The Chicago Bulls season came to a fitting end on April 27, with a non-competitive loss to the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. Now, their attention turns to the offseason and at least one person thinks everything hinges on one significant decision.
It is not like the outcome of the 116-100 Game 5 Bucks win that sent the Bulls on vacation but maybe how close the final score was.
Chicago had lost both of the previous meetings at home by an average of 27.5 points per game.
They were also without guards Alex Caruso (concussion protocol) and Zach LaVine who is set to undergo surgery for his balky knee that was at “50%…on a good day” this season and required “all-day” treatment.
Despite the latter’s current health status, Bleacher Report’s Scott Polacek writes the Bulls’ entire offseason needs to be predicated on re-signing LaVine this summer.
The Argument to Re-Sign LaVine is Two-Fold
Polacek addresses LaVine’s knee before he even officially gets into his breakdown saying, “it was clear Zach LaVine was less than 100% down the stretch because of his own knee concerns.”
The 27-year-old guard downplayed the severity of the issue all season. But The Chicago Times’ Joe Cowley reported that, while LaVine was claiming to be at “80%, 70%, whatever it is”, a source said it was severe enough that most players of LaVine’s stature would have shut it down.
He averaged 19.3 points while shooting below 43% in the postseason with 6.0 assists, and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 37.5% from deep.
LaVine was averaging 26.4 points on 49.9% shooting overall and 41.4% from deep up until January 1, per NBA.com. Those numbers dipped to 24 points on 46.2% shooting from the floor and 36.5% from downtown after the All-Star break.
As Polacek notes, it was clear LaVine was battling through something and says losing him would be a “massive blow” to the Bulls.
The 27-year-old is someone the team can build around for the immediate and long-term future, and he has taken massive strides as an overall player who made the past two All-Star Games.
Chicago’s success or failure this offseason will largely be determined by whether it can re-sign LaVine…Even though his lingering knee issues sapped some of his explosiveness down the stretch, he can still be one of the best offensive playmakers in the league at his best
A Vote of Confidence From his Running Mate
Much was made throughout this season over whether LaVine or DeMar DeRozan was the best player on this team. We won’t rehash that here. Especially after the season that the latter just put up with 27.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.9 assists.
The other was LaVine last season.
“The ultimate competitor”, DeRozan told NBC Sports Chicago’s Rob Schaefer of LaVine.
Max player, max talent, max everything. He’s one of those players in this league that you don’t see too often. I tell him all the time how envious I am of the things he’s able to do. He deserves everything that’s coming to him.
That is high praise coming from the Bulls’ one-time MVP candidate and another example of why he told NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson that his first season in Chicago was “perfect”.
Re-Signing LaVine the Biggest Step, Not the Only
Aside from his own health, the ability to build out the rest of the roster properly has to be part of the equation. The Bulls have some clear deficiencies that will not be addressed by giving LaVine what he is worth.
However, his new pact should be a feature of the roster moving forward, not as a hindrance. It is up to the front office of Arutras Karnisovas and Marc Eversley to improve on the margins this offseason.