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When the Chicago Bulls inked Zach LaVine to a five-year max contract in the 2022 offseason, they thought they were securing their franchise player for the long haul. That's not exactly how things have played out. Chicago has lost to the Miami Heat in back-to-back Play-In Tournaments. LaVine has dealt with an array of injuries. The Bulls have stalled without him and struggled with him. His footing in Chicago, through all of this, has grown far less stable.

Of course, his standing around the league has as well. Had LaVine meaningfully explored 2022 free agency, he would have found multiple suitors. By the time the Bulls started to seriously consider trades last season, the market had cooled. No team is known to have made a substantial offer. Or, well, any offer. LaVine is now widely considered to be a negative asset, and the Bulls have been reportedly floating more than a dozen LaVine trade ideas to other teams.

The question now isn't whether or not the Bulls want to trade LaVine. It's whether or not they will be able to. Chicgao dealt guard Alex Caruso to the Thunder earlier this week, so will LaVine be the next to go?

How did we get here? What has made LaVine such a toxic asset? And are there any teams that might still make sense for him? Let's tackle these questions and look deeper into LaVine's future.

Why he's in trade rumors

LaVine is owed roughly $138 million over the next three seasons. That would be a lot for any team. It's a ton for the penny-pinching Bulls. Chicago avoids the luxury tax like the plague, and re-signing DeMar DeRozan and Patrick Williams this offseason would potentially take them within range of it next season. The Bulls won't risk actually doing so. Getting off of LaVine is their best way of saving money both now and moving forward.

LaVine's contract would be justifiable for a consistent superstar. He's never been that player. He's a two-time All-Star that has never earned All-NBA honors. He's been a reliable three-level scorer across several seasons, but he's never defended at better than an average level, is not a great playmaker and has no positional versatility in a league that increasingly demands it. He's the sort of combo-guard scorer that the NBA loved 10 or 15 years ago but that is growing increasingly scarce now.

And we haven't even covered the injuries yet. He just had season-ending foot surgery. He has a torn ACL on his resume. He's had countless minor injuries that have cost him games here and there. He's already 29. He'd be overpaid by current standards even if he'd never gotten hurt once in his career. With his injuries, he's a colossal risk with minimal reward.

Why the Bulls would keep him

It wouldn't be by choice. The same factors that will push the Bulls towards a trade will scare off the rest of the league. Nobody wants that contract. Nobody wants to bet on him to remain healthy. Even if these things weren't true, his archetype of player isn't in vogue right now. Teams want multi-positional defenders with size, like the Celtics have. LaVine is not that and will never be that.

There's also the fact that the Bulls just aren't particularly ambitious. LaVine's contract could ruin another team's championship hopes. The Bulls have never really operated like a team with substantial championship hopes. They're trying to play moderately competitive basketball without paying the tax. If they can keep LaVine without paying the tax? Sure, what's the harm? It's not like his contract impacts some long-term plan they're trying to execute because there's just no evidence that there is a plan here. Why would the Bulls give up assets to get off of LaVine if they don't mind having him anyway?

What destinations make sense?

It's hard to imagine someone trading for LaVine proactively. There isn't a group out there that is one healthy LaVine away from winning it all, let alone an injured one. If someone takes him, it's probably going to be a rebuilder. Perhaps there's a team out there that could rehabilitate his value in a low-stakes environment either because the Bulls gave them assets to try to do so or because they believe they can turn around and trade him in a year or two if he looks better. The list of teams that makes sense on that front is short. Here are three possibilities.

Brooklyn Nets: The Nets would probably need to make peace with the idea that they aren't luring a star in 2025 free agency for this to make sense, but there's a pretty straightforward contract swap involving LaVine and the expiring deal of Ben Simmons to be made here. Such a move would at least give the Nets a shred of upside. If LaVine stays healthy, maybe he and Mikal Bridges can get the Nets into the playoffs. That's not much of a goal, but it would least give the Nets some hope at running out the clock on the picks they owe Houston before engaging in a real rebuild. They could get there earlier by just trading Bridges, but for now, they've shown no willingness to do so.

Washington Wizards: The Wizards aren't going anywhere anytime soon, and they don't have much else to spend money on. Why not offer some sort of LaVine-for-Jordan Poole swap? That would save the Bulls money, give them a chance at fixing a younger player, and send LaVine to a team willing to give him all of the shots he needs to regain his star status. If nothing else, he'd put up stats in Washington. The Wizards would probably need an asset to consider this, but the easiest way to trade a bad contract is to take back another one.

Detroit Pistons: The Pistons were one of the few teams reportedly interested in LaVine before his season ended with surgery. They have a new president of basketball operations in Trajan Langdon and are about to have a new head coach after firing Monty Williams. Detroit badly needs shooting and doesn't have a single player earning more than $15 million next season. The Pistons can afford a major swing even if this probably isn't one they should take with Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey in place.

What is the latest reporting?

K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago recently wrote that "both sides are motivated" to make a deal here and that Chicago's asking price has "dropped significantly." That would mean trading him in a cap dump. Of course, the time for a cap dump may have passed. Now, it would probably take substantial value in the form of draft equity for someone to take on the LaVine contract. Would the Bulls make such a move? At this point, there's no telling. But for now, at least, Chicago has seemingly at least accepted that LaVine is not a positive-value asset.