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Zach LaVine Rumors: Blazers Signing Bulls Star to Contract Discussed by NBA Execs

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVMay 10, 2022

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 22: Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls looks on during Round 1 Game 3 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs against the Milwaukee Bucks on April 22, 2022 at United Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

Zach LaVine's return may not be in the bag for the Chicago Bulls as the two-time All-Star approaches unrestricted free agency.

ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported at the 22:00 mark of his Hoop Collective podcast Tuesday that the initial impression around the NBA was that LaVine was "off the market." Now, there isn't as much certainty that he'll stay in Chicago.

Windhorst added that the Portland Trail Blazers have "popped up" as a potential landing spot.

While LaVine hasn't stated he intends to leave the Bulls, Windhorst said recent comments the guard made changed the perception about what he'll do this summer.

"I plan to enjoy free agency," he told reporters. "We're going to have to experience A through Z without making any fast decisions. I think that's something me and [agent Rich Paul] are going to go through and experience."

The Blazers could be in play for a marquee free agent such as LaVine. Spotrac projects Portland could have as much as $48.4 million in salary-cap space, with much of that money coming by renouncing cap holds for Joe Ingles, Jusuf Nurkic and Anfernee Simons.

Interim general manager Joe Cronin traded CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., Robert Covington and Norman Powell ahead of the trade deadline in February. Rather than tearing it all down, however, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Blazers had every intention of building another contender around Damian Lillard.

The overarching question is whether chasing LaVine is a worthwhile pursuit for the organization.

LaVine can earn as much as $212.3 million over five years from the Bulls. Another team can put $157.4 million over four years on the table.

Either way, that's a lot of money to pay a player who, while very good, isn't an elite star. In five years with the Bulls, he's averaging 24.4 points and 4.4 assists and shooting 38.9 percent from beyond the arc.

LaVine might also be undergoing surgery this offseason to address a lingering knee injury.

By pairing LaVine with Lillard, Portland might risk putting itself exactly where it was a few years go. The Lillard-McCollum partnership helped guide the Blazers to eight straight playoff trips, but only once did they get past the conference semifinals.

The franchise was a consistent winner in the regular season but had a firm ceiling in the postseason. Considering Lillard will turn 32 in July and missed 53 games because of an abdominal injury, going big-game hunting in free agency might be an example of Cronin throwing good money after bad.