AP Photo/Tim Heitman
Dallas Mavericks received: Zach LaVine and Coby White
Chicago Bulls received: Tim Hardaway Jr., Josh Green, Reggie Bullock, Davis Bertans and 2027 first-round pick
Even before Jalen Brunson came to the Big Apple, it was clear that Luka Dončić needed more help to handle the Mavs offense. Dallas’ decision to let Brunson free and not replace him has resulted in Dončić shouldering the seventh-highest usage percentage in NBA history.
Relying on a single player like that never works, no matter how brilliant that player might be. Of the five players who ended a season with a usage rate higher than Dončić’s 37.8 – Giannis Antetokounmpo currently boasts a higher usage rate, although that will change with Khris Middleton’s return – only James Harden’s Houston Rockets won a playoff streak in 2018-19 Series. They lost in the second round. Michael Jordan’s 1986-87 Chicago Bulls did not win a postseason game. Russell Westbrook’s 2014-15 Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t even make the playoffs.
Dallas needs to diversify its attack, but it’s not swimming in the assets needed to nab a Superstar. Instead, the Mavs’ best bet could be squeezing what they can in a (slightly) reduced deal for Zach LaVine, whose knee problems and declining shooting rates may already be causing Chicago’s front office to sell his $215.2 million obligation for him to reconsider.
If Dallas properly assesses LaVine’s ability to recover, it could finally have an offensive electric weapon that not only diverts Dončić’s attention but actually improves what he’s doing.
LaVine has no trouble finding shots for himself or his teammates. He was one of only four players to average 23 points and four assists in each of the last four seasons. He was also an 80th percentile finisher on isolations last season. But he’s just as strong – if not stronger – when moving off the ball. Last season, he jetted an absurd 46 percent of his catch-and-shoot three-pointers while ranking below the 91st percentile in spot-up games.
Dončić is a visionary passer, but he’s only as good as his receivers allow him to be. Having a net shredder like LaVine – and too much (a lot of) less strong, Coby White – would make Dončić’s pass attack all the more powerful.
As for Chicago, that would be an admission that the current roster setup isn’t working. Perhaps it feels too soon to pull the plug, but LaVine won’t be tradable until Jan. 15, so the need for a change in direction from bulls by then might be obvious.
In this deal, Chicago can strike a balance to brighten the future without necessarily sacrificing the present. Josh Green and the draft pick have the longest-running intrigues, but the bulls could also have some short-term gains. While they would deliver the best player in this deal, they would also increase their wing rotation and fix their lack of shooting, potentially resulting in a more cohesive group.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and NBA.com and current through December 1st.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. follow him on twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.