The Chicago Bulls could look very different next season. At least one analyst thinks they will have to figure out a way to navigate life without star guard Zach LaVine.
Their fast exit and injury situation throughout the back half of the season had similar conversations stirring for some time. But now folks are outright saying the quiet part out loud.
NBA analyst and Ringer personality, Logan Murdock, joined Kevin O’Conner on “The Void” to share his thoughts after LaVine said he was “keeping his eyes open” entering unrestricted free agency for the first time in his eight-year career.
Murdock had a warning for both sides.
A Grim Assessment
O’Connor set the stage with the “crossroads” facing the Bulls in this critical offseason. He mentioned Lonzo Ball saying that he was still experiencing pain in his surgically repaired knee and LaVine’s venture into free agency before asking Murdock for his assessment.
Murdock was not optimistic sharing that this was a topic he and his co-host on the “Real Ones” podcast, former 12-year NBA veteran Raja Bell, discussed often.
“If there was ever a year for them to do something, it was this year. But it seemed like all the Bulls teams since Michael Jordan left which is they can be really good…they ultimately have a ceiling…There are teams with stars better than them in their conference.”
This is not outlandish by any stretch. Giannis Antetokounmpo is arguably the best player in the world. Joel Embiid could win MVP this season. Both will be in the East for a long time, health permitting, so the conference figures to go through them.
There are also the likes of Jayson Tatum’s Boston Celtics or former Bulls guard Jimmy Butler’s Miami Heat.
Murdock continued with what could be a message for LaVine as he makes his pivotal decision.
“When I think about the Bulls I think about a team that just didn’t meet the moment this year and I think about a team that is now aging. That DeMar DeRozan deal is about to start looking really really hard…Then you have the Lonzo injury…it’s a bit older than say the Pelicans or someone.”
The Bulls are younger by the average age of the team than the Pels, per Real GM. But, to Murdock’s point, two of their top three players are 30-plus-years old in DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic.
Take on LaVine Comments
LaVine heads into the offseason having averaged 24.4 points on 60.5% true shooting in the regular season – down from 27.4 points on 63.4% true shooting last season. Making his postseason debut n the Bulls’ playoff series, he averaged 19.3 points per game on 55.3% true shooting.
He recorded a points-rebounds double-double in Game 1 and recorded a points-assists version in Game 4. But LaVine missed Game 5 with knee soreness and will have surgery during the summer.
“When I read those comments from Zach LaVine”, Murdock says, “it doesn’t seem like a guy that’s going to stay. It just doesn’t. It doesn’t seem like a guy…that is committed.”
Murdock provides Chris Webber’s free agency in 2001 as an example. Webber’s agent stated that his client was having doubts about returning to Sacramento just hours before ultimately re-signing with the Kings.
“I just don’t see it when I read those comments from LaVine. It doesn’t seem like a guy that wants to stay.”
Interestingly, the Kings signed LaVine to an offer sheet when he was an unrestricted free agent in 2018 that the Bulls matched. The entire process set the stage for the uncertainty heading into this offseason.
NBC Sports’ Kurt Helin reports that the expectation is a new deal for LaVine in Chicago.
There may not be a lot of competition for LaVine, despite him being a prolific scorer — there are just not many teams that have or can create max cap space…The most likely outcome is LaVine re-signs in Chicago and the Bulls run it back with DeMar DeRozan, Nichola Vucevic, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and the rest. He’d be leaving a lot of guaranteed money on the table, and wouldn’t necessarily be going to a better situation.
Don’t expect this to be the last we hear of LaVine’s potential departure, though.