A season that started with so much promise for Zach LaVine and the Chicago Bulls ultimately ended in disappointing fashion with a feeble first-round exit to the Milwaukee Bucks. Now, both parties must decide how to approach the future and face a pivotal offseason.
LaVine is an unrestricted free agent this summer, but despite the fact that Chicago can pay him the most money — $212 million over five years — he is not a lock to return to the Bulls, according to NBC Sports Chicago. Reporting from the NBA Draft Combine, K.C. Johnson noted that LaVine has been linked to at least four other teams: the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks.
The Bulls made some major moves last offseason to improve the team around LaVine, adding DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso. Losing LaVine a year later would not be ideal, and Bulls chairman Michael Reinsdorf has said the team is willing to go into the luxury tax to keep this group together. But making a public statement for good PR and actually offering a full max deal are two different things, especially for a franchise that has been notoriously cheap at times.
LaVine, for his part, has made it clear that he wants a max deal, and was non-committal when asked about his future last month:
“I’ve been here for the last five years and I’ve really enjoyed my time,” LaVine said. “I think the city — and I hope everybody — understands how much I care about the Bulls and what I’ve done for the city. I’m going into everything open-minded, but understand that my time here has been great. We’ll see what the future holds.”
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In regards to the financial aspect of this situation, it’s worth noting that of the other teams LaVine has been linked to, the Blazers are the only one that has enough cap space to offer a max deal. LaVine is from the Pacific Northwest, and this isn’t the first time a possible move back home has been mentioned.
“Let me just say that as I’ve talked to league executives, when they saw what LaVine said [about going into free agency with an open mind] and what they see the Blazers can do, that scenario has popped up,” Brian Windhorst said on an episode of “The Hoop Collective” earlier this month.
That doesn’t mean he’s definitely going to the Blazers, nor that the other teams mentioned are out of the picture. Sign-and-trades are more popular than ever, and if the last few seasons have taught us anything, it’s that teams can be extremely creative when necessary. Of course, if the Bulls offer the full max deal, LaVine might just stay put.
Regardless, it’s going be interesting to monitor the LaVine situation this summer. The two-time All-Star is one of the premier players on the market and will demand a lot of attention.