Bulls Urged to Swing ‘Start Over’ Trade for $177 Million Former Steals Leader

DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls

Getty DeMar DeRozan #11 and Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls have tried fruitlessly to trade Zach LaVine over the past two years.

How desperate is Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas to make that happen after vowing to change the roster this offseason?

“The Nets gave control of their first-round picks to the Houston Rockets through 2027 in the James Harden trade, which means bottoming out won’t pay off for them like it would for other teams,” Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes wrote on May 17. “That makes Brooklyn a reasonable landing spot for LaVine.”

Hughes suggests the Bulls ‘start over’ and trade LaVine to Brooklyn for Ben Simmons.

Bulls get:

– Ben Simmons
– 2027 first-round pick (top-8 protected via PHI)
– 2027 first-round pick (lottery protected via PHX)

Nets get:

– Zach LaVine

Simmons is a three-time All-Star, two-time All-Defense Team selection, All-NBA pick, Rookie of the Year (2017-18), and steals champion. He is entering the final year of a five-year, $177.2 million contract.

“Chicago can onboard his expiring $40.3 million contract with a couple of protected picks attached and bask in its newfound optionality,” Hughes wrote.

Simmons has not been the same player over the last three seasons.

Ben Simmons Is a Different Player Now

Simmons missed the 2021-22 campaign entirely with a back injury and holdout while with the Philadelphia 76ers. He has appeared in just 57 games for the Nets over the last two years, including just 15 games this season as his back issues popped back up.

Even when he’s been on the floor, he hasn’t made much of an impact. Simmons has averaged 6.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 1.2 steals in his Nets tenure.

Brooklyn was more efficient without him than with him this past season, per Cleaning The Glass.

However, Simmons did provide a positive impact when on the floor in 2022-23. That period came alongside the dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, which presents another hurdle to such a deal.

The Bulls don’t have a Durant or an Irving, and this trade suggests moving the Bulls’ second most dynamic offensive threat in LaVine.

DeRozan would still be on hand with both sides interested in his return.

So that’s not a non-starter for the Bulls in this hypothetical trade scenario. There is also a familiarity with Bulls general manager Marc Eversley. Eversley was in the 76ers front office when Simmons was drafted.

But Hughes’ suggestion entails much more than just moving the two-time All-Star, LaVine

Bulls Could Be Looking to Trade, Not Rebuild

“This assumes the Bulls will also deal away Nikola Vučević, Alex Caruso and anything else that isn’t bolted down or named Coby White,” Hughes wrote.

A healthy Simmons could be a boon for White, who wore down as this season went on.

But he hasn’t been healthy. And Karnisovas does not want to rebuild. He could be eyeing another round of trades this offseason, much in the way that he did when putting this group together at the 2020-21 trade deadline (Vucevic) and in the 2021 offseason (DeRozan and Lonzo  Ball).

LaVine has a lengthy injury history of his own. He is also under contract for another three years and $137.9 million. But the Bulls have resisted the urge to salary dump him in a trade long enough to decline again.

This would be for an even more injury-prone player in Simmons.

That pre-existing relationship between Eversley and Simmons could also mean the Bulls would have tried to trade for Simmons if they wanted.

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