Ever since the Bulls’ season ended, there has been a flurry of reports on how Zach LaVine staying in Chicago is not guaranteed. The rumors included Zach moving to the Lakers or the Trailblazers.
Now Joe Cowley, of the Chicago Sun-Times, is reporting that the Bulls are planning to offer LaVine a max deal when free agency opens.
“All indications from the offices of the Advocate Center are that the Bulls will offer him that max deal and take that leap of faith. It will be up to LaVine to decide whether the feeling is mutual or whether he rather would move on, leaving executive Vice President of basketball operations, Arturas Karnisovas, possibly to go the sign-and-trade route.”Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times
The contract Zach LaVine is in the market for is a five-year $212.3 million deal. Only the Chicago Bulls can offer this high of a deal. Other teams can offer up to $157.4 million.
LaVine would be leaving $55 million on the table if he went elsewhere. While the Bulls should be a clear choice, LaVine earned the right to listen to other teams’ visions.
Is Zach LaVine Worth A Max Deal?
As for the Chicago Bulls, LaVine does have ground to acquire the max deal. Outside of his stellar play, the 2018 extension severely underpaid his performance during those four years compared to the rest of the league.
But the GarPax regime was the one who signed that deal. Ever since Arturas Karnisovas took over, the Bulls made LaVine the centerpiece of the roster.
The Bulls’ fan base is concerned that the organization is tying up a lot of salary in an injury-prone player who isn’t good on defense. That’s fair, but the Bulls still have to take into account that LaVine had great stats while playing injured.
After the first six weeks of the season, he developed a hand injury. Just before the All-Star break, he started having knee issues as well. He played through all of it, even though it require him to get knee surgery this week.
LaVine recorded insane offensive stats in the first six weeks of the 2021-22 season and in his time playing on Team USA prior to that.
His defense was greatly improved too but was it worth a max deal?
If the report is true, Arturas Karnisovas is taking the right risk. Without Zach LaVine, the Chicago Bulls’ two best players are aging DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic.
DeRozan had a career season at 32 years old but that doesn’t mean his shooting percentages won’t average out next year. Also, having LaVine’s scoring made it hard for opposing teams to double-team DeRozan when both players were on the court.
Without him, DeRozan struggled with the double-team defense at the end of the year.
Ever since the Bulls got Nikola Vucevic, he has not lived up to the All-Star he was in Orlando. But he averaged a double-double this past season. Again, LaVine deserves a little credit here. A big part of Vucevic’s game is playing off the pick and roll/pop with LaVine.
Every other Chicago Bulls player is too young or too inconsistent to step into the role Zach LaVine held last year. Letting LaVine walk would mean punting on this championship window.
LaVine provides so much on offense that without him, the Bulls would not be a playoff team. It will be easier to give him a max deal and then spend the rest of the cap on defensive upgrades in the offseason.
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