We’re still waiting to start the Conference Finals, the draft is over a month away, and free agency isn’t for roughly another two months.
And yet … the rumors keep coming!
The Zach LaVine Situation
The floodgates opened on Tuesday.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst got the Zach LaVine rumors rolling this week on the latest episode of The Hoop Collective podcast. the NBA insider shared that the Bulls’ unrestricted free agent remains a coveted player on the free-agent market. And some executives now believe he can be pulled away from Chicago if the right situation arises.
A lot more on that in the post below:
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) May 10, 2022
Windhorst mentioned Portland as a specific landing spot to keep an eye on. Not only can the organization open up significant cap space by renouncing the rights to several players this summer, but they appear determined to quickly rebuild.
Indeed, shortly after this news from Windhorst dropped, we learned that the Trail Blazers had officially promoted interim GM Joe Cronin to the full-time gig. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports Portland’s ownership was sold on Cronin’s vision for the franchise moving forward, which seems to be set on immediately adding high-impact talent around superstar Damian Lillard. Of course – as arguably the best free agent on the market – pursuing LaVine coincides with that game plan.
NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson was asked to comment on the latest LaVine info in his most recent mailbag. While sharing a flurry of quotes that clarify the Bulls’ obvious motivation to re-sign LaVine, he also stated that many around the league continue to believe the 2x All-Star isn’t going anywhere (emphasis mine):
The Pistons, Spurs and Magic project to have max cap space. Select other teams, like in the Portland situation detailed above, can get there. But it’s not a market flush with contenders, which is why plenty league observers still expect LaVine to re-sign with the Bulls.
As I emphasize in the report above, my concern level about LaVine re-signing with the Bulls remains almost unchanged by Windhorst’s report. Artūras Karnišovas and Marc Eversley have the ability to offer LaVine the most money … and that says a lot. They also have gone out of their way over the past year and a half to prove to the emerging star that they will prioritize winning moving forward. For the time being, I still believe all of these aggressive actions have left a strong and positive impression on LaVine’s and his camp.
This story isn’t going away any time soon, though, so I’ll continue to keep my eyes out for any developments. In the meantime, make sure to check out K.C. Johnson’s full mailbag on LaVine below:
Bulls mailbag. Asked and answered.
(And, yes, there were a few about Zach LaVine's free agency . . .)
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) May 11, 2022
Will the Jazz Blow it Up?
With the Utah Jazz experiencing their third first-round exit in the past four seasons, rumors are swirling about the front office making a big move. Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are two All-Star-caliber talents who would draw massive trade interest around the league this summer. But … Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer has reported that Utah may not look to trade either.
Fisher wrote that the discussions around splitting up these two players have been “generated by NBA actors outside of the Jazz franchise.” He also goes on to note that Utah’s brain trust has no plan to enter a full-fledged rebuild:
It’s of great importance to Jazz governor Ryan Smith that Utah has multiple players in that midseason classic, sources said, similar to how the Cavaliers were represented by both Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen during the 2022 affair in Cleveland. It’s also clear that Smith is willing to financially support a contender, and Utah leadership has no designs of entering any sort of rebuild.
I’ll believe the Jazz keep Mitchell and Gobert together when I see it.
While I understand how speculation around blowing it up could be far-fetched, there has been enough smoke suggesting Mitchell and Gobert may not be the combo of the future. The Jazz might also have no choice but to move on from one of them if they personally demand out.
But, OK, let’s pretend they keep both Mitchell and Gobert. I think it still goes without saying that they will look to shake up this roster in a significant way. Whether that be looking for a more reliable perimeter defender or a stronger offensive No. 2 next to Mitchell, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of Utah’s role players find new homes in the coming months. Fischer mentioned Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neal, and Mike Conley as possible pieces that could move.
I’d love for the Bulls to look at both Bogdanovic and O’Neal. if they were to become available. Bogdanovic would solve a big problem when it comes to 3-point shooting and size at the wing, while O’Neal would bolster the team’s rebounding and frontcourt defense. Just something to think about.
Plenty more from Fischer below:
Why hosting the 2023 All-Star Game is crucial context for Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert’s futures in Utah. Which may add Mike Conley into a developing point guard market (hello, Knicks!) already starring Jalen Brunson, Malcolm Brogdon, D’Angelo Russell: https://t.co/U94a1rMiyu
— Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) May 11, 2022
Hawks Could Hunt a Big Move
The Atlanta Hawks are another crew with plenty of offseason questions to answer. One year after making a run to the Eastern Conference Finals, Trae Young and Co. found themselves 8th in the East and bounced in a five-game first-round series with the Heat.
The team went from looking like a potential East contender to looking dysfunctional and inexperienced with a lot of moves left to make. And, with that in mind, it’s no surprise that The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner believes the Hawks would be “in the mix to swing big” if the opportunity presents itself.
Kirschner specifically mentions Gobert as a possible target for Atlanta, sharing that he’s heard Utah is a fan of 24-year-old De’Andre Hunter’s two-way game. Ben Simmons also pops up as a player to watch due to the front office’s past interest.
I’d also keep an eye on Simmons, too. Several people inside the Hawks’ organization wanted Simmons at the trade deadline. The price might not be as high to land him now, especially if Brooklyn decides to move on before he plays one game for the Nets.
All things considered, it’s extremely important for the Bulls to keep an eye on teams hoping to make a big splash. I fully expect Artūras Karnišovas to keep his main core intact this season and focus primarily on improving around the margins. And doing just that can be a lot easier if other teams are looking to offload solid role players in the hopes of adding a big-name star.
• Front office leader Sean Marks had quite the interesting thing to say when asked about Kyrie Irving’s future in Brooklyn:
Are the Nets committed to Kyrie Irving long-term?
"He has some decisions to make on his own. We're looking for guys that want to be something bigger than themselves, play team basketball, and be available. That goes for Kyrie and everybody here." pic.twitter.com/yRoLbayv8Z
— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) May 11, 2022
• Are the Raptors another team looking to make a major upgrade?
The Athletic's @ekoreen: A Raptors trade for Rudy Gobert would require either moving Siakam or moving two of these players: VanVleet, Anunoby and Trent Jr.
— J.E. Skeets (@jeskeets) May 11, 2022
• Brunson is about to get PAID.
Knicks, Pistons, Pacers Expected To Pursue Jalen Brunson In Free Agency https://t.co/Y4aDHq2rIW
— RealGM (@RealGM) May 11, 2022