A season that started off so promisingly for Zach LaVine and the Chicago Bulls ended up ending with a disappointing first-round elimination to the Milwaukee Bucks. Now both sides must decide how to approach the future and face a decisive offseason.
LaVine became an unrestricted free agent this summer, but despite the fact that Chicago can pay him the most money — $212 million over five years — he won’t be able to return to the Bulls. according to NBC Sports Chicago. In an NBA draft report, KC Johnson noted that LaVine was linked with at least four other teams: the Los Angeles Lakers, the Portland Trail Blazers, the Atlanta Hawks, and the Dallas Mavericks.
Last offseason, the Bulls made some major moves to improve the team around LaVine by adding DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso. Losing LaVine a year later wouldn’t have been ideal, and Bulls chairman Michael Reinsdorf said the team was willing to go for a luxury tax to keep that group. But making a public statement about 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 he wants the maximum deal and was noncommittal when asked about his future last month:
“I’ve been here for the last five years and really enjoyed my time” LaVine said. “I think the city — and I hope everyone — understands how much I care about the Bulls and what I’ve done for the city. let’s see what happens in the future.”
As far as the financial aspect of this situation, it’s worth noting that of the other teams LaVine has been linked with, the Blazers are the only one with enough headroom to offer the maximum deal. LaVine hails from the Pacific Northwest, and this isn’t the first time there’s been mention of a possible homecoming.
“Let me just say that I was talking to league management when they saw what LaVine said. [about going into free agency with an open mind] and what they see that the Blazers can do, this scenario pops up.” Brian Windhorst said on an episode of “The Hoop Collective” earlier this month.
That doesn’t mean that he will definitely move to the Blazers, or that the other teams mentioned are out of the picture. Signature swapping is more popular than ever, and if the last few seasons have taught us anything, it’s that teams can be extremely creative when needed. Of course, if the Bulls offer a full max deal, LaVine might just stay put.
Whatever the case, it will be interesting to see what happens with LaVine this summer. The two-time All-Star is one of the top players in the market and will require a lot of attention.