Would the Chicago Bulls facilitate a trade for Zach LaVine if the net return was Julius Randle and Evan Fournier? That is the scenario put forth by some at ESPN as rumors around LaVine’s departure have picked up steam.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst offered up the Portland Trail Blazers as a darkhorse candidate to lure the Bulls guard away and back to his home state. There was also a notice to look out for the San Antonio Spurs and head coach Gregg Popovich who helped LaVine earn an Olympic gold medal.
NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson has maintained optimism that LaVine will return. And Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus poked holes in the logic behind the Lakers as a hypothetical destination.
That did not stop Jay Williams from dropping this doozy on “Keyshawn, JWill, & Max”.
Blockbuster Three-Team Swap
This proposal is based on Windhorst’s report. It involves three teams with the Bulls engaging the Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers.
That is quite the trio of cornerstone franchises.
Williams explained his reasoning.
“The Bulls may not like this. But, in return, if they’re losing Zach LaVine, they get a guy like Julius Randle that, potentially, they could use as [a] trade asset with Vucevic for another piece if they felt like they were going to get that. And Evan Fournier which gives them a little more depth from the guard position.”
Guest Alan Hahn quickly pointed out that the NBA’s Stepien Rule prevents the Lakers from sending their first-round draft picks in consecutive years as Williams included.
He noted that those would be the biggest selling point for the Knicks.
But Hahn did agree that the deal would be the Bulls getting “something for nothing” assuming LaVine’s decision was to leave.
Not Worth the Sum of Its Parts
LaVine is a two-time All-Star and the best player in this trade. Losing him would not even be an option if the Bulls had control of the situation. But, as he heads into free agency, belief in the possibility that he leaves has grown in recent days.
He is coming off an individually down season statistically and needs knee surgery. But he also reached the playoffs for the first time with the Bulls’ revamped roster.
Randle is heading in the first year of a four-year, $117 million extension signed ahead of this past season, per Spotrac.com.
He enjoyed a stellar second season in New York, winning Most Improved Player and leading the Knicks to their first postseason appearance in eight seasons. But this past season saw Randle regress while having friction with fans as well as an assistant coach while the Knicks scuddled to a 37-45 record and an 11th-place finish in the East.
New York traded for Fournier last summer to get the Knicks over the hump. But he shot the lowest field goal percentage of his career this past season and the worst three-point percentage since 2019.
Fournier is under contract for $37 million over the next two seasons with a $19 million club option for the 2025 season.
Westbrook is coming off of his lowest-scoring season since his second year in the NBA. He has been a frequent talking point with regards to the Lakers’ struggles this season.
As Bad as It Sounds
This deal is better than some doomsday scenarios. But it is still just that. The only way the Bulls do this deal is if they truly had no choice but to try avoiding losing LaVine for nothing. The demand for Lavine’s services should answer all questions about whether the Bulls should pay him.
That is a point host Max Kellerman tried to make clear when countering Hahn and Keyshawn Johnson’s anti-Lakers argument.
“Forget about ‘can you give the keys to Zach LaVine…if people wanted Buddy Hield [on the Lakers], take Buddy Hield and make him jump out of the gym…Zach LaVine can bomb from outside and he can jump out the gym.”
Kellerman was pitching the appeal of LaVine for the Lakers. And the panel wholly agreed that this was an emergency option for the Bulls. But the bottom line is Chicago needs more players like that, not fewer.
To Kellerman’s point, the hope has to be they could land a better package than Randle and Fournier for their still ascending guard.