Proposed Blockbuster Trade Sees Bulls Land $120M Rising Star

Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls

Getty Head coach Tom Thibodeau of the New York Knicks greets Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls.

With each loss, anxiety mounts among the Chicago Bulls’ fan base. The team has dropped three games in a row and has gone 3-5 so far in what could be a season-defining month of December.

Increasingly at the center of those growing frustrations is Zach LaVine who, if he was not already, certainly assumed the mantle of the face of the franchise in signing a five-year, $215 million max extension this past offseason. Even if DeMar DeRozan has been the more consistent player, LaVine’s contract is the largest in history.

As it stands, the Bulls are considering the two-time All-Star “off-limits” in trade talks, per ESPN‘s Adrian Wojnarowski. But teams are continuing to monitor the deteriorating situation.

With that comes speculation and hypothetical trade scenarios including some involving LaVine.

Flight 8 to The Big Apple?

LaVine is averaging 21.8 points per game on 55.5% true shooting – both the lowest since his first season in Chicago –with 4.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists as he continues to work his way back from offseason knee surgery. He is still scoring but not in the ways we have become accustomed to seeing including averaging 3.9 free-throw attempts per game.

The last time he averaged fewer attempts at the charity stripe was in 2017. That was his final season with the Minnesota Timberwolves before being traded to the Bulls.

His lack of explosion has been a common theme throughout this campaign.

Despite that, the 27-year-old would figure to be a hot commodity on the trade market if the Bulls made him available. That much is evidenced by the hypothetical package the Bulls would get in a deal proposed by Lee Escobedo of SB Nation’s Posting and Toasting.

Bulls Get:

Knicks Get:

  • Zach LaVine

“LaVine…has the game and the attitude to make MSG his home and duel with any superstar who comes in thinking otherwise.” Escobedo told colleague Kento Kato. “In the end, it would depend on the package, but he is someone for whom I would absolutely consider giving up a fair portion of our asset capital.”

Kato recently described why he felt LaVine was not the ideal trade target for the perpetually star-starved Knicks.

His argument was more about the state of the Knicks’ roster than the electrifying star.

“LaVine just isn’t good enough for a team like the Knicks to pursue strongly,” Kato wrote of the Knicks’ interest. “Were the Knicks just one piece away, then sure, it’s a conversation worth having, but the Knicks are a couple of pieces away from being a piece away.”

One solution posed by Escobedo was to potentially include embattled big man Nikola Vucevic who is in the final year of his contract with no signs of a contract extension evident. He also suggested substituting Isaiah Hartenstein or Mitchell Robinson for one or both of the aforementioned draft picks.

Return on Investment

Escobedo’s original offer would certainly go a long way to restocking the Bulls’ diminished assets, both in young players boasting upside and draft capital. It would also give them a feel-good storyline for the remainder of this season with the return of Rose.

He saw his first action in 15 games in the waning moments of the Knicks’ blowout win over the Bulls.

Barrett, as both Escobedo and Kento note, has not gotten off to the start the Knicks hoped for.

After signing a four-year extension this summer that could reach up to $120 million, the former third-overall pick is averaging 19.2 points on 51.9% true shooting with the latter being a step up from last year despite dips in his overall scoring and efficiency from beyond the arc which has fallen for the second consecutive season.

However, Barrett is averaging 25.5 points on 57.2% true shooting with 6.5 boards, 3.5 assists, and 1.0 steals over New York’s last four outings. The 22-year-old is also shooting 47.6% on 5.3 triples per game in that span.

Quickley, 23, has also seen his scoring take a step back, again thanks in particular to worse three-point efficiency, despite averaging the most minutes of his career.

He is averaging 9.8 points on 50.7% true shooting both of which are career lows.

The draft capital makes it interesting with the Knicks in line to have their pick as well as the Dallas Mavericks first-rounder this year while still owning the rights to picks from the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards in future years thanks to previous trades. This makes them ideal trade partners for a Bulls team on the opposite end of that spectrum.

Devil in The Details.

Barrett’s recent surge may give the Knicks pause over handing him over for a clearly-not-himself LaVine and, possibly, additional assets for a quickly-aging Vucevic. And that is assuming the Bulls are ready to concede on the level that this type of deal implies. Their record may soon take the decision out of their hands.

Trading LaVine would signal that this entire experiment has been unsuccessful under vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas, general manager Marc Eversley, and head coach Billy Donovan.

Every move they made leading into this season was guided in large part by the goal of retaining LaVine in unrestricted free agency.

But this deal could also represent their best chance to save face a reboot a floundering product.

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