The New York Knicks are a middle-of-the-pack team waiting for the next available star to lift them to become a legitimate playoff contender.
Could that be Zach LaVine?
Mike Scotto of Hoopshype said on Thursday’s podcast that the Knicks are among several NBA teams that rival executives are keeping an eye on who could be interested in trading for LaVine if the underwhelming Chicago Bulls decide to blow it up.
Joining the Knicks on that list are the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, and Miami Heat.
Among that list, the Knicks are the clear frontrunners if the Bulls want a haul of draft picks to start a full-scale rebuild.
But is LaVine worth a Donovan Mitchell-type package?
The Bulls star is having his worst season in five years. His numbers — 22.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists — are all down compared to his previous two All-Star seasons. But could it be more due to the absence of Lonzo Ball and still shaking off the effects of the arthroscopic surgery he had in May to repair his left knee?
The 27-year-old LaVine is still shooting 37.8 percent from deep, close to his 38.5 percent career clip. His dynamic scoring could open up the floor more for Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle, who both are playing All-Star caliber seasons.
LaVine is also a willing defender with the right defensive structure. He’s averaged at least one steal for four seasons. And it is interesting to note that Tom Thibodeau paved the way for LaVine’s rise in their one season together in Minnesota. And LaVine credited Thibodeau for that.
LaVine is still in the first year of a $215 million, five-year max contract.
If the Knicks trade for him if he becomes available, the trio of LaVine, Brunson, and Randle will eat up an average of $105 million of the Knicks’ annual salary cap. That shoots up to $120 million if you add Mitchell Robinson’s $15 million average yearly salary, leaving the Knicks with little wiggle room to build around them.
If and when LaVine becomes available, the Knicks must think hard if he’s the star they’re willing to go all-in.
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