Sixers Named Sleeper to Land Explosive All-Star Guard

Zach LaVine

Getty Images Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets drives against Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls.

The Philadelphia 76ers will explore all avenues this offseason to improve the roster, which could include a run at Chicago Bulls impending free agent guard Zach LaVine.

While the Lakers, Mavericks, Hawks and and Trail Blazers have been rumored destinations for LaVine — per NBC Sports’ KC Johnson — the Sixers have been mentioned as a “sleeper” to land the 27-year-old two-time All-Star by CBS Sports.

If any general manager is more obsessed with the star hunt than Pat Riley, it’s Daryl Morey. Tyrese Maxey and James Harden are in place, but Morey is the sort of executive to add a star first and ask questions later. If LaVine wants a long-term partnership with Joel Embiid, Philadelphia could create the space by trading Tobias Harris to Oklahoma City before draft night, or perhaps by dangling Maxey to Chicago in a sign-and-trade.

LaVine will be a sought-after commodity as an unrestricted free agent and he’ll have options. He’s coming off consecutive All-Star appearances and averaged 24.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists last year with the Bulls.

Zach LaVine Clear About Testing Free Agency

LaVine is set to becoming a free agent and plans to test the waters and evaluate his situation.

“You should view it as I’ve been here for the last five years,” LaVine said. “Obviously you guys have been a really, really soft spot in my heart and I have to do this as a business decision as a man. Not to just be viewed one way, and be like: ‘I’m automatically coming back,’ or ‘I’m automatically leaving,’ things like that. It’s unrestricted free agency, for my family and me I have to go into this like it’s a decision where I have to be open-eyed. And obviously I have to make my list and talk to everybody in the summertime.”

While money will certainly be on LaVine’s mind as he looks to cash in on a max-level deal, so will winning. He waited eight seasons to make the playoffs and will want to be in the position to compete for a title at his next stop.

“It’s about time,” LaVine said in April after the Bulls punched their ticket. “I’m excited. I’ve said this, everybody’s gotta play the cards they’re dealt, and it just took me a little longer than everybody else — and I didn’t cop out and go to a different team.”

Much of Sixers’ Flexibility Dependent on James Harden

The Sixers would be an intriguing option for LaVine, placing him next to MVP runner-up Joel Embiid and James Harden. However, Philadelphia will have to do some cap gymnastics to be able to offer LaVine the max and possibly do a sign and trade with Chicago.

Much of that flexibility depends on what the Sixers do with Harden, who can opt in to his hefty $47.4 million player option or negotiate a long-term deal to stay in Philadelphia. Harden suggested that he’d be open to taking less to make sure the team can stay competitive.

“I’ll be here,” Harden said after the Sixers were eliminated. “Yeah, I’ll be here. Whatever allows this team to continue to grow and get better and do the things necessary to win and compete at the highest level.”

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