The Lakers would be crazy not to trade for Zach LaVine

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The word from ESPN insiders is that there is no chance Zach LaVine will be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. There have been issues with him and the Chicago Bulls dating back to early last season. Last week on NBA Today, Brian Windhorst said that if the Bulls could trade LaVine in a moment’s notice they would, and the explosive guard would be more than willing to go. On The Ringer NBA Show, Wosny Lambre has been saying for weeks that the Bulls have had it with LaVine. However, Windhorst said on the Monday episode of the Hoop Collective podcast that he believes there is a “zero percent chance” that the Lakers go after him.

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The sentiment was echoed by Dave McMenamin prior to the Lakers’ 127-110 victory at home against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday. During a Sportscenter hit, he said he was told that a Lakers trade for LaVine is “not happening.” He also said that what the team is in the market for is just a bit of help at point guard. Players such as Tyus Jones and Colin Sexton could potentially fit that mold.

Jones would be a good fit for the Lakers. Trading for him would be the approach that general manager Rob Pelinka has taken to team building since the 2023 trade deadline. Pelinka has been making sensible moves. The trade that brought in Rui Hachimura may have saved their season. He shot well from the field and his length helped make the Lakers defense a terror that the Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors were unable to overcome during the playoffs.

Hachimura was re-signed to a reasonable three-year, $51 million deal. However, he has missed 12 of 42 games this season, and even when in the lineup, his offense is not enough to cover the Lakers’ deficiencies on that side of the ball. D’Angelo Russell was also acquired at last year’s deadline and is supposed to be the team’s No. 2 offensive option with the ball in his hands.

He averaged 17.8 points per game on 46.9 shooting from the field and 39.6 percent from three during the 2022-23 regular season. However, he was on the bench for a lot of the crunch-time minutes during the 2023 playoffs. Against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, he played only 23.1 minutes per game. Also, during the playoffs those shooting percentages fell to 42.6 and 31, respectively.

With Russell on an expiring contract, the Lakers do have some talent to offer. I would not get rid of Hachimura, but to get LaVine, I would absolutely include Austin Reaves in a package. The third-year player has improved greatly since being drafted in the second round, but he is simply not strong enough of a threat with the ball in his hands to be the No. 2, on-ball option for the Lakers. Plus, his jump shot is decent, although not great, and his defense has fallen off this season.

The Lakers should not gut the team to add LaVine’s $40-plus million per year salary. But if they did, it would work out better than what happened when they did it to bring in Russell Westbrook. LaVine is a threat to score from anywhere on the floor. Defenses will have to check him at the top of the key, which will take pressure off of LeBron James and give Anthony Davis better looks in crunch time. That Westbrook trade made a competitive team bad, but this time around the Lakers have more to offer that would not hurt them to lose.

Russell’s expiring contract, Reaves’ reasonable four-year, $53 million extension, Gabe Vincent and a second-round pick or two would be a good haul for the Bulls. They would be able to clear some cap space and start over with Reaves and Coby White. That duo could certainly keep fans showing up to the United Center.

The only tough pill for the Lakers to swallow would be the $43 million that LaVine is owed for the 2024-25 season. New national TV rights will likely have been negotiated by then, but those will not go into effect until 2025-26. The last two years of LaVine’s contract will be much easier to deal with afterward, but some cap magic will have to be worked next season.

Maybe the Bulls can get a better offer, and maybe the Lakers would improve with Tyus Jones. I just don’t see why the Lakers should completely write off adding LaVine. He gives them exactly what they need and he is not getting along with his current team.

With LaVine on the floor, they could play Jarred Vanderbilt more minutes and improve on both defense and offense. The top of the Western Conference is young, and with LaVine alongside James and Davis, the Lakers would be a threat to beat all of them in the playoffs. There is no reason for the Bulls and Lakers to not be at least talking about a potential deal.

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