“The LaVine trade chatter isn’t going away,” wrote K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “In fact, league sources said that LaVine has landed in preliminary conversations with both the Philadelphia 76ers and Portland Trail Blazers, who are working with James Harden and Damian Lillard, respectively, to find them new homes.”
The ultimate destinations for both Lillard and Harden remain the biggest unresolved issues of the NBA offseason. In Lillard’s case, the 32-year-old has requested a trade away from the Portland Trail Blazers with Miami reportedly his heavily preferred destination.
However, Portland reportedly isn’t sold on what the Heat may be offering, so another team might have to get involved to make a deal more palatable to the Trail Blazers. That’s where LaVine and the Bulls could come in, either as a direct competitor for Lillard in a two-team trade or vehicle to make a three-team deal work out for all sides.
Miami’s package reportedly has Tyler Herro as its centerpiece, and the Heat would prefer to hold onto Caleb Martin, who may be seen as a “real sticking point” in talks. Philadelphia also has reportedly been linked to a possible Lillard trade, which could be a way for Portland to increase what it gets in return for its franchise player.
Harden opted into his contract with the 76ers this offseason as a way to better facilitate a trade. He reportedly is looking to be dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Lillard waited until after free agency began to formally request a trade, though his desire to play for the Heat was reported a little after Miami lost the NBA Finals to the Denver Nuggets. His repeated declarations about Miami reportedly may be scaring off other teams from engaging in talks with Portland.
The Brooklyn Nets are a team prominently mentioned as the most likely to fit into a three-team deal involving the Heat and Trail Blazers. The Bulls reportedly have been gauging trade interest in LaVine for some time, and perhaps they see the latest developments around Lillard and Harden as a way to jump in.
LaVine has averaged at least 24 points per game the past four seasons and signed a contract extension worth about $215 million for five years last offseason. Perhaps his playing ability and hefty contract are just the items that are missing to help Portland work a deal and Lillard find his way to Miami after all.