LaVine focused on games not trades, price is two firsts for Kuzma

Houston Rockets v Chicago Bulls

We’ve already had one deal done — with Marvin Bagley III jumping from Detroit to Washington — and with the NBA trade deadline just a few weeks away, more and more rumors are floating around the league. Here are some of the latest news and notes.

• Zach LaVine: “I don’t think about (trades) at all.” Zach LaVine remains one of the best players available at the trade deadline, and multiple reports have said both the Bulls and LaVine are ready to part ways. However, with no apparent traction toward a deal, LaVine told K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports he is focused on just playing and winning in Chicago, which has won 4-of-6.

“We’re winning. There’s nothing better than that. I don’t think about (trades) at all. Unless I get a call from my agent, it’s just another day at the office for me. I’m glad to be out here playing. I’ve been in trade talks for a long time, obviously. I think this year was bigger than years prior. But at the end of the day, it’s nothing new.”

LaVine has been upping his trade value — in his past five games, he has averaged an efficient 17.2 points a game, shooting 42.4% from 3, and has also played some of his best defense since coming to Chicago. LaVine remains a guy who can go get a bucket and a lot of teams could use that (including the Lakers, a long-rumored destination), but it’s his contract — $40 million this season and $138 million guaranteed over three more seasons beyond this one — that continues to give teams pause. For now, LaVine is just focused on playing.

• Price for Dejounte Murray, two first-round picks. If LaVine and Pascal Siakam are not traded at the deadline due to teams concerns about salaries (LaVine’s existing one, or Siakam’s next one as a free agent this offseason), the Hawks Dejounte Murray could be the best player traded at the deadline. Teams needing help at the point guard spot could use Murray, who was an All-Star in that role for the Spurs before being traded to Atlanta (where he never quite meshed with Trae Young). Murray rumors are everywhere, but what is the price? Two first-round picks, according to Kevin O’Conner at The Ringer.

From people I’ve spoken with, the Hawks are asking for two firsts in return for Murray, who would prefer to join a team with a chance to make an immediate playoff run. So far, no one has met their demands.

If that’s the price, the Lakers could not meet it until the offseason (this is where the Austin Reaves rumors come in, but the Lakers are not looking to trade him). As the pressure of the deadline nears, it will be interesting to see if the market shifts to meet the Hawks’ demands or if the Hawks come down on their price to get a deal done.

• Washington wants two first-round picks for Kyle Kuzma. Washington has put itself in the unenviable position of being bad but with some high-priced players on the roster. Which has sparked a lot of trade talk in and around our nation’s capital, particularly around forward Kyle Kuzma. He is averaging 22.4 points and 6.3 rebounds a game, is shooting 34.8% from 3 and can create his own shot — Kuzma would make a good third option on a playoff team. He is in the first year of a four-year, $90 million contract that is reasonable for his production. What is the price for a player like that? Two first-rounders, reports Sam Vecenie at The Athletic.

League sources peg Kuzma’s current price tag to be something in the vein of two first-round picks or equivalent value. I’m skeptical another team will meet that price, so we’ll see if the Wizards have any wiggle room or if the marketplace substantially changes before February.

Don’t be surprised if Kuzma is traded closer to the draft or this summer instead of at the deadline.

Indiana testing market for Buddy Hield and a first-round pick. The Pacers have been one of the most mentioned teams in trade talks, particularly around Toronto‘s Pascal Siakam, although they may be hesitant to pay the price the Raptors are asking for a potential rental (Siakam is a free agent after this season and is looking for a max new contract). At the heart of the Pacers’ offer for Siakam is sharpshooter Buddy Hield and his expiring contract, plus a first-round pick, and the Pacers are seeing what that can get them on the open market reports Marc Stein in his latest Substack newsletter.

“The Pacers, league sources say, have been building trade offers around a package of Buddy Hield (who’s in the final season of his current contract at $18.6 million) and a future first-round pick.”

• Expect Gordon Hayward to be a buyout more than a trade. Gordon Hayward is quietly playing solid basketball in Charlotte, averaging 14.5 points a game, hitting 36.1% from 3, grabbing 4.7 rebounds, and dishing out 4.6 assists. He could add depth to playoff teams making a push, and the Hornets are shopping him, reports Yahoo Sports Jake Fischer, However, Hayward’s $31.5 million contract this season makes it far more likely he gets bought out than traded for.

• Trae Young and Jalen Johnson untouchable in Atlanta. The Hawks are one of the more active sellers heading into the trade deadline as they look to move Dejounte Murray and others, but The Athletic’s John Hollinger echoed other reporting that All-Star point guard Trae Young and emerging wing Jalen Johnson are off limits in any deal.

Orlando exploring Markelle Fultz trade market. Out of the national spotlight, Markelle Fultz developed into a solid rotation NBA point guard who could help many teams if he can stay healthy (he’s played in just nine games this season). The Magic are exploring his and other players’ trade value, reports Stein.

“Along with Wendell Carter Jr., whose availability was disclosed here last week, Orlando is said to be exploring the trade market for guard Markelle Fultz, who is playing on a $17 million expiring contract.”

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