The Chicago Bulls and Zach LaVine need each other, regardless of where both sides are in terms of their contract negotiations.
Zach LaVine was supposed to be the Bulls’ big acquisition when he was involved in the 2017 draft night trade which sent Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves (courtesy of the NBA website). However, the gem of the Jimmy Butler trade turned out to be Lauri Markkanen, who was the Bulls’ seventh pick overall in last year’s draft. Meanwhile, LaVine had a roller coaster season as he was coming back from suffering a torn ACL.
Everyone expected Zach LaVine to struggle after coming back from a serious knee injury. This include the Chicago Bulls’ front office. Usually a player regains their footing the second season after coming back from tearing their ACL. Zach LaVine was no exception. It would behoove the Bulls to come to terms on a reasonable contract agreement with him. With that said, both sides must give a little.
At only 23, Zach LaVine still has a lot of upside. LaVine was supposed to slowly work his way back into shape as the Bulls piled up losses. There were several games where Zach LaVine showcased his ability to be a top tier scorer in the league. Conversely, the lateral quickness that he lost after tearing his ACL was at times telling.
Zach LaVine lost lift on his jump shot and he took defensive plays off on occasion, but he never got the chance to play at the heights of his health.
Because Zach LaVine had some struggles in a season when he was supposed to struggle, it does not preclude the Chicago Bulls from investing in him. At least in the short term.
Chicago Bulls’ insider Nick Friedell had an interesting take on what the Bulls are considering offering LaVine during their contract negotiations. Friedell offered his thoughts on Twitter. His take was that the Bulls would prefer to hand LaVine a four-year offer, worth $60 million.
The Bulls getting Zach LaVine to sign that deal is unlikely to happen. LaVine’s response to the tweet about the ongoing contract negotiations went as far as to suggest it would require more to keep him.
A four-year agreement in the ballpark of $60 million is not enough for a premier athlete of Zach LaVine’s status. The annual average salary for LaVine should be closer to $18 million, especially with the Bulls paying third-string center Cristiano Felicio $8 million per season to sit on the bench.
The Chicago Bulls and Zach LaVine must meet somewhere in the middle or call it quits. However, that deal should be a short-term agreement which will allow LaVine to seek more opportunities in a year or two. An offer in the range of two years for $37 million where the second season has a player option attached to it would be fair for everyone involved.
Zach LaVine gets to try and prove himself with the Bulls for at least another season, while the Bulls get to keep some salary cap flexibility. Essentially LaVine can use the Bulls and vice versa. Again, the Bulls could also let Zach LaVine walk.
According to Bleacher Report, the Sacramento Kings have the most interest in Zach LaVine and they are likely putting together an offer sheet for him. A wise move the Bulls could make is to let LaVine go to the Kings in a sign-and-trade. Obtaining a young player like Harry Giles or Buddy Hield and a second-round pick from the Kings would be a good return in a sign-and-trade.
Resolution to the Chicago Bulls’ stalemate with Zach LaVine could be on the horizon. Especially if the Sacramento Kings force the Bulls’ hand.