How far would the Chicago Bulls have to fall before they entertained moving on from Zach LaVine? Perhaps a better question would be how substantial of a deal would it take for them to alter their current line of thinking.
The Bulls are coming off their first back-to-back wins for the first time in six games, notching victories over the Washington Wizards and Dallas Mavericks.
But each was missing their respective superstars, Bradley Beal and Luka Doncic.
It could mean they are in store for a rude awakening in their next encounter with an opponent who is at full strength. And a return to their previous trend could force their hand on a reboot sooner than they would like. That leaves the door open for a rather fanciful hypothetical trade scenario involving a polarizing star.
Flight 8 to ATL?
“[Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arturas] Karnisovas has proved to be very deliberate in the way he handles his business,” writes the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley, “so playing the waiting game is in his wheelhouse. But if [Lonzo] Ball can’t return by the trade deadline and the Bulls continue to underachieve, deliberate can become aggressive very quickly.”
Cowley notes Karnisovas’ assertion on media day that the Bulls need to make a deeper playoff run than last year and wonders just how aggressive he would need to get to achieve that goal.
His most aggressive suggestion would see the Bulls send LaVine South.
- Zach LaVine
“Like the Bulls, the Hawks have been muddling through the first third of the regular season and have growing issues,” offers Cowley. “Would Karnisovas entertain a blockbuster deal of max contracts by sending Zach LaVine to the Hawks for Young? LaVine and Dejounte Murray share Seattle roots, and Young would give the Bulls a legitimate high-volume three-point shooter.”
Young is averaging 27.5 points and 9.5 assists per game in a “down year” that has seen him struggle from beyond the arc (28.9% 3P) as he has played off the ball more.
LaVine has started to regain his form averaging 25.8 points and hitting 43.3% of his triples over the last four games. The Bulls’ two-time All-Star has averaged as many turnovers as assists (3.3) in that span but has averaged 2.5 steals to come out on top.
Young made waves after The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported the Hawks star missed the team’s win over the Denver Nuggets following a disagreement with head coach Nate McMillan in which the latter, according to Charania, gave the former an ultimatum.
Pressed on the issue in the aftermath, Young called the situation a “private” matter adding that it was “unfortunate” it got out into the public.
Young, 24, led the NBA in total assists and total points last season.
This past offseason, the Hawks added Murray in hopes of taking some pressure off Young after he – and ultimately, they – were stymied in the postseason. The Hawks are off to a 13-13 start and on a three-game slide. They are 2-6 over their last eight games ahead of their December 11 tilt with the Bulls.
The Bulls are familiar with such disagreements after LaVine and Bulls head coach Billy Donovan had a public one after the coach benched the player in a loss to the Orlando Magic. But the situation never escalated to LaVine missing any games.
Who Says Yes?
Despite the potential rift between Young and McMillan – who took over after his predecessor, Lloyd Pierce, was fired in part due to friction with the star guard – there is not enough there yet for the Hawks to move the face of their franchise, which Young clearly is.
He is in the first year of a five-year, $215 million max contract signed last offseason and is coming off his first All-NBA campaign. Young will be without Murray and several other teammates against the Bulls. That would seem to lower their own expectations for this matchup meaning they would be less likely to react in a rash manner.
Likewise, a win would make the Bulls less likely to pursue such a drastic move on their $215 million man.
As Cowley concludes, this deal is “more fantasy than reality”.