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Bulls Hope Zach LaVine Will Be with Team 'for a Long Time' Ahead of Contract Decision

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJune 27, 2022

Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

Zach LaVine will be one of the biggest names in free agency come July, but the Chicago Bulls don't want to part ways with their star guard.

"We've been very open that we hope Zach is here for a long time," the team's executive vice president of basketball operations, Arturas Karnisovas, told reporters Monday. "Nothing has changed."

The Bulls have two major advantages when it comes to re-signing LaVine.

First, they can offer him a five-year, $210 million extension, whereas rival teams can only offer him a four-year, $157 million deal.

And second, there aren't that many teams with the cap space to bring in a max player at the moment. If another contender wants LaVine, they'll likely have to pursue a sign-and-trade, which the Bulls could always reject.

The Knicks could potentially get to a max slot, though they seem more likely to pursue veteran point guard Jalen Brunson in free agency. The Detroit Pistons are another team that heads into free agency with a ton of cap space, but the 27-year-old LaVine doesn't fit the timeline of a team building around young players in Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey, among others.

Granted, if a contender wants to clear cap space, they can always get creative and find a way. The NBA rarely lacks for offseason twists and turns. But a LaVine reunion with the Bulls currently makes the most sense.

It's good news for Chicago. LaVine was excellent yet again last season, averaging 24.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game while shooting 47.6 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from three.

While those numbers were slightly down from his epic 2020-21 campaign (27.4 PPG, 41.9 percent from three), that came somewhat in part due to the acquisition of DeMar DeRozan, who promptly had a major resurgence with the Bulls. LaVine also dealt with knee pain as the season progressed.

His partnership with DeRozan helped lead the team to its first playoff berth since the 2016-17 season, though the Milwaukee Bucks ended that run in just five games.

Still, the Bulls have built a solid foundation going forward. Keeping LaVine is a huge necessity if they hope to replicate last season's success; however, meaning an offer for the full five-year max should—and will likely—be on the table.

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