For the past seven seasons, the Portland Trail Blazers have failed to find an All-Star running mate to pair with franchise star Damian Lillard.
Now — according to a report from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst in his Hoop Collective podcast Tuesday — the Blazers have a potential to find one in Chicago Bulls two-time All-Star Zach LaVine.
LaVine, 27, is entering unrestricted free agency this summer. After initial speculation indicated he would stay in Chicago, recent comments by the former UCLA Bruin cloud his summer with uncertainty.
“I plan to enjoy free agency,” he told reporters in late April. “We’re going to have to experience A through Z without making any fast decisions. I think that’s something me and [agent Rich Paul] are going to go through and experience.”
Windhorst reported the Blazers have “popped up” as a potential landing spot for LaVine.
The price tag for LaVine will be hefty. The Bulls can put $212.3 million over five years on the table, while another team can offer LaVine $157.4 million.
Should the Blazers sign LaVine, it likely means the end of Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic’s tenures in Portland. In fact, there’s a good chance the Bulls would want Simons in a sign-and-trade.
There are multiple connections between LaVine and the Blazers that could point to mutual interest between the two sides. LaVine’s agent, Rich Paul, also represents Portland center Jusuf Nurkic. Klutch Sports Group — Paul’s agency which he founded — represents Portland head coach Chauncey Billups.
At the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, LaVine won a gold medal with Lillard as members of Team USA.
Despite the connections, Joseph Zucker of Bleacher Report warns LaVine and the Blazers are an imperfect match — especially since LaVine may undergo offseason surgery to address a lingering knee injury. Zucker writes the splashy move could be an overpay for a player who has never been an “elite star” and is reminiscent of a shooting guard Portland moved on from recently.
By pairing LaVine with Lillard, Portland might risk putting itself exactly where it was a few years go. The Lillard/McCollum partnership helped guide the Blazers to eight straight playoff trips, but only once did they get past the conference semifinals.
The franchise was a consistent winner in the regular season but had a firm ceiling in the postseason. Considering Lillard will turn 32 in July and missed 53 games because of an abdominal injury, going big-game hunting in free agency might be an example of Cronin throwing good money after bad.
In five years with the Bulls, LaVine has averaged 24.4 points and 4.4 assists per game, while shooting 38.9% from beyond the arc.
BE community, what do you think? Should the Blazers try to trade for Zach LaVine? Chime off in the comments below.