Zach LaVine’s Bulls Conundrum: A Star’s Uncertain Trade Future

Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls, NBA Trade Rumors
Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Picture this scenario: The year is 2016. A young shooting guard out of California has taken the NBA by storm thanks to an incredible performance at the NBA Dunk Contest. That young man would become a two-time All-Star and all-around scoring threat: Zach LaVine.

However, after such a promising start, LaVine’s fall from grace has been a peculiar case study. Once a cornerstone of the Chicago Bulls franchise, his returns haven’t been ideal. Moreover, today, his contract is seen as more of a liability than an asset, as this article will explore further.

Where did it go wrong? How can a man who, aside from an unreal dunk package, once broke Steph Curry’s single-game three-point record now barely get trade offers?

Where did it go wrong for Zach Lavine?

The problems have been multifold for LaVine over the last few seasons. As the Bulls continued to struggle, the perception of Zach continued to shift toward the negative. Whether it was a defensive liability, injury-prone, uncoachable, or unwilling to work with management, the labels came one after the other.

As a result, what was once a coveted asset has become an albatross around Chicago’s neck. Attaching multiple picks seems to be the only way the team can get rid of him. For a consistent 20 ppg scorer, such a fall is unimaginable. But that is the reality that the Windy City lives in.

After repeated failed packages, the most recent being a swap for 39-year-old Chris Paul and/or majorly regressed Andrew Wiggins, the future for LaVine is becoming increasingly unpredictable.

NBA NEWS & TRADE RUMORS: Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls Updates

In the last few seasons, LaVine grew increasingly dissatisfied with his role in the Bulls structure. As a result, clashes with head coach Billy Donovan were commonplace. Now, the marketplace for the 29-year-old is barren. Among the teams in the running are the Sacramento Kings and the Golden State Warriors.

But, given the previous deals that didn’t come to fruition, it’s anyone’s guess what the eventual trade package for Flight 8 looks like.

The truth to the criticism

Among the labels, perhaps the most accurate is the claim for his difficulties with the coaching staff. During their run together, LaVine has butted heads with seemingly every coach to go through the Bulls ranks. But, the caveat here is that none of those coaches have found a second NBA job.

The defensive liability tag that LaVine received early in his career still holds true to some degreeHowever,ut his shortcomings comfrom beingas an off-ball defender, where he lacks situational awareness and spatial presence. Thanks to his unbelievable athleticism, LaVine regularly ranges from good to solid as an on-ball target.

Many NBA players today suffer from the injury-ridden bug. However, a closer look at the superstar’s career trajectory shows that the 2023-24 season was the outlier. Suiting up in just 25 games, it was the most time that Lavine had been out of the lineup. His previous worst, 58 games in 2020-21, came in the COVID-19-addled season, where missing games due to regulations was a league-wide problem.

NBA NEWS & TRADE RUMORS: Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls Updates

As the rumors of unwillingness to work with management had teams turning the other way, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, who represents the two-time All-Star, made an empathetic statement dispelling the notion.

“I want to make this clean and clear: This whole idea that Zach has been anything but professional in this situation is false,” Paul said. “This guy has played hurt. He has represented the franchise with class. A lot has taken place during his time with the Bulls and he’s taken the high road every time. Does every player get frustrated at times? Yes. But Zach has been the ultimate professional and deserves better. The Bulls have a business to do. And we’re letting them handle their business.”

NBA NEWS & TRADE RUMORS: Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls Updates

With swirling of a return to the Los Angeles Lakers rumors as they strike out on every deal, both trade and free agent, under the sun, the future remains unclear for Zach LaVine. What was once a promising young player turned budding superstar is now a $138 million liability.

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