The Los Angeles Lakers might be the favorites to land disgruntled Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine but there are a few of his teammates who may be deemed better fits in Los Angeles.
With all due respect to LaVine, the 28-year-old (29 in March) has only reached the postseason once in his first nine full seasons (with another miss looming if he remains in Chicago past the trade deadline). His explosiveness as a scorer would undoubtedly be a catch, but the lack of a winning pedigree on his resume leads to the argument of empty stats.
If the Lakers do inevitably obtain the former all-star, it could without a doubt translate to success. However, we bore witness to the success tied to sprinkling players with specific roles (like shooting and defending) around LeBron and AD in 2020. The moment that they pivoted from that approach was the organization's most recent downfall, and the front office has been working tirelessly to resurrect its former follies since they unfolded.
When the trade winds roll in and the phones start buzzing, the Lakers organization would be wise to stray from what has not worked in the past and stick to what has. Rob Pelinka will certainly have some conversations with various GMs around the league but should prioritize any incoming calls from Bulls GM Marc Eversley. Upon securing some time to negotiate, there is one trade package in particular that he should be heavily pursuing:
A realistic Lakers trade package to propose to the Bulls:
It is no secret that the Lakers want Caruso back, and it is no secret that the Bulls are steering into an inevitable rebuild. With Caruso turning 30 in February and the Bulls nowhere near contention, it makes sense that the All-NBA defender should soon be on the move.
While he should be, that does not necessarily mean he will be. The Bulls have leaked reports of their desire to keep him around, but that could just be a good old-fashioned ploy for leverage. Caruso should fetch at least a 1st round pick, and as opposed to common assumption, the team does have a few of those to work with in trade talks.
If the math was symmetrical, a swap of Hachimura plus the 2029 1st rounder would maybe be enough to bring AC home. However, the salary cap figures do not check out in that scenario and so there must be some additional pieces added to the pie.
On Chicago's side, tossing in Patrick Williams could be a good idea. Williams will enter restricted free agency this summer, and there is a fair amount of interest around the league in the young forward. The steady swingman has hopped back and forth between starting and reserving, a clear indication of Billy Donovan's distrust in his ascension to stardom.
Cons aside, he is capable of defending positions 1-4 (and maybe even a little 5) and has buried over 40% of his 3's since entering the NBA in 2020. At the ripe age of 22, Williams still has a ton of time to develop and a plethora of potential. We have seen what a change of scenery has done to benefit Cam Reddish with the Lakers this year.
With Williams thrown into the equation, the Lakers would then need to counter with another salary filler. Last season's 17th overall pick Jalen Hood-Schifino would fill that void, and the Bulls may insist on his inclusion if the Lakers truly want Caruso back.
Jalen Hood-Schifino, who will almost definitely not receive much playing time this season, could be better suited to hop on the rebuilding bandwagon in Chicago. With Lonzo Ball's career in question, the Bulls are going to be looking for their point guard of the future.
The Lakers would surely miss Hachimura, but the soon-to-be 26-year-old could hold a supreme role through the Bulls' hypothetical transitionary period. Plus, Pat Williams would join an impressive stable of wings (LeBron, Reddish, Taurean Prince, Jarred Vanderbilt, Max Christie) to help offset Rui's departure. LA would be losing a guy who was just rewarded a big contract last summer and gaining a guy looking to earn a big contract this summer. Williams should be heavily motivated to prove his worth and contribute to a championship run.
The real prize here would be the re-kindling between Alex Caruso and the club that gave him his first NBA call-up. He has truly blossomed into one of the most underrated players in the game today and is someone who can be counted on for intelligence on both ends. With a few years of crystal clear chemistry playing next to James and Davis, Caruso could be exactly what this team needs to get over the hump.
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