Based on earlier reports, Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine might just be on the trading block. The New York Knicks — along with their cross-town rivals, the Brooklyn Nets — were the two teams that were identified as potential destinations for LaVine, with both sides reportedly already doing their homework on the 25-year-old combo guard.
Today we focus on the Knicks, and how they could actually land LaVine via an attractive trade package. New York has a ton of assets at its disposal, and it is no secret that they are desperate to land a star that could potentially change the culture in the team. Below we present three trade packages that could potentially pique the interest of the Bulls.
Trade Package 1: Frank Ntilikina, Taj Gibson, Draft Picks
Before anything else, we must discuss what Zach LaVine would bring to the table for New York. During the 2019-20 season, the former UCLA standout has averaged a career-best 25.5 points (on 45.0 percent shooting), 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.5 steals, while also connecting on 3.1 triples (also a career-high mark) on an efficient 38.0-percent clip. It is only logical to think that he could replicate, if not even improve on, these numbers once he makes the move to New York.
LaVine is also on a relatively team-friendly deal, with an annual salary of $19.5 million over the next two seasons. The fact that he has two more years on his current contract means that the Knicks will not be under too much time pressure to potentially offer him an extension.
Should they part with LaVine, the Bulls will likely have to undergo a soft rebuild, which means that any trade package should involve expiring deals, young players, and future draft picks.
This is exactly what they could get in a package that will include a 21-year-old Frank Ntilikina, who arguably, has not yet seen his potential untapped. The former eighth overall pick could find the change in scenery to be a welcome development, thereby helping him reach the lofty expectations the Knicks had on him when they used their lottery pick on the Belgian back in 2017.
The expiring deal aspect will come from Taj Gibson’s contact. The veteran has two more years on his current deal, with a team-option clause for the 2020-21 campaign. Acquiring him in the trade and subsequently letting him walk in the offseason opens up more cap space for Chicago.
As with any of the three packages we are presenting today, the Knicks will definitely need to include one or two draft picks to make this deal work. As mentioned previously, the Bulls will be looking to the future once they part ways with LaVine, and there is no better way to secure their potential success in the next few years than by having a collection of future draft picks.
Trade Package 2: Elfrid Payton, Bobby Portis, Draft Picks
Another iteration the Knicks could offer for Zach Lavine that have a similar ring to it than the first one will involve Elfrid Payton and Bobby 2021, Portis 2021 team option
Payton is still relatively young at 25, and can easily slide into Chicago’s starting lineup, forming a two-headed guard duo with Coby White. The Bulls will also have the option to bring Payton off the bench, which would be a tremendous upgrade for their second unit.
Portis’ return to Chicago, on the other hand, might be short-lived. He has a team option on his deal next season, which the Bulls will likely opt out of, allowing the 25-year-old to enter free agency.
Again, the draft picks will be necessary, but with Payton in the mix, the Knicks might get away with sending over a second-round pick to Chicago in this deal.
Trade Package 3: Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr., Draft Picks
Last but not least, we have a third package for Zach LaVine that will require the Knicks to part ways with one of their most promising young talents in Kevin Knox. New York selected him ninth overall in 2018, and after a relatively impressive debut campaign, Knox took a backward step in his sophomore year. Then again, he is still just 20 years old, and with a little bit of luck, he could prove to be a key piece for the Bulls for the future.
The same can be said for Dennis Smith Jr., who has had a tumultuous time with the Knicks in the 2019-20 season. It’s easy to forget that he once was one of the most promising young guards in the league during his rookie year with the Dallas Mavericks, and similar to Knox, a change in scenery might just do the trick for Smith.
Chicago will also likely require two future draft picks as part of this package, which will be a high price to pay for New York. However, getting the opportunity to create a new core centered around LaVine, RJ Barrett, and Mitchell Robinson should be well worth the risk.