After five years of stressing over ping pong balls in the lottery, the Chicago Bulls finally made it back to the postseason this year. They finished the regular season with a record of 46-36, landing at the sixth seed in the Western Conference. And despite an early exit at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks, Chicago’s performance this year gave their fans hope for the future.
The signing of DeMar DeRozan last offseason proved to be a crucial one, as the forward finished 10th in MVP voting. In addition, Zach LaVine managed to make his second All-Star team, and despite his scoring numbers taking a step back, Nikola Vucevic was still a quality third star for the Bulls. Unfortunately, based on recent reports, Chicago’s star trio may be in jeopardy.
According to KC Johnson of NBC Sports, LaVine re-signing with the Bulls this offseason is “no longer is considered the slam dunk it once was.” LaVine will be an unrestricted free agent this summer for the first time in his career and will be eligible to earn the big bucks.
The Bulls will have the ability to offer LaVine a supermax contract, but whether or not they will is a different story. However, if they want any chance at keeping LaVine, they might have the 27-year-old star has made it clear that he wants to get paid this summer.
LaVine on Free Agency: ‘I See Myself as a Top Guy’
During his exit interview, LaVine told the media that he sees himself as ‘a top guy’ in the NBA. With that, comes big-time money. Based on his statement, it’s clear that the two-time All-Star believes he deserves a huge payday.
“You get paid what you’re valued at. I see myself as a top guy in this league, and I think I’ve proven that over the last four years,” LaVine said. “And I think that’s what we’re going to negotiate. I think that’s what Marc (Eversley), [Artūras Karnišovas], that’s what they and Rich are going to have to discuss.”
While the Bulls are the only team that can offer LaVine a supermax contract, other teams on the market can put together competitive offers. Players have begun the recruiting process, too, with Dejounte Murray of the San Antonio Spurs even tweeting a Photoshopped image of LaVine in a Spurs jersey.
Only a few teams will have enough cap space to sign LaVine outright this summer, but plenty of other teams will make a push at him. In his article, Johnson mentioned four teams in particular.
Four Teams Linked to LaVine
Johnson reported that “league gossip throughout this week has linked LaVine to at least four teams — Lakers, Trail Blazers, Mavericks, Hawks.” He also noted that more teams will likely enter that mix as the offseason progresses.
The Los Angeles Lakers will be heading into the offseason with more questions than any other team. After a disappointing season that saw them miss the postseason entirely, their goal will be to reshape the team around LeBron James. However, with no cap space available, the only way they could land LaVine would be through a sign-and-trade, which the Bulls would have to agree to.
A Lakers sign-and-trade would almost certainly include Russell Westbrook, which would not benefit the Bulls. That being said, LaVar Ball believes LaVine is headed to Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks would also have to acquire LaVine via sign-and-trade as well, they have more intriguing pieces to offer Chicago. Dallas could send a package including Jalen Brunson, while the Hawks could offer John Collins.
If they get off of Eric Bledsoe’s contract, Portland could free up enough cap space to sign LaVine outright, as they are projected to have over $20 million of space this offseason. However, if they decided to take the route of a sign-and-trade, Chicago could target guys like Josh Hart or Nassir Little.
So, as the Bulls enter free agency, LaVine’s status will be their question mark. And while it’s uncertain whether or not he’ll be back in Chicago next year, one thing that is certain is that the two-time All-Star wants to be paid.