Proposed Trade Sees Bulls Land Former $94M MVP, Top-3 Pick

Chicago Bulls

Getty RJ Barrett #9 of the New York Knicks looks on during pregame warm-ups

If the Chicago Bulls truly are uncertain about signing Zach LaVine to a max contract, an Eastern Conference rival appears poised to take him off of their hands. And, according to an executive, that team could be willing to pay a hefty sum for the two-time All-Star’s services.

The only question has been and remains what does LaVine want to do?

This entire offseason chock full of subterfuge is thanks to LaVine’s non-committal answers during his exit interview often bordered on reflective.

Could his desire to enjoy all that unrestricted free agency has to offer lead him to the East Coast and the New York Knicks specifically? That is the latest scenario in what feels like a never-ending saga with free agency still nearly one month away.

Knickerbockers Could Come Calling

The Knicks, much like the Lakers, are often linked to the biggest names in free agency and trade rumors. They have already been mentioned in connection with Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz and the New Orleans Pelicans’ Zion Williamson.

Throw LaVine’s name into the ring. But only under certain circumstances, explains the executive who spoke with Heavy’s Adam Taylor under the condition of anonymity

“It’s possible the Knicks could get in on LaVine, though he probably wants to go to the West Coast if he has a say in the matter. But the only way it happens with Chicago is the Bulls getting back R.J. Barrett. If the Knicks are willing to put him in a deal, they might have something worth talking about.”

Understanding that the Bulls likely ask for more than just the up-and-coming Barrett in exchange for the Olympic Gold Medalist, the executive builds an intriguing package that includes a familiar face.

“If you are the Bulls, you probably will take back (Evan) Fournier, Barrett, and their old friend Derrick Rose, then try to get the Knicks to include one of their upcoming picks.”

The deal in this form could be contingent on the Bulls trading another asset, such as Coby White. It would also require some added cap gymnastics thanks to base year compensation making LaVine’s outgoing salary different for the Bulls than his incoming salary would be for the Knicks.

Or Fournier could be removed from the deal entirely. He still has two more years guaranteed on his contract at $37 million total and a club option worth $19 million for the 2024-25 season, per Spotrac.

Tale of the Tape

The executive notes that if the Knicks tried to make it a swap for Julius Randle, then “forget it, that is not getting it done.” But there is a strong case for the Bulls to be interested in a package of Barrett, Rose, and the 11th-overall selection in the NBA Draft on June 23.

Barrett, the third-overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, is coming off of a career-year scoring the ball in which he averaged 20.7 points per game. But his efficiency fell from 44.1% from the floor and 40.1% from three-point range last season to 40.8% overall and 34.2% from deep this past season.

He also regressed from the free-throw line leading some to question whether or not they will offer him an extension this offseason, writes Empire Sports Media’s Alder Almo.

Keeping the 21-year-old Barrett a restricted free agent after his fourth season is a prudent move that will give him another chip on his shoulder…But it also risks alienating Barrett, especially if the Miami Heat sign Tyler Herro, the 13th overall pick of their rookie class, to a lucrative extension this summer.

Rose is coming off of a down year. He averaged 12.0 points in just 26 games; his fewest points per game and his fewest appearances since 2018. But the former first-overall choice in the 2008 NBA Draft is just a season removed from averaging 14.7 points with the Knicks.

He has also become a threat from the outside, knocking down a career-high 40.2% in his limited time this season and 36% in a Knicks uniform.

Rose is heading into the final guaranteed year of his current deal at $14.5 million for this coming season with a $15.6 million club option for the 2023-24 campaign.

Potential Shift in Bulls’ Philosophy

Taylor notes that it seems unlikely the Knicks would make a “chips all-in” move such as this. But he also notes that LaVine is the kind of player that could be right up the Knicks usual star-centric alley.

Adding a two-time All-Star who is still only 27 and averaged 24.4 points, 4.5 assists, 4.6 rebounds on 47.6% shooting from the field, and 38.9% shooting from deep, on a long-term deal is incredibly enticing for a Knicks franchise that has been starved of star-level talent in recent years.

Add in the nostalgia of a still-effective Rose and the promise of a draft pick just outside of the top-10 and this scenario becomes very intriguing.

This could be as much about the Bulls’ plans as anything, though. The Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley says that, if LaVine does leave, the Bulls will pivot to a more defensive-oriented team to match the current landscape among the NBA’s elite.

That defense wouldn’t necessarily come from Barrett.

He posted the fourth-worst defensive on-off differential on the team last season, per Cleaning the Glass. But it could come from the draft choice. The Bulls have been linked to Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell, whom they worked out on June 2, with their choice.

Adding the 11th pick would give them a shot at Memphis’ Jalen Duren or Duke’s Mark Williams, two of the top centers in this class, per

Or, both could be rerouted elsewhere for a stopper later on.

That would give the Bulls a young core of Barrett, Patrick Williams, Lonzo Ball, and White for at least another run-up to the trade deadline. That’s assuming White is not moved to accommodate this deal.

No Place Like Home

As the executive pointed out, LaVine might prefer to go to the West Coast if he were forced to pick between the two. But the draw of New York will certainly not be lost on his representatives at Rich Paul’s Klutch Sports.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on the “Hoop Collective” podcast that he senses that LaVine does not want to leave.

The Bulls can offer LaVine over $50 million more than any other team – mostly due to the fifth year they can tack onto his deal – and present as good of a chance to compete as any of his rumored destinations.

Still, if he is fine with a shorter deal in hopes of cashing in again when the CBA expires at the end of the 2024 season, all bets are off.

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