The Chicago Bulls (22-25), who have seemingly turned things around from their early-season doldrums, found a way to lose a game to the Indiana Pacers that they led by as many as 21 points falling 116-100. They have still won 11 of their last 18 games and should have their sights set on bigger things.
Getting out of the Play-In Tournament and comfortably into the playoff field as the six-seed would be a good place to start but has proven challenging.
It has been reported that we should expect a quiet trade deadline amid the Bulls’ resurgence, management’s steadfast commitment to this core, and ownership’s aversion to adding salary to an already expensive but limited group. And, if the Bulls end up going in the other direction on the basketball court, a change could be needed.
In that happens, some feel they should entertain a trading Zach LaVine.
Bulls Urged to Swap Zach LaVine for Russell Westbrook
“Let me put on my Bill Simmons hat and ask you, ‘who says no’, Zach Lowe said to guest Bobby Marks on the January 24 episode of ‘The Lowe Post’ podcast. “Zach LaVine for Russell Westbrook and both first-round picks – let’s say one is unprotected and the second one has the most limited possible protections that are allowable under NBA rules.”
2x 1st Round Picks (2027 and 2029)
“I would seriously consider it if I was Chicago,” Marks replied. And I think my intent would be, then, now what’s your direction? Now, what do you do with DeMar [DeRozan] and [Nikola Vucevic]? But, I think two unprotected [first-round picks] – between him and [Bradley] Beal, man, I don’t think it’s going to be pretty on the back end of those contracts.”
LaVine’s five-year, $215 million max deal has a $48.9 million player option in the final season.
Sending LaVine to Los Angeles – where he lives in the offseason – has been a popular notion since the summer when he dipped his toe into free agency. He ultimately re-signed with the Bulls without taking any other visits but this idea has persisted.
It is a combination of both the Bulls’ perceived ceiling, LaVine’s injury history, that exorbitant contract, as well as a sometimes rocky fit with DeRozan on the floor which has led to multiple face-to-face meetings to hash things out.
“I don’t see this roster…getting into that top four, top five,” Marks said. “I think there has to be some type of pivot here with this group.”
Westbrook has had a resurgence as a sixth man this season.
But his greatest value remains in his $47 million expiring salary that many expect to come with at least one of those picks attached in any deal. The Lakers have softened on their desire to move him in light of his improved play but the thought is they are just keeping their powder dry in the event a star-level player comes available.
Both Lowe and Marks ultimately suggest it is too soon for the Bulls to think about this – they are not – but the idea of moving on from LaVine will become more frequent in the blogosphere should they continue with their inconsistent ways.
The Full Zach LaVine Experience
LaVine had knee surgery in the offseason to address some discomfort that limited him in the latter half of last season. The procedure slowed him coming into this campaign but LaVine has regained his pre-injury form in recent weeks averaging 27.2 points on 62.7% true shooting with 5.0 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and just 2.1 turnovers over his last 17 games entering Tuesday.
The loss to the Pacers was not his best with six costly turnovers including three in the fourth quarter of a surprisingly tightly-contested game. One possible explanation for LaVine’s struggles with ball security is an injured hand.
‘You drive the ball when you can’t shoot, that’s what happens when you have a torn ligament’,” relayed Cody Westerlund of 670 The Score. “LaVine played after being listed as probable with a right hand contusion. He doesn’t have a torn ligament, the team confirmed.”
He was not listed on the injury report but his hand was visibly wrapped securely.
Bulls Plans Are Not The Public’s Plans
The most extreme reports have had the Bulls considering all their options but LaVine has been the name most consistently regarded as off-limits. That could always change if things get bad enough or he asks out. But for the time being, the “send LaVine to L.A.” coalition is going to have to keep looking for other solutions.
Beyond LaVine, DeRozan’s contract expires after the 2024 season and there have been reports he could sign another contract. Similar things have been said about Vucevic in the final year of his deal but only as he has played better of late.
The Bulls’ hands are far from tied but they have a lot of work to do to eliminate these whispers that they need a change.