Playoff Team Floated as Suprising Potential Suitor for Bulls Star

Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls

Getty DeMar DeRozan #11 and Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls speak

Do the Chicago Bulls need to be concerned about the Philadelphia 76ers as a potential suitor for Zach LaVine? The two-time All-Star is slated to be the top unrestricted free agent when the market officially opens on July 1 and he has vowed to be “open-eyed“.

This is true despite the Olympic gold-medalist needing arthroscopic knee surgery this offseason, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

There has been no shortage of teams linked to his possible exit from Chicago ranging from San Antonio to Los Angeles to Portland. Each of them has connections to LaVine but financial hurdles to getting a deal done.

That is what makes ESPN’s Bobby Marks mentioning LaVine in connection with the Philadelphia 76ers stand out.

LaVine to the City of Brotherly Love?

Marks was a guest on the “Lowe Post Podcast” with Zach Lowe alongside Howard Beck of Sports Illustrated when LaVine’s name came up. The Bulls’ guard was not the topic of discussion, though.

Marks mentioned LaVine while discussing what impact James Harden opting into the final year of his deal this offseason will have on the 76ers.

Harden’s option is worth over $47 million, per Sportrac.

“It’s a lose for Philadephia…if they think there’s another big whale out there they can try and go get…Whether it be a Bradley Beal or Zach LaVine. But you need Harden to take a significant salary drop…if you think that there’s a Tobias Harris taker out there.”

We have seen Beal connected to Philadelphia in rumors before. But LaVine’s name is new in this context and there do not appear to be many connections between him and the city or organization.

The Bulls did hire general manager Marc Eversley away from Philly two offseasons ago and Billy Donovan was a finalist for 76ers’ head coach before Doc Rivers accepted the position ahead of the 2021 season.

Harris in the City of Big Shoulders?

Harris still has two years and over $76 million remaining on his contract. He averaged 17.6 points on 56.6% true shooting during the regular season. Those are down numbers for Harris but he did earn recognition for his improved defense during the first round versus the Toronto Raptors.

He was traded from the Los Angeles Clippers in 2019 – the fifth trade of his career. Harris was once again a topic with a video emerging of Jimmy Butler asking rhetorically, “Tobias Harris over me?” on his way to the locker room after eliminating his former team.

A sign-and-trade with the Bulls is the only way to get LaVine to Philadelphia and Harris would make a logical candidate if a third team is not brought in to facilitate the move.

NBC Sports Chicago listed Harris as a potential target for the Bulls in free agency in 2018 before he was sent to Philadelphia. The Bulls pivoted to trading for Otto Porter instead.

If this deal went through, the Bulls would likely be looking at a starting five of Harris, Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Williams, and Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic is a former 76ers’ draft pick and is entering the final year of his contract.

Another Doomsday Scenario

It appears that virtually every team has some level of interest in LaVine. But only a few have connections strong enough to possibly lure him away from Chicago. Even fewer have the resources available or a path to get there.

None of them can beat the Bulls who can offer $56 million more than anyone else.

A sign-and-trade that includes Coby White going to Philly in exchange for Harris does work even if Harden opts in, per Spotrac’s roster manager. But the Bulls would almost certainly ask for more (including draft compensation) and adding Tyrese Maxey also works.

Still, this is mostly just another reminder of how close any of the other 29 teams can come to putting together an enticing offer for LaVine between finances, opportunities to compete, and sentimentality.

This is also a reminder of how valued a player of LaVine’s stature is around the league. Marks’ comments on LaVine come around the 7:55-mark.

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