The Chicago Bulls made the playoffs for the first time since the 2016-17 campaign and may be well-positioned to build on that next season, but that would surely be more difficult if Zach LaVine ends up signing elsewhere.
K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports reported LaVine returning to the Windy City "no longer is considered the slam dunk it once was."
He also noted rival executives have speculated whether the front office is willing to give the UCLA product the full maximum contract of five years and approximately $212 million even though president Michael Reinsdorf and executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas have publicly said the plan is to bring him back.
LaVine came to the Bulls ahead of the 2017-18 season as part of the trade that sent Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
At the time, LaVine was known as an electrifying dunker who needed to make strides in other areas of his game. He's done that in Chicago, and he made the first two All-Star Games of his career the past two seasons.
Even with a knee injury that will require an arthroscopic procedure this offseason slowing him down some, he averaged 24.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game while hitting 38.9 percent of his three-pointers this past season.
He also made the playoffs for the first time in his career after the Bulls added DeMar DeRozan, Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball this past offseason.
"It just shows that they [the Bulls front office] were ready to win," LaVine previously told reporters. "Obviously my first couple of years here it was tough to have that feeling. This year has been incredible. You've got to take everything into consideration. And obviously the team we have here is something you've got to consider, how good that we were this last year and moving forward."
That seems to suggest returning is very much on the table, but Johnson reported the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat have all been linked to him this week.
Yet only Portland can offer a max salary-cap slot for the 27-year-old from that group, and that could only be done by cutting costs elsewhere. The Lakers would need a sign-and-trade to bring LaVine aboard.
With that in mind, Johnson suggested "LaVine returning to the Bulls still is the safest bet," but it doesn't seem as if a decision will be made anytime soon.