Buying or Selling Latest NBA Trade Buzz
NBA trade talks never travel solo.
The initial rumor is accompanied by instant reaction from fans and media alike. Reporting confirmation might arrive a split-second later. In many cases, a second layer of the original trade buzz surfaces sooner than later.
But beyond the trade chatter itself, there isn't a more critical member of the travel party than the smell test. Even the juiciest trade rumors only create so much buzz if rational thoughts aren't at their source.
Let's put our noses to work, then, as we buy or sell the key components of the latest NBA trade talk.
Bulls Not Looking to Move Zach LaVine
Zach LaVine's perfectly timed ascension has the Chicago Bulls sitting on a gold mine.
He's hitting his statistical stride, which is saying something for a player who's posted near-All-Star production over the last few seasons. His volume is up (26.8 points, 5.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game), and his efficiency is soaring along with it (49.7/38.2/87.4 shooting slash).
Just like that, Chicago has a tremendous trade chip in its hand, but it might not be willing to play it.
"Word around the league is that the Bulls aren't looking to move LaVine," K.C. Johnson wrote for NBC Sports Chicago.
This could be a missed opportunity, though it could come down to semantics. The gap between "aren't looking to move" and "will not trade" is impossible to gauge, though it's necessary to root out the news here. The Bulls may not feel any pressure to part with LaVine, who's owed a more than reasonable $19.5 million next season, so if all this means is they aren't initiating trade talks, that's understandable.
However, this quickly gets thorny if Chicago is refusing to humor trade suitors looking at the scoring guard. Even with the growth in his game, there's no evidence he can be the best (or second-best) player on a good team. There's also the fact that once this contract is up (2022), he might get max-contract expensive in a hurry.
At the very least, the Bulls should be open to getting blown away by a no-brainer offer. With the James Harden sweepstakes finished and a Bradley Beal blockbuster not guaranteed to go down, LaVine could be high on the wish list of backcourt-needy shoppers. By keeping its ears open, Chicago might discover there are too many assets available to not make a deal.
Verdict: Buy the Bulls not shopping LaVine. But if they aren't listening to every reasonable offer, they aren't doing it right.
Chicago a Sleeper in Bradley Beal Sweepstakes
It feels like every possible path leading Bradley Beal out of the District has been explored despite the Washington Wizards insisting he's going nowhere and the All-Star not seeking out a deal. Or at least it felt like they'd all been discussed until word of a sleeper suitor emerged.
ESPN's Brian Windhorst broke it down on his Hoop Collective podcast:
"The other team that I would say would be a sleeper would be the [Chicago] Bulls. Zach LaVine's value has never been higher, they have their full complement of picks to trade from, they have a couple of other young pieces on their roster that maybe could interest people.
"And Arturas Karnisovas—their general manager [executive vice president of basketball operations]—has really emphasized the importance to build around shooting. Bradley Beal is one of the best shooters in the league. The Bulls have attempted to build through the draft, and they just haven't been able to make contact on a star, so I think they are a sleeper team."
A few broad strokes could paint some of this picture. Chicago has a handful of interesting up-and-comers, and it doesn't have anyone in Beal's weight class as an established star.
But does anyone think the Bulls are a Beal-for-LaVine (and more) swap away from anything more substantial than a ticket to the play-in tournament?
Would Chicago's ceiling really rise that much between now and 2022, at which point Beal can enter unrestricted free agency? Do the Wizards see someone on the Bulls roster in the same light they do other possible Beal blockbuster centerpieces like Michael Porter Jr. or Tyler Herro?
In a vacuum, Chicago might want Beal the same way most any other NBA team would want to roster the NBA's scoring leader. However, the first dig beneath the surface unearths major question marks about the Bulls' level of interest in a Beal blockbuster and their ability to pull it off.
Verdict: Sell the Bulls breaking the bank for Beal, and sell Washington wanting whatever Chicago offers.
Teams Targeting P.J. Tucker
As much as the Association is a copycat league, there are different ways to contend for the crown.
Almost all of them would be easier with P.J. Tucker around.
He's on a short list of the league's toughest players. It's why he's able to serve spot duty as a 6'5", super-small-ball center. In case his willingness to lock horns with opposing 7-footers hadn't given this away already, he's about as versatile as it gets on the defensive end. On offense, he's a low-maintenance spot-up sniper who's splashed 36.2 percent of his career long-range looks.
He'd be an easy player to acclimate to any win-now situation, and the impact of his arrival could be immense for clubs in dire need of more defense and spacing.
Trade shoppers seem to agree.
"Numerous teams" are hot on Tucker's trails, per The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor, who reported the Houston Rockets want three second-rounders in return.
All this feels logical.
It's hard (see: impossible) to compile a list of clubs that couldn't stand to improve their defense, outside shooting or, in most cases, both. Tucker can scratch both itches for whichever team pays the premium to get him out of Space City, and the Rockets should want to get a trade done since he's a 35-year-old free-agent-to-be as they stare down the barrel of a post-James Harden rebuild.
Verdict: Buy. Tucker can upgrade virtually any contender, and the Rockets should be ready and willing to relocate him.
Kings Shopping Nemanja Bjelica
Last season, Nemanja Bjelica finished third on the Sacramento Kings in total minutes played. This year, he has slipped out of head coach Luke Walton's rotation.
"The Kings reduced Bjelica's role as part of general manager Monte McNair's plan to rebuild around De'Aaron Fox," Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee reported. "... The Kings explored trades for Bjelica around the time of the November draft and will likely continue to do so as they begin to rebuild over the next two to four years."
This sounds...incredibly sensible, which isn't exactly how this franchise has previously been described. But if the small sample of McNair's tenure can be trusted, Sacramento has traded its old attempts at instant acceleration for slow, steady and sustainable growth.
Bjelica is a 32-year-old on the final season of his contract. He doesn't fit this new vision for roster construction. He's especially easy to sit when doing so frees up more minutes for Marvin Bagley III, 2018's No. 2 pick who continues to battle inconsistency but also tantalizes with high-level flashes.
Bjelica's loss of utility in Sacramento should not at all reflect his trade market. There, win-now shoppers will see him as a skilled combo big who can goose the offense as a spacer (career 39.0 percent from distance) and ball-mover (2.8 assists against 1.4 turnovers per game last season).
When one sends a long-term asset in the Kings' direction, Bjelica's departure should be a win for both teams and another for him.
Verdict: Buy Bjelica rocking new threads before the trade deadline.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.