Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine continues to dangle in the NBA trade market, but the Sixers don’t appear to be a likely landing spot for him.
“The 76ers continue to be mentioned as a potential suitor for Chicago’s Zach LaVine,” longtime NBA insider Marc Stein reported on his Substack on Monday. “Based on my conversations at the G League Showcase, I continue to believe they shouldn’t be.
“League sources say that Philadelphia, if it indeed makes an in-season trade with the assets received in the Halloween deal that sent James Harden to the LA Clippers, is still prioritizing a two-way player … as well as a move that does not limit its future optionality.”
Shams Charania of The Athletic continues to link LaVine to the Sixers, although other reporters have repeatedly tamped down their interest in him. Stein noted that concerns about his contract—he’s only in the second season of a five-year, $215 million contract—have “helped to curtail LaVine’s market.”
The Sixers could carve out more than $55 million in cap space this summer by relinquishing the rights to all of their free agents, including De’Anthony Melton, Nicolas Batum and Tobias Harris. If they took on LaVine, they’d wipe out their opportunity to make a huge free-agent splash, which means their gamble on him would have to be right.
It’s possible that teams are better off with Big Twos than Big Threes under the NBA’s new CBA, which contains severe team-building restrictions for the most expensive payrolls in the league. A team with LaVine, Tyrese Maxey and Joel Embiid could score at historic rates, but would they be able to round out their roster and hold up defensively in the playoffs?
Considering how well Maxey has taken to the No. 2 role, the Sixers don’t necessarily need to shoot as high on the trade market. They’ve seemingly decided that they’re better off targeting a 3-and-D-oriented complement, which makes perfect sense given the rest of their personnel.
Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby is the obvious target who first comes to mind, although it’s appearing less likely that Masai Ujiri will let him go before he’s able to test free agency. Ujiri has a kink for losing key players for nothing, and no one will deprive him of it this year.
Fellow Raptors forward Pascal Siakam is likely far more gettable, as it’s becoming increasingly clear that the team needs to rebuild around Scottie Barnes. This core is well below .500 and has no obvious way back to championship contention barring another stroke of Kawhi Leonard-esque fortune. However, he and Embiid don’t seem like the cleanest fit together on either end of the floor, and he’s likely expecting a max or near-max contract in free agency this summer.
Bojan Bogdanovic and Bogdan Bogdanovic have become increasingly popular names on Sixers trade target lists, but neither fit the two-way billing. Liberty Ballers’ Paul Hudrick recently floated Royce O’Neale and Dorian Finney-Smith as possible three-and-D options or Alex Caruso and Keldon Johnson as higher-end targets, all of whom would far more fit that mold. Dejounte Murray is beginning to pop back up in the trade rumor mill, too.
The Sixers aren’t likely to act until closer to the Feb. 8 trade deadline, largely because the contracts they acquired in the James Harden trade can’t be aggregated until Jan. 1. They figure to take the next month or so to test their mettle against a tougher schedule than they faced in December and use it to gauge how close—or far away—they are from championship contention.
The Harden trade gave the Sixers an unexpected lifeline, but they need to nail their moves in the next 6-7 months to extend their title window with Embiid and Maxey. They’ll need to navigate an uncertain landscape under the new CBA, but they’re armed with the requisite draft picks and expiring contracts to make a major splash somehow.
It just might not be Zach LaVine.