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July 07, 2023

NBA trade rumors: Sixers had ‘preliminary conversations’ with Bulls on Zach LaVine

The latest NBA trade rumors link the Sixers with Bulls All-Star Zach LaVine.

Damian Lillard and James Harden have been the primary subjects of trade speculation so far this offseason, headlining the group of players who could move between now and training camp. Lurking underneath that tier is Chicago’s Zach LaVine, a talented if flawed player who does not necessarily sound tied down in the Windy City.

According to the latest from K.C. Johnson over at NBC Sports Chicago, the Bulls have been involved in some discussions with the Sixers and Blazers as they work on deals for their disgruntled stars:

The LaVine trade chatter isn’t going away. In fact, league sources said that LaVine has landed in preliminary conversations with both the Philadelphia 76ers and Portland Trail Blazers, who are working with James Harden and Damian Lillard, respectively, to find them new homes. 

While neither of those conversations gained traction for now, the fact that LaVine continues to be discussed only underscores the speculation that multiple rival executives voiced to NBC Sports Chicago during the NBA Draft Combine in May: Will LaVine finish his five-year maximum contract with the Bulls?

LaVine’s availability is something we touched on a bit prior to the draft, when the Bulls were known to have shopped (or at least discussed) most of their roster as they contemplated a larger team shift this summer. There have been numerous complications for the Bulls over the past couple of seasons, most notably with Lonzo Ball’s troublesome knee, as it looks like he will miss yet another season this year due to complications from that injury. [NBC Sports Chicago]

Stuck in NBA no man’s land, it would seem like the LaVine smoke exists because the Bulls recognize trading him could be one of their only paths to aggressively retooling and reshaping the roster. PhillyVoice was told pre-draft that the Bulls were setting a reasonably high price for their star guard, hoping to acquire a young player with upside and multiple picks, sources said.

Whether that valuation is based in reality is hard to know. On the one hand, LaVine is an ultra-athletic scorer with microwave ability, a player who can crush in the pick-and-roll and flip a game on its head rather quickly. On the other hand, he’s on a fairly expensive deal for a player who has not proven the ability to lead a team past purgatory, and frustrations have bubbled up about his approach on several fronts, with his focus as a defender and leader often in question.

In some ways, that higher risk, high reward proposition is interesting for the Sixers to think about. In the event that they trade James Harden, the current reporting/speculation suggests that the available packages on offer would be built around several contributors and picks rather than one big star in return. Their path to acquiring a star like Lillard would seem to rest on something close to a full boat offer, flipping anything they might get in return for Harden along with (potentially) Tyrese Maxey, a player they’ve said they aren’t trading. By comparison, LaVine is potentially a middle of the road choice — a player with star equity who could be better suited as an Embiid sidekick, but who you might be able to acquire for a “reasonable” price without completely gutting your team.

But you should probably hold that thought — according to sources familiar with the situation, the Sixers and Bulls (as Johnson alludes to in his story) only really had check-in convos prior to the draft, with nothing evolving beyond that point. While this could change , the two teams have not been engaged in active dialogue, so any kind of multi-team deal involving LaVine and/or Harden would need some major work done to get close to completion.

Las Vegas Summer League does tend to be a catalyst for dealmaking, whether they’re trades or free agency pacts, with most of the league’s executives descending upon Sin City for the next week or so. If there was a time for LaVine chatter to pick up, it’s right now, and Daryl Morey will undoubtedly be canvassing the league for opportunities to upgrade the team prior to training camp opening in late September.

What this rumor should do is serve as a reminder that until the James Harden situation is resolved, the Sixers are going to be attached to damn near every trade rumor in the league. Buckle up.

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