Even with the postseason still in play, the NBA offseason is active with reporting and trade rumors, and the Chicago Bulls have found themselves in the middle of it all.
And the latest speculation surrounding Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers is no exception.
The former first overall pick is the subject of all trade rumors after he and his team fell out in Game Seven to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night.
Simmons shot 25-of-73 from the free-throw line this postseason, putting the 76ers in complexing crunch-time situations, which ultimately saw them eliminated prematurely.
Now, the obvious answer for Philadelphia seems to be cashing in on the 24-year old, who’s under contract through 2025.
One former NBA executive thinks the Chicago Bulls are the perfect trade partner.
The latest Bulls news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Bulls newsletter here!
Ben Simmons to Chicago?
In his latest piece for The Athletic, John Hollinger discussed the situation that now faces the Philadelphia 76ers, and whether or not it’s worth exploring the trade market for Ben Simmons.
Ultimately, the former Memphis Grizzlies’ executive concluded that it wouldn’t be worth the trouble (at least this summer) after thumbing through the kinds of players that a trade return might feature.
Unless it meant landing Zach LaVine:
This takes us to one final option, the one that maybe doesn’t seem like the most appetizing at first, but the one that ultimately might be Philly’s best chance of salvaging this era…Zach LaVine.
Hollinger cited the All-Star’s contract situation as a potential motivator for Chicago:
Chicago is in a tough spot with a potential extension on him, either needing to cut back on offseason moves to do a renegotiation-and-extend or let him play out his walk year and hope it can re-sign him at or near the max.
LaVine is coming off of a career seventh season, in which he averaged 27.4 points, five rebounds, and 4.9 assists.
But as was reported by A. Sherrod Blakely of Bleacher Report, he’s expected to refute any and all extension attempts this summer, with eyes on becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2022:
That’s why rival executives anticipate the Bulls will try to lock up LaVine with a contract extension (he will make $19.5 million this season and next) but know he’ll likely let his deal lapse, become an unrestricted free agent and sign what will be a more lucrative multiyear max pact.
But is that enough to drive them to trade the first of their two All-Stars?
Trading for Simmons Would Reset the Bulls’ Timeline
If Arturas Karnisovas and the Chicago Bulls truly feel that their chances of keeping Zach LaVine are slim to none, trading for a player of Ben Simmons’ stature makes a lot of sense.
The 24-year old had a rough playoffs, yes, but he’s still an All-NBA Defender and generational passing talent under contract for the next four seasons at $140-million guaranteed:
Simmons is signed for four more years and is 24 years old, so it buys the Bulls a bit more time to get everything right with what remains a pretty flawed roster. That’s probably a better idea than going all-in on this season just to keep LaVine happy and still quite possibly failing at it.
And as Hollinger notes, playing next to Nikola Vucevic is an ideal fit for Simmons:
The Bulls’ center, Nikola Vucevic, is a deadly shooter comfortable operating from the elbows, which gives Simmons plenty of room to roam closer to the rim … whether from the dunker spot, posting up guards or slashing off the dribble. The Bulls could use him as a screener and let him roll to the rim, a pathway never explored enough in Philly (it’s criminal the Sixers didn’t use him as a backup five when Embiid was off the floor), especially once Chicago brings in more shooting.
It’s true, Vucevic is an above-average shooter at his position. He knocked down 40 percent of his 6.3 nightly attempts this season, but Joel Embiid knocked down 38 percent of his three attempts.
Is that difference enough to really think things would look that different for Simmons in Chicago?
That’s just one of a myriad of questions the Bulls will have to ask themselves as they consider this, among many, many, other options this summer.