The Philadelphia 76ers, after trading James Harden, are perfectly positioned to potentially make another big move to improve the roster. The Chicago Bulls are staring down the barrel of a possible rebuild. Just a few weeks into the season, there are already rumblings surrounding one of their star players.
Shams Charania of The Athletic on Tuesday reported teams are “probing the availability” of Bulls guard Zach LaVine and “there’s been increased openness from the organization and player about exploring a trade.” The report also states the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and Sixers are expected to have some interest in LaVine.
While Charania’s report indicates the Sixers are interested in LaVine, there are multiple other reporters who say otherwise. Keith Pompey of The Inquirer reported the team “likely will wait until later in the season to explore trade opportunities” and they “believe a patient approach also aligns with the fact that they’re expected to have more salary-cap space than any contender this offseason.” Pompey also reported the team “may still investigate LaVine’s potential availability, but it is unclear if LaVine or any of the Bulls’ high-salary players are a good fit.” Kyle Neubeck of PHLY Sports echoed the same sentiment, reporting the team will “do due diligence on LaVine” but he likely does not “align with their overarching plan.”
LaVine is an intriguing potential trade candidate for the Sixers. A clear case can be made for how he can help improve the Sixers. Since the start of the 2018-19 season, LaVine is averaging 25 points while shooting 47.5% from the field. He is one of the top scorers in the league, capable of scoring at all three levels. Pairing him with Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey would result in one of the best offensive trios in the league.
However, there are also some key limitations to LaVine’s overall game. He is not a good playmaker, averaging 3.9 assists to 2.6 turnovers per game for his career. The 28-year old is also a below average defender, something that lowers his chances of being traded to the Sixers. President of basketball operations Daryl Morey recently went on “The Rights To Ricky Sanchez” podcast. Among the multiple topics discussed was the archetype of player the Sixers are looking to add to the roster.
“We won’t get our dream guy almost for sure. We’ll probably have to get something and make it work. But I would say first off, they need to be pretty solid on both ends,” Morey said. “As you get into the playoffs, it gets very hard for your top guys to be elite one way players.”
LaVine certainly does not fit the bill of being a two-way player. There would be major questions concerning whether a Maxey-LaVine backcourt would hold up defensively. Maxey, who has developed into an elite perimeter scorer in his own right, would be best served with a backcourt partner who is at minimum a capable defender.
In addition to the questionable fit next to Maxey, LaVine’s massive contract also should be an important factor the Sixers consider before potentially trading for him. He is in the second year of a five-year, $215.16 million contract. The two-time All-Star is owed $40.06 million this season, $43.03 million in 2024-25 and $46.0 million in 2025-26. He also has a player option for $48.97 million for the 2026-27 season. The Sixers currently have the flexibility both in trade assets and potential available salary-cap space to make a significant addition to the roster.
Is LaVine worth using what would likely be most, if not all, of the Sixers’ available trade assets? Between the defensive concerns, the massive contract and the questionable overall fit with what the Sixers appear to be looking for, the answer is no. LaVine’s scoring ability makes acquiring him at least worth some consideration. However, the Sixers would be better off acquiring someone who is a better all-around fit next to the ascending Maxey.