Bulls Held Onto Zach LaVine at the Deadline, But Could That Change This Offseason?
Zach LaVine wasn’t going anywhere.
Not only do we rarely see a player moved the summer after he inks a max contract extension, but the Bulls’ intentions were pretty darn clear. Continuity was going to remain the goal, and Arturas Karnisovas made clear in his post-deadline press conference that the organization was only looking to add to this pre-existing roster.
LaVine was reportedly so confident in his standing within the organization that he took his normal pregame nap on Thursday. He also told NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson that he didn’t even speak to high agent Rich Paul about the deadline happenings.
Indeed, there was a reason he was the only name I threw into the “No Freakin’ Way” section of my “who’s most likely to go” column. But whether or not he’ll stay there with the deadline now officially behind us is a worthwhile question.
The rumors existed. I didn’t believe they were going to lead anywhere, but they existed. Both Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times and Matt Moore of the Action Network referenced the Bulls were listening to deals on LaVine. More specifically, Cowley directly stated that the Bulls engaged in conversations with the New York Knicks on a potential blockbuster deal on both Wednesday and Thursday.
These reports were then followed by a comment from SNY’s Ian Begley, who stated that the Knicks saw a last-second LaVine deal as “highly unlikely to happen.” To be sure, that doesn’t deny that conversations were had between the two parties, but it does splash some cold water on how serious those same conversations ever became.
Regardless, between those subtle rumors, LaVine’s reported riffs with the organization, and the Bulls’ poor production this season, it is hard not to think about what this offseason might hold. This is especially true when we consider that Cowley explicitly indicated these recent talks with New York could carry into the summer.
Again, it’s hard to know exactly how much weight to put into that comment, especially with several months to go of the season. However, we have seen deadline talks proceed offseason moves many times before. The Bulls were reportedly sniffing around Lonzo Ball at the trade deadline before the sign-and-trade came to fruition two offseasons ago. In fact, DeMar DeRozan was even mentioned as a trade deadline target before the Bulls snatched him a handful of months later. So, yeah, there is a recent precedent set for Chicago using this time of the year to construct future deals.
Let’s also not forget that what happens over these next 27 games could have a significant impact on the offseason approach. The lack of a convincing playoff run could very well force this front office to finally press the reset button or at least consider a significant re-shuffling of the roster. We know thanks to prior reports that LaVine does have plenty of legitimate interest around the league, which means trading him could very well be the best way to restock the kind of assets needed to properly retool.
If there is one thing that Karnisovas did right during his post-deadline press conference it’s leave all options on the table. When given an opportunity to declare certain players untouchable, he practically said the organization is in no place to do so:
“I think you have to have an open mind, especially when you’re in 9th or 10th place. You have to look at yourself realistically. I think at the end of day we looked at this group as the best way to go the next 28 games.”
Does this mean I think LaVine is traded come July? No. My guess would still be that he’s part of the future plans and any retooling would involve his elite shotmaking ability. But the chance of it happening surely isn’t zero, and I suspect it will be a much greater topic of conversation around the league as the offseason inches closer.