It’s never easy when a team comes to grips with the idea of trading away one of its best players. The last time the Bulls faced this dilemma was in 2017 when they traded away Jimmy Butler for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the seventh overall pick, which ended up becoming Lauri Markkanen. At the time, Gar Forman and John Paxson believed Jimmy Butler was not worth the max contract, nor was he worth building a team around. It only took three years to discover they made the wrong decision when he led the Miami Heat to the NBA Finals in the 2020 NBA Bubble. Ironically, the Bulls face the same problem six years later with one of the pieces they received in that trade.
Last summer, Zach LaVine signed a five-year deal worth up to $216 million with the Chicago Bulls. As a 27 year-old ‘star’ locked into a long-term contract, LaVine is one of the most valuable assets in the NBA today. Every year there are disgruntled star players requesting trades or teams resetting their franchises with a rebuild which changes the trade market. Most recently, last summer Rudy Gobert and Dejounte Murray set a ridiculous price tag on lower-tier stars, and LaVine falls into that category. The decision to trade LaVine just got easier. Let’s examine why the Bulls should consider trading LaVine before the NBA deadline.
Trade Market Is Broken
Rudy Gobert was able to net the Jazz six first-round picks, including draft swaps. Dejounte Murray earned the Spurs four first-round picks, including draft swaps. Zach LaVine falls in that tier of lower-end stars and could quickly bring in a similar trade package as Gobert and Murray. This doesn’t mean the Bulls need to rebuild from the ground up. It means they have four to six first-round picks they can spread across the league to plug in their roster holes. Perhaps give a pick to the Jazz for Jordan Clarkson, another two picks to the Raptors for OG Anunoby, and maybe some picks to the Pacers for Buddy Hield and Myles Turner. The options are endless. The Bulls can properly restructure their team around their best player, DeMar DeRozan, instead of forcing this team to gel and hope for the best.
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LaVine Is Not ‘That’ Guy
On paper, Zach LaVine’s numbers can be put up against almost anyone else in the NBA, and he probably comes out on top of that comparison. In reality, he’s not a number-one option on a playoff team. If fans want to get real with themselves, he’s not even a number two guy on a championship-caliber team. He’s a good scoring guard but has an extremely low basketball IQ. For the Bulls to commit $216 million to LaVine, which made him the highest-paid player in franchise history, they need him to be one of the best players in his conference. Instead, he’s not even the best player on his team. His value is at an all-time high. If the Bulls aren’t buying LaVine as a number one option, it’s time to move on.