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Which Bulls guard should the Lakers prioritize in potential trade talks between Alex Caruso and Zach LaVine?

The Lakers have been rumored to a couple of guards on the Bulls roster, but should they be prioritizing Alex Caruso or Zach LaVine in a trade?

Chicago Bulls v Indiana Pacers Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

No team may be more disappointing this season than the Chicago Bulls. With a payroll ranking in the middle of the league and a number of players on big contracts, the team has been one of the worst in the Eastern Conference.

Appropriately, the team has quickly seen the notable players they have thrust into trade rumors, most notably Zach LaVine and Alex Caruso. And with both having ties to the Lakers in the past, each has been linked with the purple and gold.

The two represent very different philosophies, one returning to something of a three-star approach and the other furthering the team’s more recent approach of role players that fit around LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

LaVine is similar and different than the team’s recent attempt at a third star in Russell Westbrook. The obvious difference is he’s significantly younger and not nearly as poor of a fit offensively as Russ was. LaVine playing off of AD and LeBron would give them a legitimate scorer and three-level threat.

He’s similar, though, in that he comes with a multi-year commitment at a very expensive figure — even moreso than Russ — and would greatly, greatly inhibit how the team could build out the roster.

He also comes with a host of defensive concerns as well as physical ones after battling knee injuries during his career. He’s far from a sure thing and acquiring him would be a high-risk gamble for the Lakers that could pay big or could blow up in their face like their last trade for a star.

Caruso, then, represents the safer gamble, one that isn’t nearly as high-risk but isn’t as high of a reward. He doesn’t have the All-Star talent that LaVine has, nor does he bring dynamic scoring on offense to raise the team’s ceiling. He’s a role player that has limits offensively. Largely speaking, he’s the player he is and has been for a number of years now.

But that player is one who is exceptional in his role and was an x-factor in the Lakers winning the title in 2020. He may be limited offensively, but he’s still an exceptional player in his role with a very high basketball IQ. He’s also an elite defender, one of the best in the league, and, obviously, has a history with LeBron and AD.

Much as it’s enjoyable to think of the offensive possibilities with LaVine on the floor given the space afforded to him alongside LeBron and AD, imagining the defensive potential of a lineup of Caruso, LeBron, AD, Reddish and Vanderbilt is equally enticing. And who doesn’t want to see Austin Reaves and Caruso tearing backcourts apart?

All that leads to the question of who should the Lakers prioritize? It’s unlikely the team could pull off a trade for both and, logistically, there are questions about if they want to reshape their backcourt to that degree mid-season.

Even if they could trade for both, play the hypothetical out just for the sake of entertainment. If they can only have one, who should they go for?

It’s a question that would have different answers at different points in the season already. When the reports first surfaced, trading for LaVine to help a sputtering Lakers side likely seemed a more appealing strategy.

Now, with the Lakers having won seven of their last 10 games despite not being healthy, is it worth such a big gamble to bring in a player that will force a notable change in the team’s approach on both ends of the floor?

LaVine would be a swing for the fences, a last-gasp hope to try to capitalize on the potential final year of LeBron in Los Angeles. Caruso would be a bet on what the Lakers have been doing — and also an admission of error — and a hope that what they have is enough.

Forced to choose, Caruso would be the pick. He comes at a lower cost, a lower risk but a higher floor and a safer bet. He would solidify the Lakers’ backcourt, offer a point-of-attack defender they don’t have and, perhaps most importantly, would come at a lower asking price.

There’s another debate as to whether both Caruso and LaVine should cost the same in a trade, but at the end of the day, LaVine will almost certainly come at a larger asking price. Caruso could be had without a massive shakeup of the roster or without losing massive pieces.

Is it worth the Lakers gambling big? Do they have enough belief in what they’re doing to simply solidify that? The likely — and not fun answer — is that the Lakers will land neither. But Lakers exceptionalism wasn’t born in logic.

You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.

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