Ever since the Los Angeles Lakers ended their season, there’s been plenty of speculation about which roster moves they could make. Not many of the realistic options have been particularly exciting. Russell Westbrook’s $47 million contract for next season makes it very difficult to make moves.
However, the Lakers could be fortunate due to some really good timing. One of the top free agents set to hit the market is Chicago Bulls All-Star Zach LaVine. LaVar Ball recently predicted LaVine to sign with Los Angeles and he’s even said in the past that it would be a dream to play with LeBron James. That’s not to mention that he’s a Klutch Sports client. Some recent comments have made the Lakers possibility even stronger.
During a night out in Los Angeles, TMZ caught up with LaVine and asked him about the Lakers.
“I’ve always been a big fan,” LaVine said of the Lakers to TMZ.
The Bulls won’t love to hear that but the Lakers need to be keeping an eye on the situation. LaVine hasn’t averaged less than 23.7 points a game in five seasons and is only 27-years-old. He’s exactly the type of player the Lakers could use right now.
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How Lakers Can Make LaVine Deal Happen
The Lakers can’t sign LaVine outright in free agency unless he is willing to take a minimum contract, which he will not. He could likely demand a max contract from many teams around the NBA. The Lakers could be so appealing to him that he’d take a bit of a discount to play there but it wouldn’t be significant.
The team has to get off Westbrook to add LaVine feasibly. Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus recently broke down how the Lakers could realistically land the All-Star. It would have to involve the Oklahoma City Thunder bringing back Westbrook as they are the only team that has the necessary cap space to make it happen that would also consider bringing in the guard. Even with a trade package that sends Westbrook to Oklahoma City for Mike Muscala and Derrick Favors, the Lakers would still need to do a little work:
Los Angeles can’t get LaVine directly via the Thunder. In shedding Westbrook for Muscala in June, the Lakers would generate a $40.7 million trade exception, which they could use in July to acquire LaVine via a sign-and-trade.
With the working assumption that LaVine is pushing for a trade or leaving as a free agent, a $19.5 million trade exception and draft considerations are better for Chicago than losing its All-Star without compensation.
Lakers Should Seriously Explore This Option
LaVine isn’t much of a defender but he’s an electrifying offensive player who shoots 38.6% from three over his career. He’d be a much better fit with LeBron and Anthony Davis than Westbrook is. However, it will take some convincing for the Thunder to take on Westbrook’s contract. He’s an Oklahoma City legend and it would be a great storyline to have a farewell tour with the team, but he doesn’t fit into their bigger plans. The Lakers would have to make it worth the Thunder’s time by sending them their two remaining first-round picks.
While the team has been apprehensive to sell off their few remaining assets, LaVine would certainly be worth more than two first-round picks in a trade. Luckily, the Lakers have a direct line to the guard due to his Klutch Sports connection. The team gets the guarantee from him that he’ll sign with the team if they open up enough money, then they can work on getting off Westbrook and opening up cap space. It’s still a farfetched plan but it’s definitely not impossible.