahead of this year’s trade deadline in regards to all their top players.
LaVine is entering the second year of a five-year maximum contract he signed in the 2022 offseason. Rumors on his potential availability began nearly a year ago when reports came out that there was a disconnect between him and the Bulls. Rumors continued to swirl since, and it could finally culminate in a trade if the Bulls are headed toward a repeat of last season.
What are the Bulls looking for?
LaVine has been among the better scoring guards in the league over the past four seasons. He has two All-Star appearances but has mostly had the same general statistical resume within that four-year span on very good efficiency. He’s a great athlete although that could start to wane as he enters his age 29 season. He’s also an underrated passer who has made strides defensively despite his limitations on that end.
LaVine could help a lot of teams that need a boost on offense, but the four years, $178.1 million remaining in his contract complicates potential trades. He ranked 5th in HoopsHype’s top shooting guards for the 2023-24 season and finished 10th in trade value ranking among shooting guards. This disparity in his skill and value is due to him earning roughly 28-30 percent of the salary cap in his deal. His market could be hampered by his contract which is now more unfavorable in a CBA with harsher penalties for the biggest spenders.
According to NBC Sports Chicago’s KC Johnson, the Bulls have held exploratory talks on LaVine and their asking price for him has been high. They may be hard-pressed to get a haul featuring multiple first-round picks similar to what some All-Stars were going for in trade during the 2022-23 season. Many teams that would make a great basketball fit for him may not pursue him at all because of his contract.
They could be looking at a return similar to what the Wizards got for Bradley Beal in terms of cap flexibility by breaking up his contract into multiple players with fewer years left on their contracts. Unlike the Beal trade, LaVine’s smaller maximum salary and lack of a no-trade clause could allow the Bulls to potentially get first-round pick compensation or a talented player on his rookie-scale deal. But if the teams most interested in LaVine are contenders that lack such assets, the Bulls’ return could be limited to less desirable draft equity like the Wizards got for Beal.
Below is a list of several teams that could use LaVine and make a reasonable offer for him.
The Orlando Magic are off to a solid 5-5 start to the season. They rank 12th in net rating which is driven mostly by their 5th-ranked defense. Their 22nd-ranked offense however has held them back, especially in late-game situations (they rank 28th in fourth-quarter points). They could really use a player who could buy them a bucket from any part of the court and at crucial times.
The Magic are looking to make a push toward the Play-In Tournament and could use a scoring boost by LaVine to get there. They would need to send back $32.3 million in salaries to match for him and his trade bonus, which is capped at increasing his salary this season by $742,080. A combination of the expiring contracts of Jonathan Isaac, Gary Harris, and Joe Ingles would make up the majority of the salaries required. They have more than enough assets between their surplus of young guards to offer as well as owning all their own first-round picks over the next seven drafts.
The Pistons also similarly struggle offensively in terms of their shooting and half-court offense. Cade Cunningham is looking more like the offensive star he was touted as, and Ausar Thompson and Jalen Duren look like legitimate building blocks to put around him. They would probably like to make a push toward the Play-In Tournament after three straight seasons at the bottom of the lottery, and to do that they’ll need to get Cunningham more help. LaVine won’t solve all their questions but he could help push their offense closer to average.
The Pistons have plenty of expiring contracts between Joe Harris, James Wiseman, Alec Burks, and Monte Morris to match for LaVine. Trading a future first-round pick is complicated since they currently owe a heavily protected first to the Knicks through 2027. Instead of trading a far-out future first, would they consider trading Jaden Ivey? He was demoted from the starting lineup and his minutes could be limited by the rise of Marcus Sasser. If the Pistons don’t view Ivey as a long-term fit with Cunningham, a trade for a new backcourt partner could make sense.
The 3-7 Charlotte Hornets mostly need help from the defensive end as their 10th-ranked offense has been doing fine. However, they will need to make some decisions soon that could impact their offense. Gordon Hayward is in the last year of his contract and doesn’t project to be a long-term fit. Also, Miles Bridges’ future still seems uncertain after more legal issues surfaced. They may need to strike soon on another offensive target to potentially fill upcoming voids. It would be a good opportunity for the Hornets to jump ahead of these future problems and acquire a player like LaVine.
The Hornets could match for LaVine with Hayward’s $31.5 million expiring salary and an additional contract. Assuming LaMelo Ball, Brandon Miller, and Mark Williams are off the table, the Hornets can offer players like Terry Rozier, PJ Washington, and Nick Smith Jr. The earliest first-round pick they could offer is in 2027 since the lottery-protected first-round pick they owe the Spurs is encumbered through 2025.
The Dallas Mavericks are off to a hot start to the season with the second-best offensive rating in the league. Their roster has other priorities such as perimeter defensive help, but there’s no guarantee any specialists will become available for trade this year. The Mavericks are worth mentioning since they’ve been linked to LaVine in the past. He might not significantly improve them, but he could be a worthwhile addition if it only means getting off mediocre contracts.
There is a pathway for them to acquire LaVine and pair him with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving while staying below the hard cap and rostering 14 players. In fact, a combination of Tim Hardaway Jr., Richaun Holmes, and Maxi Kleber would get them there while staying below the luxury tax. The Mavericks would probably want to keep Dereck Lively II and Josh Green, and could instead offer young prospects such as Olivier-Maxence Prosper and Jaden Hardy. They also can only trade one unprotected first-round pick in 2027.
The Los Angeles Lakers will always be linked to All-Stars and have already been linked to LaVine in the past. They have a limited amount of assets to offer outside of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Austin Reaves, which mainly includes Jalen Hood-Schifino and an unprotected 2029 first-round pick. Bleacher Reports’ Eric Pincus detailed what the Lakers trade offer for LaVine would look like, which includes D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura, Taurean Prince, Hood-Schifino, and their 2029 first for LaVine, and two minimum salaries like Torrey Craig and Terry Taylor.