Bulls Face Franchise-Altering Decision With LaVine


Through 18 games in the new season, Zach LaVine is off to a fantastic start. The UCLA product has career-high numbers in all the major statistical categories. With free agency looming after the 2021-22 season, the Bulls are left with a decision to make on his future in Chicago.

Many might think the Bulls should keep their rising star, and rightfully so. He is enduring his best stretch of basketball in his career, while still only being 25 years old. With a couple options on the table at what the Bulls can do, let’s take a look.

Sign Long-Term

There is no better way to show gratitude to a player then by rewarding them with a long-term contract. In this instance, the contract will be hefty. For LaVine to remain a Bull for the future, they would need to offer him a max contract.

For the numbers he is posting right now, it may indeed be warranted. He is averaging 26.9 points per game, good for 10th in the NBA. Along with scoring, LaVine is averaging career highs in rebounds (5.3), assists (5.2), FG% (51%), 3PT% (41.6%), FT% (88%) and 2PT% (59.5%).

With a future All-Star appearance on the way, LaVine is emerging in the conversation with the best SG’s in the game. Numbers wise, Zach is right there with Devin Booker, CJ McCollum and Bradley Beal. With all of these players receiving max contracts, LaVine is proving to be right on his way.

Every year LaVine has been in the league, his game has taken a step forward. By locking him up long term, the Bulls are giving him the keys. It may be the Bulls’ best decision to do so.

Let The Contract Play Out

Signing a player to a franchise-altering deal comes with a lot of risk, however. It is especially tricky when there are still questions that need to be answered. The former first-round draft choice still has another year left on his contract– another year the Bulls have to determine the best move.

Defensively, there are still major concerns with LaVine’s will to get better. Though he has made some strides, remaining engaged is something he has always struggled with. He often gets beat off the dribble, which should not be the case with his athleticism and length. It is difficult for Chicago to commit such an investment into someone who labors as much as LaVine does defensively.

Since coming into the NBA in 2014, LaVine has only played all 82 games in a season once. He tore his ACL while in Minnesota, but does not seem to have any lingering effects from that injury. He has missed time with ankle and shoulder injuries in the past, which can cause soreness over time.

Even though LaVine is having a career year in almost every major offensive category, he is averaging 4.4 turnovers per game– the most in his career. His usage rate is down from the past two seasons, but his turnovers are the highest they have been. Zach’s decision making has been questioned in the past, and it is evident they will remain.

With a new regime in Chicago, it may take a little time for them to figure out LaVine as a player. He offers a lot to them offensively, but has his flaws, too. This is why it would be smart if the Bulls let LaVine finish his contract before making a major investment in him.

Trade Him

Whenever a player is in trade talks, often times you will hear the saying, “sell high”. This is the position the Bulls are in. The team is far away from competing in the Eastern Conference, let alone winning a championship. It doesn’t make sense tying up a large amount of money into someone who is not helping you win every night.

Trading LaVine also allows Artūras Karnišovas to truly build his roster how he wants it. Receiving young, controllable talent with picks creates long-term flexibility.

There would be plenty of suitors for a player like LaVine in the trade market. He is someone who can take a contender over the top. He also is still young enough where a rebuilding team may look to build around.

The New York Knicks are a team that had rumored interest in the past. There are interesting trade packages they could offer that would entice the Bulls. A bundle involving R.J. Barrett and future draft picks might be too much to pass up. The Knicks would be receiving someone who would fit right into the New York limelight, and give them the star they have long been looking for.

No matter the decision the Bulls ultimately make, it is fun seeing LaVine rise to superstar status in Chicago. When the Bulls traded for him over four years ago, this is the vision they had of his potential. Whether his future will involve Chicago remains to be seen, but Bulls fans can appreciate the growth they’ve seen from Zach LaVine.

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About Tim Houlihan

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