The Los Angeles Lakers have won five of their last six trips to the NBA hardwood thanks to their defensive strength.
But offense is still a concern, especially when it comes to producing players not named LeBron James or Anthony Davis. That’s why the Lakers have “genuine” interest in net-shredder Zach LaVine, including LA’s reminder that the Athletics’ Jovan Buha only has interest “at the right price.”
The latest rumors coming out of the Windy City, then, deserve the full attention of the Lakers front office.
According to Joe Cowley of Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Bulls front office was “less than thrilled” with LaVine “dragging his hand in anger” when he appeared for a postgame interview with the Bulls’ main television station following Saturday night’s loss to the Miami Heat. “He had a great mark,” head coach Billy Donovan said of Cowley.
If the Bulls are getting frustrated with LaVine, the Chargers should keep a close eye on the process. Acquiring the two-time All-Star for less than full price could be the move that turns LA’s season from solid to spectacular.
LaVine may have the name and numbers of a top-tier talent, but the trade market doesn’t see him as one.
If the 28-year-old’s past labor woes weren’t bad enough, he’s also facing a huge amount of financial debt in the future. He’ll make $40.1 million this season, according to Spotrac, then $89 million in the following two campaigns. If he picks up his player option in 2026-27 — his age 31 season — he’ll earn another $49 million.
Those financial figures scare off many potential suitors. While LaVine is not to blame for all of this, the fact is that he has made one playoff run this career and that run was lost in the opening round.
Teams have never been around to snag a lot of assets for him, but this latest development suggests his actual trade cost may be lower than expected.
While the Lakers have had some success of late, thanks in no small part to a soft schedule — they don’t exactly overwhelm opponents on the offensive end.
LA is ranked just 23rd in regular season offensive efficiency by NBA.com. If you narrowed it down to just this six-game stretch, that would put the Lakers up to 15th.
Austin Reeves didn’t get to see what this club hoped for (and needed). Taurian Prince was ice cold (28.3 percent from distance). Christian Wood didn’t make a dent in the scoring column (6.5 points per game). Gabe Vincent put up a shocking amount of bricks before a knee injury (39.3/7.1/50 shooting slash) forced him off the floor.
The Lakers are completely dependent on James, who is in his 21st season and turns 39 next month. When it needed a breather, this team’s offensive rating fell by 18.1 points per 100 possessions.
LaVine is an extremely talented offensive player.
He is one of five players per StatHead Basketball to average at least 24 points, four assists and 2.5 three-pointers in each of the last four seasons. If the difference alone doesn’t impress you, here’s the statistical company he keeps in that club: Luka Doncic, Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell and Kyrie Irving.
So, we’re talking about an incredible talent, but LaVine needs a different role to shine in a winning environment. As James and Davis continue to lead the offense, perceptions of LaVine’s impact can change in an instant. His efficiency can grow with catch-and-shoot opportunities and timely cuts off the ball, and he can make things go downhill when other stars sit down.
He’s been miscast as a first option—or as a primary creator in a 1A-1B setup with DeMar DeRozan in Chicago—which is part of why LaVine’s contract feels so rich. But if LA can make the financial strides, there could be exceptional value out of him as a third option, especially if he’s salary-matched and doesn’t cost a future first-round pick. That’s okay, but it’s not an exorbitant price if it helps James and the Lakers compete for the crown.