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The week between the Finals and the Draft is my favorite. It’s slop season and the Bulls finally seem to be generating some buzz with Zach LaVine trade rumors swirling.
Despite the presumed path forward being continuity, the Bulls are gauging interest in LaVine on the trade market, according to Yahoo’s Jake Fischer.
It’s the Chicago Bulls who 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 for LaVine — one that’s likely to exceed what Washington can ultimately net for Beal.Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer
Interestingly, the report notes that it is the Bulls reaching out to other teams rather than the inverse. And this is exactly what the Bulls should be doing. Reaching out to teams to gauge the value of LaVine around the league without falling into the trap of selling low out of desperation.
As a team that missed the Playoffs despite investing valuable assets, both in the form of salary cap space and future draft picks, to become a win now team, the Bulls need to make some changes. Up against the luxury tax, they have limited resources to add talent via free agency and no draft pick to build organically.
With the new CBA looming and many teams out of future draft picks to trade, evaluating the trade market will be a challenge.
With Washington’s Bradley Beal also emerging as a likely trade candidate, it will be interesting to see how his potential return sets the market for LaVine. Despite being similar players, LaVine has been as, if not more productive over the last three seasons. He has played significantly more game over that span. He’s two years younger, making less money and does not hold veto rights in any trade.
Presumably, LaVine should net significantly more than Beal, and that’s the only way trading him makes sense. Value is king. To avoid falling into the same trap they are still climbing out of following the 2017 Jimmy Butler trade, the Bulls need to secure young players with upside and multiple future draft picks. That would set them up to build through the draft and/or have the ammunition to trade for the next disgruntled star that becomes available.
But what if the three unprotected picks and a player going rate for a star last season is simply unavailable?
Given LaVine’s age and team control for four more years, the Bulls have some negotiating leverage. They don’t need to sell on LaVine now as his value may continue to climb with the salary cap.
Instead, the urgency to make a trade should be focused on DeRozan. Though I’m still in favor of a wholesale teardown, a re-tool around LaVine makes infinitely more sense than a re-tool around DeRozan.
LaVine likely nets more than the Bulls would get in return for DeRozan, but the latter is eligible for a four-year, $154 million extension. At age 33, DeRozan’s best basketball is likely behind him. Extending DeRozan to an average of $38.5 million per year should make the Bulls extremely weary.
Concurrently, the Bulls have begun negotiating with their extension eligible, unrestricted free agent to be Nikola Vucevic. That’s not to say they will get a deal done, but all indications point towards his return to Chicago.
If the Bulls end up extending both Vucevic and DeRozan while moving on from LaVine, you’d have to wonder if that strategy changes the team’s outlook. Depending on the return for LaVine, the team is worse in the immediate future while still being locked into an aging core that will become progressively less valuable over the course of their contracts.
If the idea is to chase the 8th seed, is it still possible to do without LaVine? Probably, but there’s there’s a bigger picture here that needs to factor into any deal.
And though there are no guarantees either way, value, flexibility and long term sustainability have to be the primary goals, even if that means a step back in the present.
A lot will happen between now and any potential LaVine trade. We don’t know if the Bulls will trade LaVine at all, but it is nice to hear that they are at least exploring options other than continuity.
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