Could Klutch Sports Pull Off a Zach LaVine for Russell Westbrook S&T?
Let’s play connect the dots. Bull’s superstar Zach LaVine will be a free agent this summer. LaVine’s agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports also represents LeBron James and Anthony Davis and has an alliance with the Lakers front office.
Could Zach LaVine become this year’s version of Klutch Sports forcing a trade of another superstar player to the Los Angeles Lakers? What’s to prevent Paul from demanding the Bulls sign-and-trade LaVine to the Lakers for Westbrook. While it’s a long shot, would the Lakers actually double down on trying to create a Superstar Big Three with James, Davis, and LaVine in the immediate aftermath of the James, Davis, and Westbrook Big Three cratering badly?
Knowing the Lakers penchant for stars, Rob Pelinka and Rich Paul would likely salivate at the idea of Zack LaVine joining LeBron James and Anthony Davis to create a Superstar Big Three and expand the Klutch/Lakers alliance. With LeBron turning 38-years old next season, the Lakers pursuit of a third superstar like Zach LaVine could also be viewed as a savvy preemptive step towards finding a needed superstar replacement for James before he retires.
The question is how can the Lakers and Klutch leverage LaVine’s unrestricted free agency status to force the Bulls to trade Zach to the Lakers? Unlike with Anthony Davis, there’s no way the Lakers can threaten to sign him outright. What the Lakers and Klutch can do, however, is request the Chicago Bulls to sign-and-trade Zach LaVine to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Russell Westbrook with their 2027 and 2029 unprotected first round picks as carrots.
The stick would be the threat of LaVine signing as an unrestricted free agent with a third team putting the Bulls in the position of losing their superstar shooting guard to free agency without receiving anything at all in return. While there will be several teams with the cap space to sign LaVine outright as a free agent, all Zach has to do to give Los Angeles the leverage it needs to close the deal is to say he will only agree to a sign-and-trade with the Lakers.
That would put the Bulls in the position where they either lose LaVine for nothing or get Westbrook’s valuable expiring contract and two unprotected Post-LeBron James Lakers’ first round picks that could be highly valuable. Alternatively, the Bulls may decide the open cap space now is better than Westbrook and the two picks and pass or negotiate with the Lakers for a sweetener or two, maybe expanding the trade to other teams and players.
The Lakers would be hard capped at $155.2 million in salaries for the year due to receiving LaVine in a sign-and-trade. Swapping Russ’ $47 million for Zach’s $38 million would leave L.A.’s payroll at $141.7 million for 8 players. That would leave them $13.5 million to fill out the roster to at least 14 players. Because they’re hard capped, they would also be able to use the full MLE for $10.2 million and the BAE for $4.0 million up to the hard cap.
The Lakers would then look to move Horton-Tucker’s $10 million and Kendrick Nunn’s $5 million salaries for a player making around $10 million per year, which would free up cap space so they could use their full MLE and BAE. Being able to add a second new rotation player via a THT trade and third and fourth new rotation players via the $10.2 million MLE and $4.0 million BAE would enable the Lakers to build a better roster around this Big Three.
After the bad press dumped on the Lakers and Klutch after orchestrating the infamous Anthony Davis trade, it’s probably a long shot that Rob Pelinka and Rich Paul would try to force another superstar to be traded to the Lakers. However, there’s probably no other NBA superstar who is better positioned right now than Zach LaVine to pull off a blockbuster strategic move like forcing the Bulls to trade him to the Lakers for Russell Westbrook and picks.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Klutch Sports can double down on the alliance by choreographing a mega trade with the Chicago Bulls with L.A. getting LaVine and Chicago getting Westbrook and two unprotected first round draft picks.
If you enjoyed this article and want to share your ideas and comments with other Lakers fans, please join us at Lakerholics.Com.