The Chicago Bulls wrapped up the 2022-23 season with a 40-42 record and an eventual loss in the Play-in Tournament to the Miami Heat. After yet another year in purgatory, Chicago is looking increasingly ready for a rebuild, with DeMar DeRozan approaching 34 years old, Nikola Vucevic becoming a free agent, and doubts regarding Lonzo Ball‘s future.
In a time when the Bulls could greatly use a shake-up this summer, another rumor has slipped from the cracks of the front office: Chicago is “quietly” shopping All-Star guard Zach LaVine in hopes of getting a return that could exceed that of Bradley Beal’s if Washington moves on from him in an eerily similar situation.
With another star shooting guard on the market, it’s shaping up to be one wild offseason in the NBA. Here are three potential LaVine suitors that could make sense if the Bulls blow it up.
NBA Rumors: Three Potential Destinations if Bulls Trade Zach LaVine
Background on LaVine
An electric three-level scorer, LaVine averaged nearly 25 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game this season while shooting 48% from the field, 37% from deep, and nearly 85% from the free-throw line. He’s in the second year of a five-year, $215 million max contract that he inked with Chicago last season—making $40 million next year. However, given all of the issues with the Bulls so far, it makes sense why GM Mark Eversley is open to taking calls on their franchise player.
New York Knicks
The New York Knicks have been linked to both LaVine and Beal in recent days, but by the looks of it, the former could be more appealing as a younger and cheaper option. New York’s 47-35 season culminated in a second-round loss to the Heat, but there is optimism that they could go for a deeper run if the right moves are made. One of those may very well be adding LaVine while giving up RJ Barrett or Julius Randle in the process. Knicks reporter Ian Begley outlined this possibility in his mailbag article last month:
“I don’t think the Knicks can acquire LaVine without giving up RJ Barrett or Julius Randle. I would assume that one of those two players would have to be in any deal. When the Knicks and Bulls talked casually about a potential deal during the season, (several weeks before the trade deadline), I was told that some with Chicago had interest in Immanuel Quickley. That was months ago. Both teams may have changed their thinking at this point.”
The Knicks have the money to kick the tires on a potential deal, including the salaries of Evan Fournier and Derrick Rose at $18.8 million and a $15.5 million Team Option, respectively. Other rumored trades have New York parting ways with Obi Toppin and two future first-round picks (in addition to either Randle or Barrett).
LaVine would serve as an ideal complement to Jalen Brunson in the backcourt, two guards who can both score and facilitate at a high level. Assuming Barrett is the one to go in this scenario, the Knicks have an opportunity to form a solid Brunson-LaVine-Randle trio while continuing to nurture some of their young players. New York needs another scoring threat to truly capitalize on their current potential, and LaVine just might be the solution for that.
If Miami were to strike out on their own pursuit of Beal—currently unlikely given their frontrunner status—LaVine could be a reasonable pivot. Similar to the Knicks scenario, he would take the load off of Butler while giving Miami another three-level threat on offense. It would help the Heat tremendously, considering Adebayo’s foul trouble noted throughout the postseason and how Miami began to struggle if the supporting cast was unproductive. Sending LaVine to South Beach—presumably for a package around Tyler Herro—would give the Heat the consistency it has needed without Butler on the floor, and it would fortify Miami’s offense with Butler, LaVine, and Adebayo at the helm.
The last possible target in the LaVine sweepstakes is arguably the least expected: the Orlando Magic. Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley posited a potential deal between Chicago and Orlando last month; it would send Gary Harris, Jalen Suggs, Jonathan Isaac, and the 11th pick to the Bulls for LaVine.
Buckley’s reasoning for the move is that LaVine would “take control of this offense while simultaneously scratching itches for shooting, volume scoring, and off-the-dribble creativity. He’d handle the bulk of opposing defenses’ attention, which would lighten [Paolo Banchero]’s load and perhaps be a big boost to his shooting rates (42.7/29.8/73.8).”
Though this idea came out of the blue, it’s worth revisiting despite the fact that Orlando is now trying to trade into the top five. The Magic making a move for LaVine would greatly accelerate their timeline for potential playoff contention. Instead of banking on a top-five pick to be the missing piece to the puzzle, LaVine would provide that and more, solving the Magic’s current conundrum at shooting guard while being a veteran star next to the up-and-coming Banchero.
The Last Word on Zach LaVine
The Bulls are leaning towards a direction they should have gone a while ago, being open to granting LaVine a better situation while he’s still in his prime at 28. Though he has struggled with injuries and is a liability on defense, there’s no doubt that any team that acquires LaVine will get a walking highlight reel and offensive force that can slide into any system and role he’s placed in. Whether the Bulls’ return for him can exceed that of Bradley Beal’s is a whole other story.