Insider Offers Insight on Trade Value for Bulls’ Zach LaVine

Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls

Getty Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls.

News of the Chicago Bulls actively shopping Zach LaVine caused quite a stir but one insider believes they may be getting back less-than-tantalizing responses.

“I don’t know who’s trading for that contract,” said The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor on ‘The Mismatch’ podcast on June 16. “He’s making $40 million coming season. He’ll be making $49 million ‘26-’27 when he’s 31 years old.”

LaVine, 28, admittedly started the season slow after undergoing an arthroscopic procedure on his knee that prevented him from doing his usual offseason routine. But he ranked 17th in the NBA after the calendar tuned to 2023, per, averaging 26.4 points on 62.7% true shooting while knocking down 37.0% of his looks from beyond the arc.

He also averaged 4.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists (to 2.6 turnovers) in that span.

“Until training camp, I didn’t pick up a basketball,” LaVine said, per NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson in December.

“By the way, he’s also got a 15% trade kicker in the deal too,” O’Connor noted. “I just don’t know who’s going to make a move for that deal.”

The Bulls won six fewer games this past season than in 2021-22 as they dealt with inconsistency and an unconventional dynamic on the floor between LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, both of whom insist they are still good and committed to making the partnership work.

“I think everybody goes through ups and downs, just like every team does,” LaVine said of the reported friction in the locker room in December. “Obviously if we’re not winning games, not everybody’s going to be happy. It’s not going to look as good as it was before. It’s all glitter and show when you’re winning games.”

If the interest in LaVine is anything like the rumor mill, there will be plenty of suitors.

Bulls Shopped Zach LaVine at Trade Deadline

After an offseason of speculation regarding LaVine’s free agency, he re-signed on a five-year, $215 million contract without taking another visit. The Bulls were said to have taken calls on the two-time All-Star at the deadline with at least the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets.

Those constant rumors are said to have gotten under the supremely confident LaVine’s skin which could be an impetus behind trying to find him a new home.

“Several rival executives…at the combine are skeptical about the long-term marriage between Zach LaVine and the Bulls,” Johnson wrote on May 25 from the 2023 NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. “LaVine, who has been loyal to the Bulls, has grown tired of consistently landing in trade rumors.”

Johnson noted that the rumors about the Knicks were “overblown” but did not mention the Nets.

LaVine’s contract is the richest in Bulls franchise history. Any shift away from him will be a massive change in direction regardless of what happens with the rest of the pieces on the roster where there remains just as much uncertainty.

Zach LaVine’s Prime Working Against Bulls

LaVine is ready to win now but the Bulls are not, and the gap between them and a title contender like the Miami Heat could be much further than their 14-9 finish to the regular season or their close Play-In Tournament loss to the Heat may have led them to believe. That’s why LaVine may be their best path toward building up to that contender’s status.

DeRozan, 33, is heading into the final year of a three-year, $81.9 million contract. Teams aren’t typically chomping at the bit to trade for an aging star they will have to pay after one year.

Center Nikola Vucevic, 32, is an unrestricted free agent, though talks for a new deal have begun.

If the two sides strike a new deal, the only way the Bulls could trade him before next season would be to pull off a sign-and-trade. But the market for aging, offense-only big men is also not as lustrous as it would be for an uber-athletic, elite-level scorer like LaVine.

Meanwhile, DeRozan and Vucevic might be more valuable as stewards for the next generation of Bulls players than co-stars alongside LaVine.

The Bulls’ trio played together more than any other trio and had a net rating of minus-0.4.