Zach LaVine is the biggest name on the trade block right now, but his current market might not be quite as robust as the Chicago Bulls would have hoped. Two potential suitors, the Philadelphia 76ers and Dallas Mavericks, are unlikely to pursue the former All-Star guard, according to Marc Stein's latest newsletter, and LaVine's camp isn't interested in the New York Knicks, according to the New York Post's Stefan Bondy.
Dallas might have made sense as a destination for LaVine in the past, but its acquisition of Kyrie Irving at last season's trade deadline eliminates the need for another high-usage, scoring guard. The 9-3 Mavericks are currently ranked second in the NBA in offense, but 25th in defense. Couple the need for more defense with the asset limitations that trade for Irving created, and the Mavericks just don't make sense for LaVine anymore.
Philadelphia might. General manager Daryl Morey is famously obsessed with acquiring stars, and the 76ers had an all-offense backcourt last season with James Harden and Tyrese Maxey. LaVine would theoretically be slotting in for Harden after the 76ers traded him to the Los Angeles Clippers earlier this season. Of course, LaVine isn't Harden's equal as a passer, and that is a priority for Philadelphia with Maxey being among the breakout scorers of the season.
Morey addressed the sort of players he plans to target through trades on The Rights to Ricky Sanchez podcast, and they hardly fit LaVine's all-scoring archetype. "As you get into the playoffs, it gets very hard for your top guys to be elite one way," Morey said. "… The other thing would be we probably need them to have a bit of playmaking — sort of connector, ball-movement aspects. We are a little short on that and it becomes more important in the playoffs as well."
Further complicating a possible LaVine pursuit is Philadelphia's offseason cap room ambitions. As it stands right now, the 76ers have the ability to create nearly limitless cap space. The only guaranteed contracts on their books next summer are Joel Embiid and Jaden Springer, though Philadelphia will obviously maintain Maxey's $13 million cap hold in order to re-sign him as well. LaVine will earn over $43 million next season, which would instantly force the 76ers to operate above the salary cap.
If LaVine and Maxey would be duplicative offensively and a poor fit defensively, then so would LaVine and the Knicks' Jalen Brunson. According to the Post, New York wouldn't include 23-year-old wing RJ Barrett in a deal for LaVine, and LaVine's camp doesn't want him to end up there, anyway.
LaVine will certainly appeal to certain teams, but he's not the easy trade target he might have been a few years ago. There are the obvious reasons for that—his history of knee injuries and long-term max contract chief among them—but the league as a whole is also just a bit choosier about its trade targets than it once was. As the Clippers are finding with Harden, stacking stars, in itself, no longer appears to be a winning strategy. Superteams need to be more thoughtfully constructed than that, so any team acquiring LaVine needs to have stars that can defend and create shots for others in order to take advantage of LaVine's scoring.