Proposed Offseason Bulls Trade Swaps Zach LaVine for 1-Time All-Star

Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls

Getty Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls.

Chicago Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas is eyeing changes for his roster, making his strongest statements against the current core group he previously staunchly defended.

Back-to-back years without a postseason appearance could have Karnisovas ready for drastic measures.

Karnisovas cited his previous creativity in crafting this group, suggesting it could happen again.

The Bulls have limited means to upgrade their roster in terms of draft capital and mid-tier contracts to package together. So the Bulls might be limited to one needle-moving trade or a pair of smaller ones.

They’ve explored the latter route in recent years, signing the likes of Andre Drummond, Torrey Craig, and Jevon Carter in free agency over the last two seasons.

This hypothetical trade for New Orleans Pelicans star Brandon Ingram could be a viable option.

Bulls get:

– Brandon Ingram
Larry Nance

Pelicans get:

Zach LaVine
– Jevon Carter
– 2024 first-round pick
– 2027 first-round pick

“A growing belief leaguewide that Pelicans will aggressively explore the trade market for Brandon Ingram before next season,” The Stein Line’s Marc Stein wrote on May 12.

“Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin has all but promised that New Orleans will be active in the marketplace in the wake of a first-round sweep inflicted by the Thunder and league sources say that Ingram’s exit is increasingly viewed by various league observers as an inevitability rather than possibility.”

Ingram is going into the final year of a five-year, $158.2 million contract.

He will count $36 million against the salary cap and is eligible to sign an extension worth up to $208 million over four years this offseason. The 6-foot-8 wing averaged 20.8 points, 5.7 assists, and 5.1 rebounds last season.

His scoring was his lowest mark since 2018-19 while his rebounding hit a three-year low. He has also dealt with injuries, including this season which impacted him in the playoffs.

Still just 26 years old, Ingram could offer the Bulls the bridge star they hoped LaVine could be.

Sending Carter ($6.5 million in Year 2 of a three-year, $19.5 million pact) in the trade for Nance ($11.2 million in the final year of a two-year, $21.6 million contract) is a win for the Bulls. The former failed to make an impact in his first season with his hometown team.

Zach LaVine Looms Large Over Bulls’ Plans

This would be a costly deal. But there has been speculation the Bulls could need to attach draft capital or other players to LaVine’s contract – three years remaining on a five-year, $215.1 million pact – to move him. They have been trying for the past two seasons to move on.

LaVine made just 25 appearances this season.

That is his fewest since 2017-18 when he was recovering from a torn ACL. It was also his first season with the Bulls who acquired him in a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

LaVine was shut down for the year amid trade rumors, electing to undergo surgery to address a foot issue that had bothered him this season. He also began the 2022-23 season slowly after undergoing an arthroscopic procedure on his knee in the offseason.

He told media members he is ahead of schedule in his recovery, though.

Issues with his injury history and high salary are compounded by questions about his game being conducive to winning. LaVine averaged 19.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.9 assists last season.

The points and assists were lows since that ‘17-’18 campaign. The rebounds are a career-best for LaVine, albeit in such a small sample size. Finding a trade partner to take LaVine is expected to be a priority for the Bulls this offseason.

Arturas Karnisovas Hints at Exploring Trade Market to Upgrade Bulls’ Roster

Karnisovas touted continuity over the past two offseasons. But he spoke with conviction about this core group not being good enough.

There were no specifics in Karnisova’s assertion.

“Going into free agency, I think we’re going to be pretty aggressive the way that we showed before going into draft and free agency. And we, obviously, cannot roll with the same team again and expect different results,” Karnisovas told reporters on April 20. “Even with injuries that we suffered this year, I think we need to change things.”

The last time Karnisovas was truly active in the trade market, the Bulls came away with DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball. That same mentality also brought Nikola Vucevic at the 2020-21 trade deadline.

Karnisovas has touted that deal as a success for the Bulls. It might not deter him from making another significant investment of draft capital in a trade this offseason.