Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine is set to miss 3-to-4 more weeks with right foot inflammation, the team announced on Wednesday. LaVine, who has struggled with injuries for years, is having his worst full season as a member of the Bulls. He is averaging lows in points (21) and field goal percentage (44.3%) for his Bulls tenure if you exclude the 2017-18 season that he spent largely recovering from a torn ACL.
Chicago has done well in his absence, winning the first three games that he missed. That included an overtime thriller over the Milwaukee Bucks, one of the best teams in the NBA, that fellow Bulls All-Star DeMar DeRozan also missed. For the season, the Bulls are 8-14 and outside of the top 10 in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Bulls have reportedly spent the past several weeks looking into trades for LaVine, and an injury won't help their cause. LaVine is in the second year of a five-year, $215 million max contract that will likely scare some teams off in this new, second-apron world the league's highest-spending organizations are about to enter.
From a mechanical standpoint, though, the timing here could have been worse for Chicago. Most teams simply cannot match salary on a contract of LaVine's size right now, but on Dec. 15, most of the free agents that signed deals over the summer will become tradable. The rest, including some of the notable deals from the Lakers, a rumored LaVine destination, will be movable on Jan. 15. This timeline should have LaVine back on the court right in the middle of those two dates, giving him some time to showcase himself to contenders before the trade market heats up.
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Still, an injury of any kind is dangerous for Chicago. LaVine's contract is so long and potentially onerous that if they can't find a suitor now, while he's still relatively young and productive, it might get significantly harder to do so later. The Bulls need LaVine to come back at full strength as quickly as possible if only to facilitate the best possible trade return.