One of the most recent peak examples of Lakers exceptionalism was the idea that they could conceivably land Zach LaVine this offseason. Predictably, that appears to be a very short-lived fantasy.
LaVine is set to be one of the top free agents on the market this offseason. The UCLA product is also set to earn one hell of a contract, regardless of where he signs. It wasn’t until LaVine talked about being a Lakers fan, though, that the rumors really started circulating.
On Tuesday, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report effectively ended those rumors by reporting that the Bulls are expected to fend off multiple suitors, Lakers included, to retain LaVine.
LaVine’s free agency has generated plenty of conversation among NBA personnel over the past few weeks. But despite rumblings that the Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, Atlanta Hawks and Los Angeles Lakers will make plays for LaVine, the coveted swingman is likely to remain with his current team.
There was no realistic way for the Lakers to acquire LaVine unless the Bulls really, really wanted Russell Westbrook. Theoretically, there are three-way trade possibilities that could land LaVine in Los Angeles, but then the question becomes why would the third team itself not just trade for LaVine instead of Westbrook.
One of the only other ways could have been some avenue of trading Westbrook without acquiring any salary back, potentially opening up some cap space or a Traded Player Exception large enough to absorb LaVine in a sign-and-trade. However, the Oklahoma City Thunder are the only franchise that could have conceivably helped the Lakers do that and they used enough cap space in a recent deal to make that scenario effectively impossible.
So, ultimately, while the Lakers can be thrown in there as a potential team that would have made a play for LaVine, it was never going to be a serious one. Thus is the consequence of using all your assets to acquire Westbrook last season, a move the Lakers are only going to continue reeling from.