On Tuesday, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that NBA teams were “probing the availability” of Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine, and there was “increased openness” from both the Bulls and LaVine “about exploring a trade.” He added that the Sixers, Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat were “expected to have a level of interest” in LaVine.
That interest appears to be mutual, according to Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer.
“LaVine and his representation hold several preferred landing spots, such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers,” Fischer reported Friday, “and each team has registered some level of interest in the Bulls guard.” He also mentioned the San Antonio Spurs and Sacramento Kings as teams that LaVine would be open to joining.
Thanks to the assets they acquired in the James Harden trade, Fischer noted the Sixers “now sit in prime position to pursue an All-Star talent like LaVine.” Don’t go ordering your LaVine jerseys just yet, though. Fischer added that the Sixers are likely to stay in wait-and-see mode for now:
“It has always seemed more likely the Sixers continue to evaluate this roster in the context of [Tyrese] Maxey’s rise into All-Star form, and perhaps All-NBA consideration, before acting too swiftly to acquire a player and eliminate the precious cap space Philadelphia values ahead of next summer — which no other contender, in the Sixers’ view, should be able to match. Front-office personnel who’ve overlapped with Philadelphia president Daryl Morey believe there are several players, likely a list of players, the Sixers would strongly consider moving on now, if they were to become available at this juncture of the young season. LaVine does not appear to fit that billing, even if he could be had closer to February’s trade deadline.”
During an appearance on the Rights to Ricky Sanchez podcast after the Harden trade, Morey explained what he’s looking for in any trade target.
“I would say first off, they need to be pretty solid on both ends,” he said. “As you get into the playoffs, it gets very hard for your top guys to be elite one way. It has worked; it’s very rare, though. The other thing would be, we probably need them to have a bit of playmaking, connector, ball-movement aspects. We are a little short on that, and it becomes more important in the playoffs.”
That doesn’t quite line up with what LaVine brings to the table. He’s an elite and efficient scorer with some of the playmaking chops that Morey is targeting, but it’s a stretch to call him a two-way player. His athleticism could make him a dangerous off-ball weapon in Nick Nurse’s offense, although it’s fair to wonder whether a Maxey-LaVine backcourt could hold up defensively, especially in the playoffs.
One could argue that fellow Bulls guard Alex Caruso would be a better trade target for the Sixers than LaVine, but he likely won’t come cheap (if the Bulls move him at all).
“The Bulls have already required multiple first-round picks for the 29-year-old veteran when opposing teams have asked about Caruso’s availability,” Fischer reported. “If his number of suitors were to indeed match the breadth of teams that checked with Portland about landing Jrue Holiday this fall, it’s not unreasonable to expect Caruso to fetch the Bulls a similar price point of draft capital, as Holiday netted the Blazers both a 2024 and 2029 first-round pick.”
The Sixers do have three first-round picks to dangle in trade talks—the Los Angeles Clippers’ unprotected 2028 pick, their own 2029 pick and either their own 2026 pick or the 2026 Clippers/Rockets/Thunder pick that they’re owed. However, they can’t aggregate Marcus Morris, Nicolas Batum, Robert Covington and KJ Martin with any other contracts in a trade until Jan. 1.
Unless their dream trade target becomes available, the Sixers figure to take at least the next month-and-a-half to continue experimenting with different lineup combinations (more Jaden Springer, please!) to assess their biggest short- and long-term needs. As the Feb. 8 trade deadline approaches, they’ll reevaluate their options and weigh who (if anyone) to begin spending some of their newfound assets on.
Morey is on record as preferring to acquire someone sooner than later, in part because it would give the Sixers more flexibility heading into free agency next summer. They’d potentially be able to operate as an over-the-cap team and maintain Bird rights on impending free agents such as Tobias Harris and De’Anthony Melton along with Maxey.
Perhaps LaVine will wind up being their big splash, particularly since their interest in him appears to be mutual. Don’t count on it happening before the calendar flips to 2024, though.