Proposed 4-Team, 11-Player Trade Moves Zach LaVine to Jumpstart Bulls’ Rebuild

Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls

Getty Zach LaVine # 8 of the Chicago Bulls.

With the NBA hitting a quiet time in the calendar and several teams including the Chicago Bulls potentially having some unfinished business, it would be nice if many of them could be resolved in one fell swoop.

“We’re now a month removed from Damian Lillard‘s trade request, and he’s still a member of the Portland Trail Blazers,” wrote Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report on August 3. “The holdup to this point may be the Blazers’ hesitance to take on Tyler Herro‘s contract. … But what if we got a little wilder?”

Bulls get:

Tobias Harris
Caleb Martin
Keon Johnson
– 2029 first-round pick swap (via PHI)
– 2030 first-round pick (via PHI)

Blazers get:

James Harden
Kyle Lowry
Jaime Jaquez Jr.
Nikola Jovic
– 2028 first-round pick (via MIA)
– 2030 first-round pick (via MIA)
– 2030 second-round pick (via CHI)

Heat get:

– Damian Lillard
Jusuf Nurkic
– 2028 second-round pick (via CHI)
– 2029 second-round pick (via PHI)

76ers get:

Zach LaVine
– Tyler Herro
– 2029 second-round pick (via POR)

Harris, 31, is heading into the final year of his five-year, $180 million contract, and is coming off averaging 14.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.5 assists for the Sixers this past season. LaVine, 28, is coming off a far more productive season averaging 24.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.2 assists.

Martin, 27, is coming off a strong postseason run with the Miami Heat where he was often one of their top options on offense while providing quality defense.

He is heading into the second year of a three-year, $20 million contract but has a $7.1 million player option for the 2024-25 season so any team looking to trade for him runs the risk that he walks for nothing as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2024. His postseason production was also more productive than his regular season.

Johnson, 21, was the No. 21 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. He averaged 4.7 points, 1.5 assists, and 1.1 boards for the Blazers in 2022-23, averaging 10 minutes across his 40 appearances this past season.

He did average 13.0 points and shot 38.4% from deep in the five games he played at least 20 minutes.

The idea of flipping LaVine for Harris is not new.

However, this is a different twist on a potential move based on alleviating future financial concerns for the Bulls. The Bulls star is also just heading into Year 2 of a five-year, $215 million max contract signed just last offseason but has seen his name bandied about in trade rumors since the deadline in February.

The above package would follow the baseline of what the Bulls are said to be seeking in any trade for the two-time All-Star.

“One league source said the Bulls would be focused on getting a good young player, multiple first-round picks and salary filler if they decide to trade LaVine,” wrote NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson on June 19. “Another said one first-round pick and an established, high-end player might be sufficiently intriguing.”

Rest of Trade Leaves Bulls on Short end

This would seem like a major shift from their messaging, though the persistent trade rumors suggest otherwise. Still, optics could play a factor in the Bulls agreeing to a similar package with picks so far out into the future among other potential issues.

The Bulls arguably come out the worst of all the teams involved considering the quantity and quality of players they would be receiving.

They would also be the only team not getting back an All-Star player, and would only receive one additional first-round pick for their troubles which could leave executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas under even more fire.

“This is the hardest sell among these teams. You can only entertain it if the Bulls are willing to accept that it’s time to rebuild,” Bailey writes. “The deal doesn’t make the Bulls better in the short term, so they’d probably have to be ready to move DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vučević in separate deals, too.”

Financial relief is one thing – especially for this franchise in particular — but is that enough?

Bulls Would Need to ‘Accept’ Rebuild

There is also an argument to be made for splitting up LaVine and DeRozan with the chance for cleaner books next summer if that still doesn’t work.

However, Karnisovas’ patience has led to just one trade in the last two years – for a second-round pick at that – after a flurry of moves putting this group together. He could very well balk at the idea of appearing to come out on the short end of yet another blockbuster trade.

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