It’s Time To Start Giving Zach Lavine The Respect And Appreciation He Deserves

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Updated: February 18, 2021
Zach LaVine pic 2

When you hear the name Zach LaVine what the first thing that comes to mind?

Very few people would say competitor or elite level scorer but he’s both of those things and more. LaVine deserves respect and a chance to compete. It’s as simple as that but labels are hard to shake, especially for a volume scorer who has never led or been a part of a team that’s made the playoffs. Some still see LaVine as a dunker who’s learned how to shoot the three and feel like his gaudy statistics are nothing but empty calories.

Being a good player on a bad team is rarely the fault of  the talented player. LaVine was on the cusp of coming into his own in Minnesota before Tom Thibodeau arrived and promptly swapped him for Jimmy Butler. For Minnesota, it was the right move at the time, but it didn’t last.

We’ll never know if LaVine would have continued on the same trajectory and became the running mate Karl-Anthony Towns never had in Andrew Wiggins.  Today, LaVine is clearly superior to Wiggins but it’s possible that his leap doesn’t happen if he weren’t traded to Chicago to in essence be the lead guy/number one option.

Still, his time in the Windy City has been tumultuous especially while coached by Jim Boylen. It was an oil and water mix that finally came to end in the offseason. The result is LaVine enjoying his finest statistical season averaging 28.1 ppg, 5.4 rebs and 5.3 ast on shooting splits of 52/41/86. That’s rarified air and LaVine is a three-level scorer. It’s a shame that only a handful of people seem to be taking notice.

It would behoove teams looking for a second or third star to give the Bulls a call. For the countless teams interested in Bradley Beal they should consider taking a swing at a player with a similar skillset in LaVine. Beal is playoff proven but he’s never been to the playoffs without John Wall. He’s also two years older than LaVine, two inches shorter and owed $71 million over the next two years (second-year player option).

LaVine is owed $19.5 million next season and is due for a hefty raise after that which might make teams unsure about the sustainability of his numbers leery. But no matter how you slice it, LaVine is comparable to Beal and a deeper dive reveals the Chicago guard is more efficient this season.

With this in mind let’s take a look at a few teams that could or should call the Bulls about LaVine.

Boston Celtics:

To be clear, Boston would love to get in the Beal sweepstakes first and foremost. Both Beal and Jayson Tatum hail from St. Louis and the two have worked out together for years. The Celtics just don’t have the compensation package necessary for Beal so those aspirations are pipe dreams. Acquiring LaVine would give the Celtics back much of what they lost with Gordon Hayward minus the defense. At just 25-years-old, LaVine could align to the timelines of Tatum (22) and Jaylen Brown (24). Usage and sharing of the ball would be something Brad Stevens would have to figure out.

The path to LaVine is somewhat attainable especially if the Celtics were to use their traded player exemption with heavy draft compensation going to the Bulls. Boston could also try to entice Chicago with Kemba Walker and picks and try to yield a return of LaVine and Thaddeus Young, but with Chicago committed to Coby White bringing in Walker could be problematic.

Toronto Raptors:

Like Boston, the Raptors are not at a championship level. They think they are better than they are but a shakeup is needed with an eye on the future. LaVine makes sense next to Fred VanVleet as Kyle Lowry is on an expiring deal.  LaVine could thrive in a Nick Nurse’s offense with a high-level playmaker like VanVleet or even Lowry if a move happened this season.

Toronto would have to part with some combination of Norman Powell, Chris Boucher, OG Anunoby, or perhaps Pascal Siakam to acquire LaVine. Anunoby just signed a new deal and moving Siakam would signify they made a mistake in signing him to begin with. Those two just aren’t likely to be moved. Powell can be had and while Boucher is blossoming into a two-way threat, some actual talent would need to be moved to acquire LaVine.

New York Knicks:

Talent in Gotham is always hard to come by and LaVine would solve that in a major way. It would be interesting to see how LaVine would feel about playing for the coach that traded him away in Minnesota. Thibs is notorious for simply liking guys he’s already worked with and LaVine didn’t fit that bill—it wasn’t anything personal.

New York is in a precarious situation as they are reportedly monitoring the situations of multiple stars with the aforementioned Beal being one of them. But the Knicks lack intriguing talent to trade for a star. They’d move Kevin Knox in a heartbeat but who’s willing to take a shot on him? Julius Randle despite his stellar season shouldn’t be in the long-term plans but if teams are skeptical of LaVine’s numbers there’s no way Randle’s are anchored in confidence. The Knicks fan base probably wouldn’t favor an RJ Barrett trade this quickly, but the team also has two first-rounders this year which includes an unprotected Dallas Mavericks pick. Maybe that could be enough to get a seat at the table with the Bulls.

Orlando Magic:

If there was ever a team in need of the offensive spark LaVine has it is the Magic. Orlando is 28th in offensive rating this year down from 23rd last season. They stay on the cusp of playoff relevance with their defense but injuries and a lack of talent are killing the long-term prospectus of this franchise. Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier have salaries that could easily be swapped for LaVine but Orlando would have to add sweeteners.

Perhaps Fournier (or Gordon), Mo Bamba and pick swaps would get the Bulls on the phone. The Magic also just committed $80 million to the oft-injured Jonathan Isaac. From a talent perspective, Isaac could intrigue the Bulls but there are many reasons both sides might not be fond of that idea.

Denver Nuggets:

If Denver was sniffing around James Harden and Beal then LaVine should be right up their alley. They are probably the team with the most intriguing talent that could be offered for LaVine. Gary Harris, Michael Porter Jr. and Bol Bol are good starting points for a deal. Chicago would be crazy to not try for Porter Jr., and Harris if negotiations ever opened.

The Nuggets value Porter Jr. quite a bit and want to see if he can develop into a two-way threat but adding LaVine to Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic would be immediately lethal offensively. Denver believes they are operating in a window of present and future as currently constructed but LaVine would widen the window of their current opportunity to compete for a title immediately.

Golden State Warriors:

Bob Meyers and the Warriors should be all over themselves trying to get LaVine. Stephen Curry and even a diminished Klay Thompson (next season) with LaVine would be devasting offensively. LaVine’s size, scoring and playmaking chops are perfect for the way the Dubs play. Acquiring LaVine would also take immense pressure off Thompson to return to an All-Star level immediately.

Andrew Wiggins for LaVine doesn’t work from a salary standpoint as Wiggins makes $29.5 million. The Bulls would balk at having to give up another player just to take Wiggins on unless the Warriors included Minnesota’s unprotected first-rounder this summer. That would send the Bulls into a frenzy and getting what projects as a top-five pick would be too much to pass up. The Warriors might feel that pick has higher value with other teams or elect to start their mid-build by retaining it themselves.

There could be more teams interested in LaVine than listed here and quite frankly there should be. Would-be suitors have to recognize the swingman is amongst the league’s leaders in clutch shots over the last two seasons. Despite Chicago’s paltry win total this year, he ranks fourth in clutch shooting according to stats.inpredictable.com

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