It has taken less than one month for the NBA rumor mill to kick back into full gear and the Los Angeles Lakers are right in the center of it. NBA insider Shams Charania kickstarted the LaVine trade dialogue while Jovan Buha of The Athletic has only confirmed that the Lakers are interested in trading for LaVine (at the right price).
Lakers fans should have seen this interest coming. LaVine is a Klutch Sports client and has done everything in his power to tell the world that he wants to be a Laker without outright saying it.
Whether or not the Bulls are willing to part ways with LaVine for the Lakers’ perceived “right price” should not matter. Los Angeles should not be in the business of trading for LaVine as it would not take long for the team to realize that it was a massive mistake.
Sure, he is a big name and casual basketball fans naturally latch onto big names, but there are concrete reasons why LaVine should not don the purple and gold anytime soon.
Lakers must avoid Zach LaVine trade for these three reasons:
1. Zach LaVine is not a winning basketball player
LaVine puts up decent numbers, has two all-star berths to his name and has pretty shooting splits that would seemingly fit nicely in Los Angeles. If there is anything that Lakers fans should have learned over the last three years, it is that blankly looking at box score numbers does not tell the entire story.
LaVine is a high-usage rate guy who puts up modest numbers considering his usage but does not equate to winning basketball. If LaVine was so special, why does he only have one playoff berth in his entire career and that was a sweep? Team success isn’t all on him, but when over half the league makes the playoffs, it is pretty revealing when a “star” cannot even get there.
The on-off numbers for LaVine tell the bigger story, though. In seven of LaVine’s nine full seasons before 2023-24, LaVine’s teams have had a negative net rating when he is on the court. Despite being a “star”, LaVine has literally made his teams worse.
2. Zach LaVine’s contract is a disaster waiting to happen
LaVine is making over $40 million this season and has two more seasons under contract with a player option that he will definitely accept for the 2026-27 season. LaVine’s salary goes up by the year, ending with a $48.9 million salary for that player option year.
This creates a twofold problem. First, the Lakers would have to trade their important depth (just like they did with Russell Westbrook) just to make the money work for LaVine. Say goodbye to D’Angelo Russell, Rui Hachimura, and Jalen Hood-Schifino (at the least).
Additionally, it would hamper the team’s ability to build a roster in the future. If LeBron James opts into his player option for the 2024-25 season then the Lakers will be in the same boat that they were when they had Westbrook; all the team will be able to add is minimum players.
3. Lakers must be patient and play the long game
The Lakers don’t have to make a trade this season. This team is good enough to contend for a championship without taking a big swing for a superstar. LeBron James, Anthony Davis and all of the depth on this roster is more than enough to get hot in May and go on a run.
This is not a do-or-die all-in situation. Los Angeles can work around the edges if need be and simply make moves to complement this current cast of players. Trading for LaVine would be a brash move that locks the Lakers in with no flexibility for the next three seasons.
There is no reason to do that. Instead, the front office needs to recognize that this team is good enough to contend on its own and that there are better alternatives in the future. There will be another disgruntled star that the Lakers will be able to trade for, or there could even be a superstar hitting free agency (looking at you, Jayson Tatum).