The Chicago Bulls have placed all of their future eggs in the Zach LaVine basket after signing the two-time All-Star to a five-year, $215 million contract this offseason. It’s a deal that, at one point, seemed unlikely to get done as it is historic for the franchise.
LaVine’s deal is the first to exceed even $100 million let alone the $200 million barrier.
That makes it the richest in Bulls history, topping that of Derrick Rose and Michael Jordan’s on-court earnings from his entire Bulls tenure.
And, as we have learned as the details around the language in the deal as well as from his head coach, there is a lot of faith in LaVine. Not only in the player that he has become. But also of what he can still do in the future.
LaVine’s Long-Term Leverage
News of LaVine’s deal quickly reached his teammates who celebrated as teammates do. LaVine announced the deal with a picture of himself enjoying a cigar and, later, a Bulls-themed cake decorated with “LaVine Mr. $215”.
He also announced that he and his wife are expecting their first child. Things are coming up in his favor.
That includes his contract which comes fully guaranteed with a $49 million player option for the 2026-27 season and a 15% trade kicker, per Hoops Hype’s Michael Scotto. It’s not the no-trade clause that Bradley Beal received, but the kicker, in particular, disincentivizes the Bulls from looking to move LaVine.
The Olympic gold medalist spoke with reporters on July 11.
“Chicago’s my home…I’ve been here for five years and over the last 2-3, [we’ve] built something. And being able to come back as a cornerstone piece and allowing them to get some of my insight, some of my input, and pretty much constructing the roster to help me and to help us win was really big for me.”
LaVine credited the work he has put in as justification for this contract and why he doesn’t feel any additional pressure going forward.
He was one of five players to average at least 24.0 points, 4.0 assists, and 4.0 rebounds while also shooting 38.0% or better on three-pointers during the regular season, per NBA.com, despite a nagging knee injury.
LaVine, who said his knee feels “great” following a “run-of-the-mill” arthroscopic procedure and that he felt he would be even better in his return, also said that he didn’t take any other meetings.
“I went into the offseason with an open mind. I laid out my goals, just like I always have. Once I was able to meet with Marc and AK and they came to me with everything I wanted, there was no other reason for me to go outside and look at any other teams. I think that would have been…disrespectful on my end. They gave me everything I asked for and everything on the table that I looked at, Chicago has all the pros.”
Lavine said that he made the best decision for himself and his family before ending his answer by reiterating his sentiments towards the city.
“My heart is in Chicago.”
Bulls Brass Has Been Clear
Even if there was some back-and-forth over the contract, the Bulls’ message has been consistent from Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas. He said that he wanted LaVine to be in a Bulls uniform for “years to come” during his exit interview.
Bulls general manager Marc Eversley said that the team was prepared to take the necessary steps to make that happen.
LaVine expressed his appreciation for Karnisova’s kind words towards him in his exit interview.
“If you look at throughout his career, he has gotten better every single year. He figures something out,” Donovan said, per NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson. “I think for us, (we want) him to continue to be aggressive, be who he is. He’s one of the best catch-and-shoot players in the league. He’s obviously great in transition. When he’s decisive and aggressive, that really helps our team.”
Those are strong words from a coach that has been around LaVine for the last two seasons and has coached Kevin Durant, albeit for one season.
LaVine also echoed the Karnisovas’ thought’s on continuity, instead calling it “familiarity”.
“It’s always better when you get to know each other…getting chemistry on the court, that doesn’t just happen in one, two years. All the good teams and teams that make deep playoff runs each and every year know each other and have been together for a while. So, I think that’s something that you can definitely establish and grow from.”
LaVine acknowledged that Eversley and Karnisovas discussed the immediate future with him. But he said their conversations did not get too far into the future. He did say that he thinks the Bulls aren’t alone in having weaknesses.
“Obviously Marc and AK have big plans for the future. When we were talking about my contract, that’s what we were talking about. Obviously, within the next year or so, with the guys on the team and bringing them back. But we needed to upgrade and I think we tried to go out there and do it just like everybody else. We have shortcomings on our team just like every team in the NBA that you want to try and fill gaps and get better at. I think that’s what we tried to do.”
The Bulls’ highest-paid player ever is their only luxury expense this offseason. That puts a lot of pressure on the organization, even if LaVine does not feel it.
“You got to get to know your teammates soon. Just want to get that chemistry going. But also, just welcome them to the team.”
He also said that there’s “nothing above” winning a championship adding that he will always believe winning will bring individual success.