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How the Bulls situation with Zach LaVine is shaping up

The Chicago Bulls began evaluating the trade value of two-time All-Star guard Zach LaVine last offseason, according to league sources familiar with the matter, even offering LaVine to several teams seeking packages equivalent to those of the recent superstar. Back. After a 4-8 start to this 2023-24 campaign, Chicago and LaVine share a mutual interest in finding a trade for the athletic scorer, sources confirmed. The Athletic first reported the Bulls’ latest development.

To many in the NBA, Chicago’s situation appears to be the culmination of an inevitable situation. At this summer’s FIBA ​​World Cup, starting center Nikola Vučević told Yahoo Sports that the Bulls’ players — including All-Star center LaVine and DeMar DeRozan — each understood that this third full season Together represented the last opportunity for Chicago to solidify this group as a legitimate group. playoff threat in the Eastern Conference.

“We know we can do better, and we must do better,” Vučević said in August. “And we know that this is kind of our last chance as a group of guys to do something.”

And yet, the offseason additions of Torrey Craig and Jevon Carter haven’t helped elevate Chicago in the standings, still full of playoff hopes in the league’s new era of the play-in tournament. Patrick Williams, the No. 4 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, has shown no tangible signs of the breakout Bulls officials hoped for, especially since losing Lonzo Ball to a debilitating knee injury that has sidelined the connective leader since January 2022.

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 15: Zach LaVine (8) of the Chicago Bulls brings the ball up the court against the Orlando Magic during the second half at the United Center on November 15, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Zach LaVine is a talented player, but he has a big contract. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) (Sportswire Icon via Getty Images)

LaVine, according to multiple sources familiar with his thinking, doesn’t view this Bulls roster as competitive enough to make any type of contested shift in the East. From the surface, it’s evident that Chicago lacks outside shooting — ranking 22nd in the league in 3-point percentage — around a scoring trio of LaVine, Vučević and DeRozan who have an affinity for operating in the middle of range. LaVine, league sources told Yahoo Sports, is also ready to play under a different head coach in Billy Donovan, who signed an extension with the club before the start of the 2022-23 season.

LaVine wants to play for a winning franchise, although he has drawn plenty of criticism from league personnel regarding his own culpability in Chicago’s underdog nature. His defensive deficiencies have long served as a thorn for the Bulls’ coaches, particularly Vučević failing to provide elite backline protection behind the opponent’s perimeter action. The four years and approximately $180 million remaining on LaVine’s contract, including this season, are surely seen by a handful of NBA front offices as a deterrent to acquiring LaVine. Perhaps his 77 games played last season could help dispel any notion of a concerning injury history, as a torn ACL in 2017 cost him the better part of two seasons and knee soreness hampered his arrival at the All-Star in Chicago.

Many teams have still requested his availability and will call. All-Stars who combine elite long-range shooting and athleticism to change the tradition of dunk contests simply don’t grow on trees. Adding such talent in a more complementary role, rather than as the franchise centerpiece for which Chicago acquired Vučević at the 2021 NBA trade deadline, is much more intriguing to NBA front office personnel.

LaVine and his representation hold several preferred landing spots, such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers, league sources told Yahoo Sports, and each team has recorded some level of interest in the Bulls guard. LaVine is also considering joining the San Antonio Spurs, sources said, to team up with rookie sensation Victor Wembanyama and reunite with head coach Gregg Popovich, who oversaw the 2020 U.S. team that LaVine helped build. win a gold medal in Tokyo. There are several other conflict situations LaVine would like to join, sources said, one being Sacramento. The Kings signed LaVine to an offer sheet during his restricted free agency in 2018, although before the current front office regime took the reins in Northern California.

On the surface, the Lakers appear to be the most natural partner for the Bulls, as Los Angeles is mired in its own suboptimal start and has already attempted several iterations of a third scoring option behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis. LaVine played his college ball at UCLA and also shares an agent with James and Davis in Rich Paul of Klutch Sports. Los Angeles, however, will likely be limited in its approach for LaVine until Dec. 15, when the Lakers can move free agents they signed this offseason, such as D’Angelo Russell and Rui Hachimura, to help matching LaVine’s $40.1 million cap hit, to boot. to miss the first-round capital that Chicago will surely covet in return. There is a general belief among league executives that any LaVine trade, whether to Los Angeles or elsewhere, won’t happen until later in this season, as opposed to something more imminent.

If there is a deal to be made with Miami, the Bulls are reportedly interested in Heat sharpshooter Tyler Herro as the Portland Trail Blazers signal their preference to find Herro a third team in any potential deal to send Damian Lillard to South Florida. Miami is in the middle of a seven-game winning streak to move back up in the Eastern Conference.

The Sixers are now in a prime position to pursue an All-Star talent like LaVine, with three additional first-round trade assets to play with – two future picks as well as an unprotected trade, thanks to James Harden’s trade with the Clippers this month. Philadelphia also has a mid-sized salary collection to put together for a max contract player such as LaVine. But Sixers officials were surely encouraged by the team’s strong start behind Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, while also valuing new depth as part of their Harden run — notably Robert Covington and Nicolas Batum.

It always seemed more likely that the Sixers would continue to evaluate this roster in the context of Maxey’s ascension to All-Star form, and perhaps All-NBA consideration, before moving too quickly to acquire a player and eliminate valuable cap space that Philadelphia values ​​forward. next summer — which no other suitor the Sixers believe should be able to match. Front office personnel who have been around Philadelphia president Daryl Morey believe there are several players, probably a list of players, that the Sixers would strongly consider moving on now, should they become available at this stage of the young season. LaVine doesn’t appear to fit that bill, although he could be obtained closer to the February trade deadline.

Artūras Karnišovas, general manager of the Bulls was Morey’s lieutenant in Houston, before helping Tim Connelly and Calvin Booth plant the roots that became a championship team in Denver. For as long as Chicago has been out of the playoffs, its Bulls have resisted league-wide inquiries regarding trading their veterans, leaving a strong belief around the league that Chicago ownership never been in favor of taking steps towards some type of reconstruction. Various members of the league, familiar with the situation, now consider this position to have changed. The most advantageous path for the Bulls is clearly to get back as many players with upside potential and as much draft capital as possible after losing two first-round picks to acquire Vučević, plus another first-round selection and two draft picks. second round to get DeRozan in a sign and exchange.

DeRozan and the Bulls have not made significant progress in contract extension negotiations this summer, league sources told Yahoo Sports, which is likely to put the veteran scorer and six-time All-Star directly into a trade bid as the calendar moves closer to February, like Good.

If Chicago intends to begin a complete teardown and makeover, then Bulls guard and defensive stalwart Alex Caruso could possibly bring Chicago its biggest return of any player on the roster. The feeling surrounding NBA decision-makers is that Caruso’s contract — still with another season at just under $10 million for 2024-25, plus his malleability alongside most players — could generate a market that affects most of the league’s championship contenders and inexperienced playoff hopefuls. look alike. The Bulls have already requested multiple first-round picks for the 29-year-old veteran when opposing teams have asked about Caruso’s availability. If his number of suitors were to indeed match the magnitude of teams that checked with Portland about Jrue Holiday’s arrival this fall, it’s not unreasonable to expect Caruso to bring the Bulls a similar price in draft capital, as Holiday got the Blazers in 2024. and 2029 first-round pick.

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