The way the NBA works, teams are always prepared for multiple eventualities, whether in the Draft, trades or free agency. What if’s dominate conversations in the GM’s offices, as well as data entries in the capologists’ laptops, video intakes on the scouting team’s servers and the numbers being crunched down in the analytics boiler room.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that the Nets have done due diligence on a number of potential candidates, from “third stars” to undrafted guys who might fit the two-way vacancy. That’s the way it is.
On Wednesday, Ian Begley writes that the Nets as well as the Knicks have been looking at Zach LaVine as a potential trade target, but that comes with a big caveat: are the Bulls willing to part with LaVine who in normal circumstances would be a franchise building block? Particularly with a new GM in charge.
Per SNY sources, both teams have done background work on LaVine to be prepared for the possibility that Chicago ends up listening to trade offers on the 25-year-old guard.
It’s fair to say that the Bulls, who have a new team president in Arturas Karsinovas, have yet to find a long-term solution on the coaching sidelines nor have they been successful in surrounding LaVine with talent in recent years. If that instability continues, would LaVine look to leave Chicago when he hits free agency? If so, the Bulls would probably be open to trading him instead of losing him for nothing.
LaVine, at 25, is a legitimate star, a two-time Dunk Contest winner. He averaged 25.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.5 steals last season for the Bulls. He hit 38 percent of his 3-point attempts and 49.7 percent of his two-point attempts. He has had injury issues, but they appear to be behind him. He played in 60 of the Bulls’ 65 games after missing more than 100 games the three previous years, mainly due to issues with his ACL.
Is he happy in Chicago? It’s hard to know now that Karnisovas is on board, but two years ago, he did agree to a Kings offer sheet, which the Bulls matched.
That contract would be an investment. He’s owed just short of $40 million over the next two seasons, with no player or team options. Like Bradley Beal, he would require a big offer that would certainly have to include a young player or players, draft picks etc., etc. The Knicks with their surfeit of picks —seven first-round picks over the next four drafts — might have a better shot if the Bulls really want to rebuild but the Nets still have all the usual suspects: Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen, Spencer Dinwiddie, etc. They will have five firsts in the next four drafts.
There are, of course, other discussions about whether LaVine would fit better with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving than LeVert or other potential third stars. More than one pundit, led by John Hollinger and Adrian Wojnarowski think LeVert could be the “third star” with Hollinger suggesting not long ago that the Nets have enough offensive firepower and instead should think about adding a first-line defender. LaVine doesn’t qualify.
So when can teams start making trades again? Team outside the “bubble” are free to do so now and as the 22 teams depart Orlando, with their seasons over, they too can begin to engage. However, the more likely scenario is that teams will wait till the Draft and free agency, which is still nearly three months away. Keep your powder dry.