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The Challenges Of Trading Zach LaVine And Six Potential Destinations

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Zach LaVine popping up in trade rumors is a near-annual occurrence, but with the Chicago Bulls scuffling out of the gates after trying to run it back one more time, there seems to be a bit more impetus from both sides to find a deal that moves the star guard somewhere else in this round of trade rumblings

As is always the case, the issue with moving LaVine is finding a trade partner that values him close to as much as the Bulls do and is offering pieces that fit in return. The same report about LaVine being available indicated the Bulls want to bring DeMar DeRozan back next offseason, meaning whoever comes back will need to be a fit with his game. Meanwhile, LaVine is on the second year of a 5-year, $215 million deal, accounting for just under 30 percent of the projected salary cap in each season moving forward. He’s also in the midst of the worst start to a season he’s had since his first year in Chicago, averaging 21.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, and three assists per game on 40.9/30.9/87.9 shooting splits. That means the Bulls are shopping him when his active value is about as low as it’s been.

Teams will anticipate a rebound from LaVine in terms of shooting efficiency, as he has proven to be a high quality three-point shooter in his career, and there still will be plenty that believe in LaVine as a potential All-Star going forward. However, this early in the season, you’d be hard pressed to find too many teams desperate to make a major move to shake up their roster, particularly among contenders. While the Bulls have reason to want to shuffle their roster, most teams around the league are likely looking to take a more patient approach. That’s especially the case when you consider LaVine’s contract, as adding that kind of long-term money requires serious belief that his addition takes you to the next level.Even so, there are a few teams that would probably have at least some interest in LaVine right now, with the market opening up a bit more when the calendar flips to January and recently re-signed players can be moved.

All of this is to say, I really am not sure how to figure out LaVine’s market value right now, but I do think there are six teams that should at least look into the star guard and consider their options.

Orlando Magic

The Magic have a clear need in the backcourt and could use some consistent offensive firepower alongside Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero, and it’s not too terribly difficult financially for them to bring a big contract on board right now because those two are still on their rookie deals. They also have some intriguing young players that could both fill immediate needs in Chicago, while providing some future upside should the Bulls end up needing to hit the reset button completely. Any combination of two of Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac, and Gary Harris along with either Jalen Suggs or Anthony Black would make the money work. It’s a matter of if that satiates the Bulls desired return for their star guard and if Orlando would be willing to part with picks to make it happen.

Toronto Raptors

With the emergence of Scottie Barnes this season, the Raptors might have some extra motivation to finally make a deal to build a more optimal roster around Barnes, and LaVine would make more sense as an offensive partner for Barnes than what’s currently in Toronto. A Pascal Siakam for Zach LaVine trade would work straight up, but the Bulls would then have a lot of the same spacing issues the Raptors do. Plus Siakam has made it known he’s not interested in an extension if traded and would likely choose to hit free agency this summer. OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. also would work for LaVine, but we know Toronto still holds Anunoby in high regard and might push for more than just LaVine in such a deal. It feels like the pathway to Toronto landing LaVine would be in a three-team trade — maybe Atlanta jumping back into the Siakam sweepstakes? — but I’m not holding my breath when it comes to the Raptors actually pulling the trigger on a big move.

New Orleans Pelicans

Things don’t seem great in New Orleans and they certainly look like a team that could use some added juice on offense. Maybe they just want to wait to see what they look like when fully healthy and have Trey Murphy III back, but they also might be coming to terms with the idea Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson aren’t the ideal pairing long-term. If that’s the case, they could potentially flip Ingram for LaVine and try to bring some more floor balance, if they are willing to buy in to Zion being the guy they want to build around. On the Bulls side, similar to the issue with a Siakam-LaVine swap, Ingram isn’t exactly a cozy fit next to DeRozan as they like to operate in the same areas. That, again, might bring in a third-team, but there would certainly be interest in Ingram to make that happen if he were to become available.

Utah Jazz

If we are talking about a reset for Chicago, they might want to go check in with the Utah Jazz. This would almost assuredly have to be a post-January deal, as including Jordan Clarkson’s deal is about the only pathway to making it work financially. That said, the Jazz have a ton of picks and could toss a couple firsts the Bulls way to bring LaVine in to provide some much-needed backcourt scoring and reunite Lauri Markkanen with his old teammate. Clarkson/Talen Horton-Tucker/Ochai Agbaji works financially and takes at least a little money off of Chicago’s long-term books while sending them a couple firsts to restock their draft cupboard.

Cleveland Cavaliers

This one is a bit wild and you don’t often see in-division star trades, but I think they should at least talk it out. If the Cavs really think Donovan Mitchell bolts after next year in free agency, LaVine would be a pretty good replacement in the Darius Garland co-star role, as I think he’s best working as a secondary ball-handler, and would provide a bit more stability with an extra year on his deal and probably would be more willing to work out an extension if things go well. For the Bulls, Mitchell would be a bit better on the ball than LaVine and would give them some immediate upside to try and make a playoff push this year. That would give you a pretty decent idea of whether this group can be anything more than it is now, and if not, you could look to move him next deadline or facilitate a sign-and-trade to get something in return in two summers.

Miami Heat

The Heat just kind of always get tossed into these conversations, and for good reason — the team is constantly looking for ways to add star players into its rotation, and as we saw during the Damian Lillard sweepstakes earlier this summer, Miami believes it has a hole in its backcourt that can be filled by a guard who can score in bunches. Now, it’s worth mentioning that Tyler Herro did a nice job earlier this season before going down with an ankle injury, and seeing as how he’s both younger and cheaper than LaVine, it’s worth wondering if the Heat would be better off just moving forward with Herro in the role that LaVine would essentially fill if he came to Miami, particularly because it stands to reason that Herro would be the centerpiece of a deal. But what if they could incentivize it a little further with a young player or draft compensation, and as a result, they were able to bring Alex Caruso to South Beach, too? The Heat love to try and make these sorts of big swings, so they’re very much worth mentioning here.