Bulls Pitch Trades Alex Caruso, Zach LaVine for $73 Million Veteran, Top-5 Pick

Alex Caruso, Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls

Getty Alex Caruso #6 and Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls and Zach LaVine have been on the path to a split via trade for the last two seasons.

Rumors of their efforts to gauge interest in his trade value began to surface at the 2022-23 trade deadline. NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson suggested they could be nearing the point of coming down from what was once a lofty asking price.

Doing so could help reignite talks with the Detroit Pistons.

“I actually do think it’s possible the Bulls could trade up with the most frequent speculation involving the Detroit Pistons at No. 5 because they need a scoring finisher, which Zach LaVine can be, as well as a veteran because they have too many young players. The Bulls, with all the rumors and speculation regarding LaVine, probably are getting close to accepting they won’t get much and probably would love to drop him into a team’s cap space so they don’t have to take back big salaries,” NBA.com’s Sam Smith wrote on June 14.

“It’s probably not likely with the Pistons since Detroit just changed management. But say for fantasy sake the Bulls could trade LaVine and Alex Caruso (yes, they may have to add a sweetener) for No. 5 and Evan Fournier. Maybe throw in No. 11 instead of Caruso.”

Bulls get:

– 2024 first-round pick (No. 5 overall)
– Evan Fournier

Pistons get:

– Zach LaVine
– Alex Caruso or 2024 first-round pick (No. 11)

Smith was making a case for the Bulls to target UConn center and two-time national champion Donovan Clingan with the No. 5 pick in response to a fan’s dismissal of the center.

The Bulls could need Clingan to slide in that scenario with Clingan in play for the No. 1 pick.

Clingan stands 7-foot-3 and has a 7-foot-7 wingspan while weighing 282 pounds. There is optimism about his ability to spread the floor at the next level. That is largely a projection. He shot 22.2% (1-for-9) from beyond the arc and 55.8% at the free throw line in college.

“It’s hard to see a scenario in which Clingan — the No. 3 player on ESPN’s Big Board — falls to No. 7,” ESPN draft insider Jonathan Givony wrote about Clingan in May.  “There’s chatter around the league that teams such as PortlandMemphis and Chicago might look to move up to draft Clingan earlier

“Clingan brings size, length, defensive prowess, nonstop intensity and passing ability along with a back-to-back national championship pedigree.”

Smith believes they could still land a player G League Ignite star Matas Buzelis at No. 11.

Other names to watch at No. 11 include Providence guard Devin Carter – whom the Bulls have been linked to in rumors of pre-draft promises, per The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor – Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht, and Cholet (France) forward Tidjane Salaun.

Bulls & Pistons Held Trade Talks at Deadline

Smith pointed to Detroit changing front office regimes this offseason as a potential stalling point. But this deal would be “intriguing” to him. Their previous search included Bulls general manager Marc Eversley, so there is a connection.

The two teams also held trade talks about LaVine before the deadline in February.

They also have a link to Fournier in former Orlando Magic teammate Nikola Vucevic. Fournier was an afterthought with the Pistons and New York Knicks.

He has shot 27.9% from deep over the last two seasons, appearing in 27 and 32 games which were the lowest two marks of his career. But Fournier shot 38.9% on 7.7 attempts across 80 appearances in 2021-22. He is entering the final year of a four-year, $73 million contract.

Johnson previously explored the idea the Bulls could have to attach Caruso to move LaVine.

The Bulls have turned down trade offers for Caruso and want to extend the two-time All-Defensive Team selection, per the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley in February.

He is entering the final year of a four-year, $36.9 million contract.

That could eliminate a potential deal again as both teams want to compete next season. LaVine elected to have season-ending foot surgery, essentially ending the talks at the deadline.

With LaVine set to enter the third year of a five-year, $215.1 million pact, this deal would shave more than $33.9 million from the Bulls’ bottom line in 2024-25. It would also remove the final two years of LaVine’s contract and his $48.9 million player option in 2026-27.

The Pistons would have to pick up Fournier’s $19 million player option to make the deal work.

Zach LaVine Tried to Avoid Foot Surgery

There was speculation he opted for the surgery to shut down those talks and avoid going to Detroit. The Pistons finished with the worst record in the NBA for the second straight season. But LaVine said he wanted to avoid the procedure.

“It sucked man. I was pretty much trying to figure out every way not to. You never want to have surgery. But I got to a conclusion, especially with what the doctor was telling me, that the pain level and this thing isn’t going to heal on its own,” the two-time All-Star said, per Johnson in March. “It’s a bone that was floating around. It’s known as a non-union Jones fracture, which I was dealing with for awhile. And once the doctor—I’m glad I was able to find him—told me you need to get this done sooner than later, it was good to know.”

All of that could translate into good news for the Bulls. LaVine has showcased his health in offseason workout videos.

That said, the Bulls and LaVine are ready to end this union.

“I don’t think the Bulls will take an awful deal if little materializes, but I do get the sense they’re open to more possibilities than before,” Johnson wrote in May. “More to the point: I’ve reported before what their asking price was—All-Star level talent, first-round picks or both—and my sense is that it has dropped significantly.

“As I’ve said from the beginning regarding this situation: This is like a relationship that has run its course. … Both sides have remained very professional to this point, and I expect that to continue. But the desire from both sides to make a change has grown.”