Sunday, July 3, 2022

Bulls Reportedly Preparing “Leap Of Faith” Max Deal For Zach Lavine


The story of the upcoming NBA offseason for the Chicago Bulls is obvious. Figuring out what will happen with Zach Lavine. He’s set to become a free agent. That means Arturas Karnisovas must determine what he wants to do. Either he offers the two-time All-Star a maximum contract of $212.3 million over five years, or he considers a sign-and-trade to send the guard elsewhere and looks to reshape the roster around DeMar DeRozan.

It isn’t an easy decision. Both sides of the argument have merit. Lavine will be difficult to replace on the offensive end for Chicago. His natural ability to score carries great value. The problem is everything else. He’s not known for good defense most of the time and isn’t a natural passer. Signing one-dimensional players to max deals rarely work out in the team’s favor. Big money should be saved for superstars, not somebody who’d be the right-hand man of said superstar.

Then again, glimpses of that complete players have been there.

Lavine worked on both ends during the Olympics and through the first few weeks of the regular season. It felt like things fell off after his knee became a problem. After a disappointing exit from the playoffs, some are wondering if he is capable of helping this team win a championship as “the” guy. According to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Bulls are prepared to find out even if they must wait for his testing of the market.

“Is he still angry enough with the Bulls over his contract in 2018 that he would bypass the extra $55 million they can offer? Unlikely. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to turn down dinners and pleas from other franchises and players when free agency begins. LaVine wants to go through the wine-and-dine process, especially now that arthroscopic surgery on his left knee showed nothing unexpected…

…All indications from the offices of the Advocate Center are that the Bulls will offer him that max deal and take that leap of faith. It will be up to LaVine to decide whether the feeling is mutual or whether he rather would move on, leaving executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas possibly to go the sign-and-trade route.”

The truth is nobody is buying the idea Lavine is prepared to leave. His list of options is limited, with most teams that might have the cap space to pursue him not being realistic. The only option that makes real sense is the Portland Trail Blazers, and that’d be a lateral move at best since he’d play second fiddle to Damian Lillard. Barring an unexpected push from somewhere else, the Bulls hold leverage in this situation.

The Bulls still believe in their vision with Zach Lavine.

It is easy to forget how well the team was playing early in the season when everybody was healthy. They won 27 of their first 38 games. Then the injuries started piling up. Alex Caruso went down from a dirty foul against Milwaukee. Lonzo Ball was out after 35 games with a knee injury. Lavine played through one of his own. Patrick Williams missed most of the season due to a wrist injury. It was a mess. Yet the Bulls still managed to win 46 games and make the playoffs for the first time in five years.

Karnisovas and the team brass want to see what might happen if this group can stay relatively intact for a full season. It is hard to argue their stance. The team looked excellent during that brief stretch. Zach Lavine was playing some of his best basketball from a team perspective. He no longer had to carry the load, scoring when he wanted rather than needed to.

The Bulls are willing to gamble that player will resurface next year.

Plenty of people don’t agree with the idea. They feel Lavine has shown everybody who he is. A great scorer that is mediocre at everything else. The NBA has a place for such players, but it’s not at the top of the payroll. Chicago still believes he can be more.

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