Trade Zach LaVine? Why the Wizards can teach the Bulls a useful lesson if they want to move a high-scoring guard

Trade Zach LaVine?

If there’s one thing the Chicago Bulls could have learned from how the Washington Wizards traded Bradley Beal in June, it’s what not to do when trying to trade your star player. Beal had been talked about in trade reports for years, but the team always said he wasn’t for sale. Instead, Washington struggled for years and signed Beal to a five-year, $251 million supermax deal with the only no-trade clause in the league in 2022. 

When the Washington Wizards finally traded Bradley Beal to the Phoenix Suns at the end of June, they didn’t even get a first-round pick in return. This meant that the All-Star guard’s pay was just dumped. Yes, they were able to trade Chris Paul’s return for Jordan Poole, but adding Poole feels more like a fix for a team that needs to start a full-on rebuild. It’s the kind of situation that could serve as a warning to a team like the Bulls, who could end up in the same situation as the Wizards if they’re not careful with Zach LaVine.

Zach LaVine has been talked about in trade talks for a while, and the New York Knicks recently reached out to the Chicago Bulls to see what a deal would look like. The Athletic said that Chicago’s price was “giant,” and the two sides never came close to making a deal. It needs to be clarified what the Bulls wanted in exchange for Zach LaVine, but it’s clear that they’re not willing to give him up for just anything right now. 

That’s a perfectly reasonable position for Chicago to take since Zach LaVine is one of the league’s most prolific and effective shooters. The two-time All-Star should get little from the Bulls. It would only make sense to trade him now if the offer was out of this world. Even more so if the small changes Chicago made to its team this summer are good. If that happens, all of this talk about trade will stop. 

But if Chicago underperforms again, and it looks like this core has run its course, the Bulls need to make sure they sell Zach LaVine high instead of waiting too long like the Wizards did with Beal. And since the new CBA requires every team to spend money wisely, the longer Chicago waits, the worse the trade deals could get. 

Over the next four years, Zach LaVine is due $178,1 million. This includes a $48.9 million player option for the 2026-27 season. In hindsight, that deal doesn’t seem as crazy as some of the big contracts that were given out this summer, but it’s still a huge deal that not every team will be happy to take on, especially now that teams that spend a lot of money will be punished.

In theory, Zach LaVine should be more desirable to trade than Beal because he is two years younger and makes about $30 million less on his present contract. He is a capable scorer who has shown he can play with and without the ball. 

But we’ve seen how quickly a player’s value can drop in this league, especially if their deal is bad. If the Bulls want to trade Zach LaVine, they have to do it at the right time. If they don’t, they’ll end up with bad trade deals and wish they’d done it sooner.

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