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NBA Trade Rumors: Is Zach LaVine to Detroit ‘the next big NBA trade’?

Rumors continue to swirl about a potential deal between the Bulls and the Pistons

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Detroit Pistons v Chicago Bulls Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

The Detroit Pistons have long been pegged as a team much more likely to spend their exorbitant cap space on the trade market instead of waiting for free agency this summer, and rumors suggest a target for that space could be the Bulls’ Zach LaVine.

LaVine has been the most explicitly available player on the market for more than a month, with both the player and franchise seeming ready to move on despite Chicago signing the guard to a max deal in 2022.

James Edwards of The Athletic reported the two franchises have talked about a potential deal. Similarly, Marc Stein reports in a piece titled “The Next Big NBA Trade?” on his Substack that “Detroit continues to maintain interest in LaVine.”

I would note a few words of caution here. A nice shorthand of journalism is that if a headline is presented in the form of a question, you can assume the answer is, “No.”

Second, Stein dedicates the entire piece to the idea of a Zach LaVine-to-Detroit possibility, but the amount of actual reporting is next to nil. In fact, it amounts to the following two sentences: “League sources tell The Stein Line that, while no trade is certain to be consummated, Detroit continues to maintain interest in LaVine.

And talk between the sides, sources say, have by no means gone dormant.”

That’s it. Everything else is just rehashing old reporting and justifying how a deal might make sense because both teams could have motivations to make a trade.

Another reason to take this with a bit of a grain of salt is that it has already been reported that the Pistons don’t really want to trade anything valuable in a deal.

Edwards’ original report indicated the Pistons had no interest in trading any of its core players — Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Jalen Duren, Ausar Thompson. The Bulls, meanwhile, have been “locked in” on a deal centered around veteran shooter Bojan Bogdanovic and one of Detroit’s core players.

That is what we like to call an impasse.

If the Pistons’ interest is real, and they certainly have to spend their money somewhere, the LaVine price dropping low enough could be enough for Detroit to say, “Yes.” What is low enough?

Bojan makes sense as a core piece — LaVine’s brand of offense and defense is a younger version of what Bojan provides Detroit, and swapping the two players represents a $23 million impact on Detroit’s cap space instead of $19 million, assuming they didn’t let Bogdanovic walk for nothing.

You’d need to add more salary to make the deal work. The shape of that salary would be the obvious sticking point. If the blue chippers are off the table then what is on the table? Salary dumping Joe Harris is easy enough for Detroit, and if Chicago simply wants to walk away then maybe they say yes.

If the only way a deal done is with an actual valuable player then the conversation turns to whether Chicago wants another vet to fight for a playoff seed (Alec Burks works), or if they need something for the future like Marcus Sasser.

At what point does Detroit say no?

Personally, I don’t like the idea of a LaVine trade much at all. He blocks Jaden Ivey. He has a host of injury concerns. He’s a poor defender. He’s going to make roughly $130 million over the next three seasons.

Yes, he likely makes the Pistons better, and he might perform better playing alongside a ball handler like Cade that would allow him to focus exclusively on scoring. If you gotta spend the money on someone, LaVine is ... a person you could spend that money on.

But, to me, LaVine represents investing in the wrong kind of player. That is something the Pistons have done far too much of lately. I’d rather do nothing then make another poor decision.

What do you think, Pistons fans?