The Chicago Bulls could emerge as a surprise suitor for one of the NBA’s best passers.
Rumors of Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden bolting for the Houston Rockets this offseason came to a halt in recent weeks leading the 10-time All-Star to opt into the final year of his two-year, $68 million contract and work with the organization on finding a trade.
“Philadelphia does not have to move Harden to his preferred destination with the Clippers,” wrote Yahoo Sports NBA insider Jake Fischer on June 30, “Chicago would be one potential trade partner to keep in mind, as the Bulls have made Zach LaVine available in conversations this offseason…and could also send an All-Star such as DeMar DeRozan back to Philadelphia.”
Harden, 33, led the league averaging 10.7 assists per game with 21.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.2 steals this past season.
He still performs at an All-Star-caliber level when he’s healthy.
After averaging 76 games per season over the first 10 years of his career, keeping the former MVP healthy has become a bit of an issue over the last several seasons with Harden averaging 58 games per season since 2019-20.
Harden has demanded trades from the Rockets, Brooklyn Nets, and now the Sixers all in that four-year window.
“There will be many avenues the Sixers explore before finalizing a Harden trade,” Fischer noted.
Zach LaVine on The Trading Block
This is the second consecutive transaction window with LaVine’s name being floated with the Bulls rumored to have held talks with the Nets and New York Knicks – who are also said to be on the list of teams Harden would like to join – at the trade deadline in February.
The Knicks have resurfaced as a potential landing spot this offseason.
LaVine, 28, averaged 24.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.2 assists while shooting 48.5% from the floor and 37.5% from beyond the arc.
“Zach LaVine’s representatives would be against a deal to the Knicks,” wrote Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News on June 23. “A source said the LaVine camp isn’t interested in dealing with the Knicks, who have a reputation around the league of favoring clients of CAA, the agency that employed Leon Rose before his move to the Knicks front office.”
Would a chance to play with the reigning MVP be more appealing to LaVine than potentially reuniting with his former head coach Tom Thibodeau on the Knicks? And would the Bulls even take that into consideration if it came down to it?
LaVine is entering the second year of a five-year, $215 million contract.
DeRozan is viewed as “almost untouchable” thanks to his role as a mentor for the younger players, per Sam Smith of Bulls.com on June 29.
Bulls Financial Outlook Clouds Future
A LaVine trade would either be to start a rebuild or to lean even further into trying to max out what they can from the rest of this group. Keeping the two-time All-Star still seems like a more prudent option.
But the Bulls could be eyeing a reset after next season with center Nikola Vucevic locked into a reasonable contract for the next three seasons and DeRozan also extension eligible this offseason. Currently $27.5 million below the luxury tax, per Spotrac, the Bulls likely aren’t necessarily looking to shed salary if they are in fact shopping LaVine.
It also might not make the most sense to make this deal their next major move.