At this point, it’s understandable for any star to be linked to the Knicks because they, with their cap situation and draft capital, have the means to get a deal done if they really wanted to go all in on someone. And there’s certainly a chance that the Bulls, who currently sit below the Knicks at 11-15, will look to change some things up.
After getting off to an incredibly hot start last season, the Bulls have never been the same. Injuries to Zach LaVine, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and others have often kept this team from being as good as they were. And even when they are remotely healthy, they just seem unable to recapture the overall level of play that they showed glimpses of. That being said, the Bulls have yet to show any signs of wanting to trade the former All-Star.
But we also have to ask if LaVine is even worth going after. Let’s say the Bulls revisit this idea after a couple more weeks of subpar results and decide to make their shooting guard available. Should the Knicks give up multiple picks and young players for LaVine? Is he worth the investment? Can LaVine move the needle enough?
The Bulls guard is certainly a good player. He has exceptional shot-creation skills, and the shooting to complement a solid driving game. We’ve seen LaVine over the last few years have some insane performances and carry the Bulls for stretches. But LaVine just isn’t good enough for a team like the Knicks to pursue strongly. Were the Knicks just one piece away, then sure, it’s a conversation worth having, but the Knicks are a couple of pieces away from being a piece away.
LaVine is currently averaging 21.8 PPG, on 43.4% from the field and 35.8% from deep while getting to the free throw line just 4.2 times per game, which are all the lowest since his 17-18 season (his first season back from an ACL injury). A lot of it is because of his knees.
LaVine has dealt with some knee issues in the past, and this season it seems to be bothering him quite a bit. And that’s not something you want to hear about a 27-year-old who signed a five-year $215 million max contract in the summer.
A player of LaVine’s caliber would certainly help the current Knicks but not nearly enough. If the Knicks weren’t going to go all in on Donovan Mitchell, who has been significantly better than LaVine this season, then there is zero reason for them to give up any real assets for Zach.
The Knicks have long been linked to young stars like Karl-Anthony Towns and Shai Gilgeous Alexander so again, it’s not surprising to hear about their interest in LaVine. But if some fans that are wary of going all in on Towns, Gilgeous-Alexander, and Mitchell, then there will surely be an even larger faction of the fanbase that will be against LaVine.
By signing LaVine, the Knicks will win a few more regular season games but have another ball-dominant, non-defending player who would get in the way of any remaining young players. And then with his contract, you’re looking at a multi-year commitment with very few ways and assets to get better.
Trading for LaVine would be a huge step back and a move reminiscent of some of the front-office decisions that the team used to make. Hopefully this is not a very serious rumor and, after considering LaVine’s recent performance, injury history, and contract, the front office decides to wait for future opportunities.