Trade Speculation: LaVine – Simmons

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Updated: September 16, 2021
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It is an exchange that has yet to take any traction on the major media outlets, but the swap of flamethrower Zach LaVine to Philly for the tainted asset of Ben Simmons has been floated in several Ringer Podcasts throughout the offseason. The main reason for this being is LaVine’s recent change in representation, arming his camp with the Klutch Sports and the notorious agent Rich Paul. Since Simmons’ people have not named Chicago as a desired franchise for relocation, we can assume that this is not their ideal outcome, however, it may be the backup plan in this game of chicken they are playing with GM Daryl Morey.

Before getting into the fits and logic behind the trade for both rosters, we must address the timeline. It is extremely unlikely that this exchange occurs prior to the season’s start. Although a LaVine-Embiid pairing should strike fear through the veins of the Eastern Conference, in the event Zach makes All-NBA, the Bulls can offer him such a substantially larger contract than all other 29 teams, it would be unlikely he could turn down such a bag considering he is not a top 10 player in this league. Also, Chicago has been willing to double down on the now and have sold off the majority of their draft capital to build a winning roster around their All-Star guard, that it is likely LaVine is excited to see what this team looks like. With the amount of firepower around him, it is not hard to imagine LaVine averaging 30 and collecting a dozen or so 40 pieces throughout the year. From his mentality and domineer, maybe being a two-time scoring champion, 5 year super max guy, maybe that is enough for him…a bucket paid at a premium on a perennial first-round knockout.

This trade really only becomes a possibility if he is not content with the future mapped out above. It the moment Zach realizes this team is not and never will be a true contender, because Simmons and LaVine share the channel of Klutch, organizing the exchange becomes effortless. If Chicago is made aware or operates under the assumption that LaVine will not resign in free agency, at 19 million, LaVine may become the most coveted asset of the 2022 trade deadline. He would be the only max-level player available where 28+ million doesn’t have to be sent out to receive him, allowing for draft asset-heavy deals to be sent to Chicago.

The Windy City

To begin, it should be noted, Chicago has zero desire to trade Zach LaVine. If they did, he would’ve been traded this offseason prior to all the signings and win-now moves they made to build a playoff-ready roster. However, especially with the Rich Paul variable, if this team is sub-500 for the first 12 games of the season, the loud whispers will inevitably start to circulate through the major media channels. This is an exchange that would essentially need to be forced upon them. However, if it included the draft capital of 2-3 first-round picks as laid out in the trade machine spreadsheet above, it would be a favorable exchange long-term for the Bulls.

Much has been made of the Ben Simmons + Karl Anthony Towns fit if he was sent to Minnesota, but a Vučević + Simmons frontcourt might even be a more ideal pairing considering Vučević has a more natural fit out on the perimeter where Towns shooting 3’s, although done at an efficient clip, is what defenses want from him. Chicago would be starting 1. Lonzo 2. DeRozan 3. Pat Williams 4. Simmons 5. Vučević, with Coby White, Maxey, and Caruso off the bench. A team that as currently constructed is projected to give up 160 points a game, would in this scenario have 3 high-level defenders in their starting lineup. Instead of having 1 ball dominant facilitator, they would have 3 above average passers and the ability to be vicious in transition while having the weapons to score consistently in the half-court.

Where their timeline is, especially if Simmons on his current max contract was added, if Morey was unwilling to include such a large collection of assets for LaVine, the Bulls should demand the inclusion of Tyrese Maxey and be willing to take fewer picks. Ideally, Maxey would be bred as the replacement for DeRozan at the 2-guard moving forward. However, it will be explained below why Chicago should be able to get Maxey and at least 2 first rounders.

Philly’s Last Resort

For 76ers fans who already have a strong fixation with the average asset of Tyrese Maxey (as most fans do with their sophomores), the deal above looks even more ridiculous than the one Morey tried to sell Toronto a month ago. And if this exchange for whatever reason was executed soon, it would probably not include Maxey and have a pick or two less attached. However, as it was expressed above, this trade most likely would be made only if LaVine became discontent with his Bulls’ production and in the event that Simmons decided to sit out actual regular-season games in protest of Morey not respecting his trade request. This would be Philly’s last resort and Chicago would be very aware of that fact. They also would know that over the next 5 years, they would be sending a perennial All-Star guard in Conference to pair with the most dominant 5 in basketball Joel Embiid. 

It should be understood, that if LaVine were made available, a Simmons/Maxey trade package without the picks would probably the 4th or 5th best package available for the Bulls, especially since LaVine only makes 19 million. The flexibility of trade packages teams could make are far more plastic than say in the scenario of trading for Beal or Lillard who make substantially more money. Teams can piece together assets and rookie contracts to get into the 19-million-dollar range without having to send one of their 15-25 million dollar players as they would in any scenario when trading Beal, Lillard, or other max contract players. Presumably, without Maxey in the deal, it’s a non-starter for Chicago considering the other packages that would be available on the trade market from other teams, and without additional draft capital compensation, the Bulls would have to be very high on the Simmons fit long term to not demand addition picks in the deal.

Conclusion

With all that said, I love the fit for both franchises. For the Bulls, we already mapped out their roster, and without the looming max-contract of LaVine and the additional draft picks moving forward, their timeline can be centered around Simmons and Patrick Williams and their prime, rather than the immediate now in fear of losing LaVine in free agency for nothing. Any sort of playoff success with this roster is going to be seen as a positive.

With Philly, a starting lineup of 1. LaVine 2. Danny Green 3. Thybulle 4. Tobias Harris and 5. Embiid looks extremely promising on both ends of the floor. Although they lose a bit of defensive versatility from the exit of Ben Simmons, the addition of the pure bucket getter in LaVine would allow Doc Rivers to insert Thybulle into the starting lineup. Tobias Harris would become the clear-cut 3rd option, which is far more of a reasonable expectation rather than him being the only above average wing down the stretch of games for Philly as he was last season. It is hardly an ideal situation for Philadelphia.  However, if the holdout of Simmons continues into the season, and the best offers on the table outside of this one are a Buddy Hield package from Sac or a starless bag of trinkets from Minnesota, Philly may be the ones begging Chicago to take Maxey and the Picks to get real value for Simmons.

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