There is no indication, here at the start of February, that the Bulls are actively shopping star guard Zach LaVine, who is having an NBA All-Star caliber season and playing the best basketball of his career. LaVine is averaging 26.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.2 assists, shooting 51.1% from the field and 41.6% from the 3-point line.
Across the board, those are career highs.
Still, there has been no end to the chatter around LaVine, with teams hoping that the Bulls, a disappointment at 7-11, could decide to blow up the roster as new team president Arturas Karnisovas seeks to build up the team according to his own vision. The Bulls would be selling high on LaVine, who is set to earn $19 million this year and next, a relative value for his production.
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The Bulls will need to decide by the summer of 2022 what they plan to do with LaVine. After that, it is likely that LaVine would be looking for a max-level contract and it is not clear that the Bulls would be willing to go that far with him. And according to SNY’s Ian Begley, the Knicks will be watching every step of the way. Begley reported that the LaVine situation is one, “the Knicks are continuing to monitor.”
Over the summer, Knicks and Nets were doing background work on Zach LaVine to prepare for possibility that Chicago becomes open to moving him. As trade deadline approaches, Knicks are among many teams monitoring LaVine and the Bulls: https://t.co/qvcU27byjF
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) January 29, 2021
Knicks Loaded With Draft Assets for Bulls
The Knicks, as Begley points out, are in position to give the Bulls the kind of draft capital they would be looking for in exchange for LaVine, if Karnisovas does decide to rip up the roster and start fresh.
New York has the rights to the Mavericks’ first-round pick in this year’s draft as well as its own pick. The Knicks also have a valuable second-rounder in 2021, belonging to the Pistons. As of now, the Knicks would have Nos. 9 and 20 in the first round, plus the first pick of the second round, No. 31.
Additionally, the Knicks have Dallas’ first-rounder in 2023, plus all of their own picks intact, except for this year’s second-rounder. The Knicks do own 10 second-round picks in the next six drafts.
Do Bulls Want to Trade Zach LaVine?
The question for the Bulls, if they had an interest in dumping LaVine to the Knicks, would be whether they could wring any promising young players out of New York. Second-year guard R.J. Barrett would be at the top of the list, as well as rookies Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley. Defensive center Mitchell Robinson would be of interest, too.
Some combination of those players, plus picks, would be a good starting point for a LaVine deal.
Zach LaVine DESERVES an All-Star nod.
50% FG shooting
39.7% 3FG shooting
3.4 threes a game
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 28, 2021
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, of course, is one of the main reasons that LaVine is in Chicago in the first place. After Thibodeau was exiled from the Bulls, he landed in Minnesota and coaches LaVine for one season, before he traded him to Chicago as part of the package for Jimmy Butler.
But LaVine has expressed his gratitude for the opportunity that Thibodeau gave him, and the fact that Thibs once traded LaVine does not mean he would not want him back now that he is on an All-Star level.
Of course, the bigger issue is whether the Bulls want to trade him at all. NBC Sports’ K.C. Johnson reported earlier last week that, “the Bulls aren’t looking to move LaVine.”
Not yet, at least. If that changes, there will be at least one pick-rich team willing to talk.
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