Ever since Jake Fischer of Yahoo! Sports first reported on June 15 that the Bulls were gauging interest in the potential market for LaVine, it seems as though every analyst has shared an opinion about what Chicago should do. LaVine is Chicago’s best offensive player, but he’s also the highest-paid member of the squad.
The Ringer’s Michael Pina thinks the Bulls could trade LaVine and still stay competitive next season by swapping him for Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris.
“Whether James Harden comes back or not, Tobias Harris for Zach LaVine is my favorite random, hypothetical, one-for-one trade that needs to be put into the universe but probably won’t happen,” Pina wrote on June 27, adding: “If Harden goes to Houston, LaVine is nice insurance.”
Bulls Have Loads of Money Tied Up in 3 Players
LaVine has four years remaining on the five-year, $215 max extension he signed in 2022, with a player option on the final year of the deal. He’s due $40 million next season, $43 million in 2024-25 and $46 million the year after that.
LaVine’s contract is huge, but an arguably more concerning problem for the Bulls salary cap-wise is the contract of point guard Lonzo Ball, who isn’t expected to play next year due to injury. Ball has a cap hit over $20 million in 2023-24 and veteran forward DeMar DeRozan, who turns 34 in August, is also due $28.6 million next season.
Pina thinks a LaVine-for-Harris swap would help the Bulls clear significant cap space going into next season, after which they can unload DeRozan’s contract, as well.
“Even though it’s likely to avoid the tax next year, Chicago does the trade to get off LaVine’s salary without taking a significant hit in short-term production and then has the option to essentially start all over next summer and rebuild through free agency, with DeMar DeRozan about to become an unrestricted free agent,” Pina noted. “The Bulls don’t operate this way because they’re stubborn and depressing, but if Philly is willing to throw in any kind of draft capital, they should probably do it.”
That’s the thing: The Bulls should not move LaVine without getting significant draft capital in exchange, or, at the very least, a star who’s at least comparable to him on the court.
Bulls Would Need More Than Harris in Trade for LaVine
Harris, 31, is an obvious downgrade from the 28-year-old LaVine, but he’s still a solid overall player. Last year, Harris scored 14.7 points a game, also hauling in 5.7 rebounds and handing out 2.5 assists while shooting 38.9% from 3-point range. Harris has played for five different teams over his 12-year career and has been in Philly for the past five seasons.
He’s not as talented nor is he anywhere near the scorer LaVine is, but Harris has been both durable and reliable in recent years. He has started at least 62 games in each of the past four seasons and has been an underrated member of the Sixers’ starting lineup.
While the veteran 76ers forward is a solid two-way player, LaVine is a two-time All-Star entering the prime of his career. Unloading his salary alone in exchange for a savvy vet like Harris wouldn’t help the Bulls enough. Draft capital would help, though, so if picks were involved, this is a swap worth considering for Chicago.