All-Star guard Zach LaVine figures to be one of the biggest targets on the free-agent market this offseason, but Chicago Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf and executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas still believe they will ultimately re-sign him.
"The Bulls are still very confident in their ability to re-sign Zach LaVine," K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago said Tuesday when he joined the Mully & Haugh Show on 670 The Score. "Michael Reinsdorf has said it. Arturas Karnisovas has said it. They still have the power to pay him more than any other franchise."
The money aspect certainly works in the Bulls' favor.
They can offer him a five-year contract worth up to $212 million, while the best other teams can do is extend a four-year deal worth approximately $157 million unless there is a sign-and-trade that would allow Chicago to net assets in return.
Still, that won't stop other suitors from pursuing him.
"The fact that he's going to look at other teams legitimately is serious," Johnson said. "I think the fact that other teams are going to make an aggressive bid to get him is serious. And I think the fact that the Bulls are very confident that they're going to retain him are all serious, are all simultaneously [true]. It's going to be a fascinating free agency in July."
Losing him would be quite the blow for a franchise that is just starting to turn things around.
It qualified for the playoffs for the first time since the 2016-17 season after making a splash last offseason with the additions of DeMar DeRozan, Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball. Keeping LaVine, returning Ball (knee) to health and perhaps adding some complementary pieces through the draft or free agency this offseason would set the path for the Bulls to contend in the Eastern Conference.
Yet seeing LaVine sign elsewhere would bring much of that momentum to a screeching halt.
He is coming off the first two All-Star selections of his career and has expanded his game during his time with the Bulls. The UCLA product is still a spectacular dunker and someone who can make plays in transition, but he also hit a career-best 41.9 percent of his three-pointers in 2020-21 and followed up by hitting 38.9 percent of his triples this past season.
The 27-year-old is in the middle of his prime and should be healthier in 2022-23 after undergoing a procedure on the knee injury that limited him some down the stretch of the 2021-22 campaign.
Whether he will be healthier for Chicago or a different team remains the primary focus of the Bulls' offseason.