Proposed Trade Swaps Bulls’ Zach LaVine for Oft-Injured Clippers Star

Chicago Bulls

Getty Kawhi Leonard #2 and Paul George #13 of the LA Clippers.

The speculation around Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine has reached a fever pitch.

“Zach LaVine for Kawhi Leonard,” proposed The Ringer’s Bill Simmons on ‘The Bill Simmons Podcast’ on June 15. “I have them right next to each other in trade value. Kawhi to Chicago? [He] doesn’t like cold weather.”

Bulls get:

– Kawhi Leonard

Clippers get:

– Zach LaVine

“I think the [Los Angeles] Clippers are good,” Simmons said. “I think they’re f****** done with the Kawhi roller coaster and just not knowing stuff and being in the dark.”

Leonard, 31 averaged 23.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 3.9 assists this past season while shooting 51.2% from the floor, 41.6% from beyond the arc, and 87.1% from the free throw line – a line which has only been replicated five other times in NBA history, per Stathead. A noted defensive ace, Leonard also averaged 1.4 steals per game.

He averaged 31 points on nearly 52% shooting from the floor over his final six games.

One of the best players in the league when he’s healthy, is one of the rare players whose playoff scoring stats are higher than his numbers in the regular season where he has become the poster child for load management.

Kawhi Leonard’s Injury History Has Hindered Clippers

Leonard has made no more than 57 appearances in any season since 2018-19 when he led the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA title in franchise history. That includes just 52 appearances this past regular season and a torn meniscus suffered in the Clippers’ first-round series against the Phoenix Suns that caused him to miss their final three games of the series.

Los Angeles is set to foot the second-largest luxury tax bill in the league, per Spotrac, right behind the Golden State Warriors, with over $174 million due in additional payments on top of the second-highest payroll in the league.

The difference between the two rosters is an obvious and critical one: Golden State was able to justify such an exorbitant bill because that lofty spending has yielded four titles.

L.A. has made the Western Conference Finals once in Leonard’s tenure and missed the postseason entirely in 2021-22 when he missed the entire season with a torn ACL. And, as Simmons’ co-host Joe House noted, he also pushed for them to trade Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a handful of draft picks to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Paul George in 2019-20.

George, 33, has made no more than the 56 appearances he did this past season since arriving.

Los Angeles is 110-51 when Leonard plays (33-19 in 2023-23), per Statmuse. That is a .683 winning percentage, and it could be the biggest driving factor if the Bulls truly wanted to overlook such an extended track record of availability.

He is heading into the third year of a four-year, $176.2 million contract and has a $48.8 million player option for the 2024-25 campaign.

As of last season, Clippers owner Steve Ballmer was America’s richest sports owner, per Axios.

Paying Leonard, an L.A. native, might not be as much of an issue as the new CBA‘s looming punitive measures against those teams who do spend.

Zach LaVine’s Injury History Overblown

LaVine, 28, missed four of the Bulls’ first 11 contests this past season following an arthroscopic procedure during the offseason. He missed just one more contest the rest of the way – the Bulls’ penultimate game of the regular season, a win over the Dallas Mavericks on April 7.

He was solid after that – 25.3 points, 37% 3P – but struggled in his final two regular-season appearances and in the Bulls’ Play-In Tournament loss to the Miami Heat. LaVine has made no fewer than 58 appearances since that injury-shorted 2017-18 season including setting a new high for his Bulls career with 77 appearances in 2022-23 and is three years younger than Leonard.

The issue for Simmons and House was Lavine’s record with the Bulls.


LaVine — who lives in L.A. in the offseason — is 146-203 (.418) in six seasons with the Bulls and has only played in four playoff games in his nine-year career. He was injured to begin his career in Chicago, missing the first 42 games of the 2017-18 season.

They are still just 137-188 (.421) with him since his first fully healthy season with some rebuilding teams along the way. The Bulls are 101-101 (.500) with LaVine – who signed a five-year, $215 million contract last offseason – since 2020-21. That has not stopped the Bulls from gauging his trade value which they also did at the trade deadline.

Are the Bulls willing to trade the few additional years of LaVine and risk another star with knee issues for the chance at a higher ceiling now and, perhaps, a salary cap reset after 2024-25?