The Chicago Bulls could find themselves fending off overtures from the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason.
“[The Lakers’] nightly scramble for offensive production this postseason (10th in efficiency) could nudge them toward finding a much more reliable third option with LeBron James and Anthony Davis,” wrote Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report on May 10.
“Zach LaVine could handle that role—if not exceed it.”
LaVine fell short of the All-Star expectations set by his last two campaigns thanks to a slow start after knee surgery. But he averaged 26.3 points on 62.9% true shooting, connecting on 38.3% of his threes and adding 4.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists after a blowup in the locker room during halftime against the Minnesota Timberwolves on December 18.
Despite his best efforts to brush it aside, there was additional scrutiny surrounding LaVine this season, especially after he closed the campaign on a down note scoring 17 or fewer points in three of his final four contests to end the season.
The lone exception was his 39-point outburst in the first round of the Play-In Tournament against the Toronto Raptors.
LaVine is going into the second year of a five-year, $215 million pact; the richest in Bulls’ history.
“He is also increasingly well-versed in the art of sharing the floor with other high-volume offensive contributors,” Favale notes. “LaVine has leaned on that support to become more selective, yielding both efficient scoring (48.5/37.5/84.8 shooting) and fewer giveaways (2.5 turnovers, fewest since 2017-18). And since that trio hasn’t done a lot of winning, the Chicago Bulls could be more open to change than they’ll publicly admit.”
Ahead of a potentially series-clinching victory in Game 5 on May 10, the Lakers are up in their Western Conference Semi-Finals matchup against the reigning champion Golden State Warriors.
As Favale notes, their continued success could alter their offseason plans which many hoped included LaVine last offseason when he was an unrestricted free agent.
The Bulls, however, are not quite there yet.
Arturas Karnisovas’ Plan for Bulls
LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic played more minutes together than any other trio in the NBA during the regular season, per NBA.com. But they produced a minus-0.4 net rating, the worst rating among the four lineups with at least 1500 minutes together.
But, rather than tear it down with LaVine the youngest of the three at 29 years old, Karnisovas sounds set to lean further into this core group with some more teaks around them.
LaVine called DeRozan one of his “best friends on and off the court” and noted that he would be “swindling” Vucevic, an unrestricted free agent this offseason, to get him to return to the Bulls during his exit interview via the team’s official YouTube channel on April 15. None of that sounds like LaVine is looking to bail, even if he does live in L.A. in the offseason.
This was a popular connection last summer and figures to get a little more run this offseason given the Bulls’ disappointing finish. There were also reports the Bulls engaged in trade talks for LaVine with the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets at this year’s deadline. But their public comments match up with sentiments in league circles that minor changes are more likely than anything drastic.
Zach LaVine Sounds Off on Lonzo Ball’s Absence
Many of the Bulls’ issues can be traced back to the absence of starting point guard Lonzo Ball who has been out since January of 2022 after undergoing three surgeries to address a knee injury and could potentially miss all of next season too.
The Bulls went 22-13 in Ball’s 35 appearances last season. They have gone 58-64 since then, taking a step back from last season by not even earning a playoff berth.
To LaVine’s point, Chicago might also do a lot by simply shoring up the point guard position.