Let me get this out the way right now: I’m a Bulls fan. I grew up in the Chicago area and got hooked on the NBA during Chicago’s second threepeat.
So I’m naturally rooting for this deal to work out in the Bulls’ favor. That said, I honestly think John Paxson and Gar Forman made the right decision to match Zach LaVine’s four-year, $78 million offer sheet from the Kings.
LaVine played just 24 games last season as he finished rehabbing an ACL tear from February of 2017. The Bulls then shut him down for the final 14 games of the season, as they tanked their way to the No. 7 overall pick in the 2018 Draft.
LaVine didn’t have much of a chance to hit his stride during his abbreviated 2017-2018 season, but he demonstrated his ability to become an elite scorer in the league.
A month shy of his 23rd birthday, he dropped 35 points in a clutch performance vs his former team. Only a handful of guards near LaVine’s age (Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker, D’Angelo Russell) displayed a comparable offensive capacity last season.
Salary-wise, LaVine’s new deal most closely resembles Gary Harris’ four-year, $84 million extension with Denver. On average, LaVine will be making $1.5 million less than Harris per season and is the superior scorer.
The knock against LaVine has been his defensive deficiencies (which are especially apparent when comparing to a player like Harris). That said, he has the physical tools to improve on that end of the court. And his tireless work ethic will help him get there.
LaVine has potential to become a multiple-time All-Star and an elite scorer. He wants the responsibility of taking big shots. And most importantly, he’s a leader in the Bulls’ locker room.
The opportunity to sign a player like LaVine—who exhibits all the traits and abilities you want in a young player—doesn’t come around often.
It’s a gamble, especially given LaVine’s ACL injury, but certainly one worth taking.