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Bulls Editorials

Bulls Should Do Their Best to Re-Sign LaVine

Many Bulls fans have made it known they’re desire to move on from Zach LaVine, Tim Moran writes that any such on judgement on LaVine is very premature.

While a portion of the Bulls’ fandom mourns the selection of Wendell Carter Jr. at pick seven in the 2018 NBA Draft, most seem willing to give the Duke center a chance. Most, intelligently, recognize that judgment should be withheld until the rookie plays a significant number of games with Chicago. After all, he’s young, talented, and fits the Bulls’ needs.

Oddly enough, though, many Bulls fans seem to hold\ a differing opinion about Zach LaVine‘s situation. Many have voiced the opinion that they wouldn’t mind seeing LaVine in a different uniform next year. Why does the optimism differ between Carter Jr. and LaVine’s outlook?

Yes, LaVine is a four-year veteran, a restricted free agent, and has played in the red and white. That makes him different from Carter Jr. in status, but I struggle to see a major difference in future value.

In 24 games with the Bulls, LaVine did shoot an ugly 38.3% from the field and 34.1% from beyond the arc, but that means next to nothing.

Are we really going to dismiss LaVine based on 24 games? Games where the 23 year-old endured minute restrictions? Where he only played with Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn infrequently? Most importantly, games where he was seeing his first action following an ACL injury?

In my eyes, those 24 games are about as meaningful as Brian Scalabrine garbage time minutes. You simply can’t shift your opinion on LaVine on such a convoluted, small sample size, and yet throngs of Bulls fans have.

Let’s take an objective look at LaVine before he was injured. Explosive and exciting, LaVine improved each year in the league before really busting out in 2016-17. That year, through a meaningful 47 games with the Minnesota Timberwolves, he posted averages of 18.7 PPG, 3.4 RPG, and 3.0 APG on a solid 45.9% shooting clip. In terms of adjusted field goal percentage, LaVine ranked sixth among point guards and seventh among shooting guards, since he dabbled in both areas in Minnesota.

NClearly LaVine was a versatile young player on the rise with the T-Wolves, getting more lethal with his shot and more confident overall. Then, tragedy struck in the form of an ACL tear, and his progress was stonewalled.

The paramount question now is whether LaVine’s injury cut short all future growth, or was only a time-waster. As far as we know, re-tearing an ACL is highly unlikely, and most injuries culminate in a full recovery. Many fans may point to Derrick Rose as a reason to be worried, but he is a case study in fragility, not ACL issues, as he has never re-tore that initial ACL.

Therefore, since the injury itself isn’t likely to harm LaVine, only his post-injury numbers could be cause for worry, and I’ve already detailed why LaVine’s 2018 statistics should hardly be considered.

Yet Gar Forman, John Paxson and Co. still appear to be a bit shaken by LaVine’s performance this past season. In October they basically guaranteed a re-sign of the 23 year-old, but newer reports say that likelihood has seriously decreased.

Being a restricted free agent, LaVine can test the waters of free agency by receiving offer sheets but Chicago can match any sheet, thereby re-signing LaVine. They certainly have the cap space to do so, meaning if LaVine ends up going to another team, it’s solely because the Bulls just don’t think highly enough of him.

Take one scroll through LaVine’s Twitter page, and it’s clear he wants to be in Chicago. Chicago needs to reciprocate.

If the only way to reacquire LaVine is through a max contract or near-max deal (five years, around $146 million), I can understand the Bulls shaking their heads, but only if they have a clear-cut, smart way to use that money. But that’s the only scenario in which I would accept a LaVine exit, and he’s unlikely to garner that much money anyway.

Simply put, any other form of exit means the Bulls failed to recognize LaVine’s promise. In all likelihood it also means they were discouraged by his 24 games wearing red, which is an incredibly scary thought. Rebuilds center on patience with young athletes, and if the Bulls are going to make a potentially franchise-altering judgments based on 24 unrepresentative appearances, then the rebuild is destined to fail. No patience equals no success.

Like Carter Jr., LaVine is young, skilled, has impressed with other teams, and has little to no experience with the Bulls. Yes, both do have a lot to prove. But both also need time to prove it, yet only one may get that chance.

Forman and Paxson need to do their absolute best to ink LaVine, especially if his contract ask is in the range of $20 million AAV. If they don’t, they better have a damn good other player to spend their money on. One who possesses all the exciting features of LaVine, who wants to be here as much as LaVine does, and who fits Chicago’s need at shooting guard as well as LaVine. Good luck finding a guy like that, in this year’s free agency or the next.

Follow Tim Moran on Twitter—Featured Photo Credit: Chicago Bulls

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13 comments on “Bulls Should Do Their Best to Re-Sign LaVine

  1. rosloe62

    Nobody wants LaVine gone. Just not at 6 Years $148mil. 4 Years $80ml should keep him a Bull.

    • Tim Moran

      Right, like I said in the article, I can understand them rejecting a max deal just as long as they have a good plan for where else to spend it. But definitely pull the trigger on any deal close to 4/80

    • Exactly. he’s an 8-10 mil per year player. We need to not handcuff ourselves to the idea we have to sign Lavine to a max contract to keep him. He has not done anything that warrants a max contract. He’s explosive offensively, albeit inefficient, and is a huge liability of the defensive end. To me I think he would be better off as a six man off the bench than a starting shooting guard. Plus, there is a large group of shooting guard free agents. I’d much rather have Will Barton than Zach Lavine to be honest.

      • Tim Moran

        Eh…LaVine kept getting better and better and his injury/2018 season shouldn’t detract from that. He’s still a rising star in my opinion, and definitely is a starter. If he plays similar to how he did in 2018, then yes he would be a pretty good sixth man. But I detailed why his 2018 season should be essentially discounted, so.

      • No one will ever sign here so hush

  2. Mo'ease E. Winters

    Here’s my tk

    #1) Is Zach Lavine an franchise player?

    #2) Will u pay that kind of money to an 2nd tier star type player that wants the huge payday?

    If he’s not an “Robin” to an “Batman” I wouldn’t pay that kind of money 6yrs 100-146mil for him I would let him test the FA but if the Bulls wants to trade him then resign him and trade him for assets and or future draft picks.

    • Tim Moran

      He easily could be Robin, and has Batman potential. Just look at how much he kept improving and his scoring ability. In my opinion players like that should be a top priority for the Bulls, but yes probably still not for a HUGE deal, but a big one.

  3. Tim he’ll show his greatness and you’ll look like a genius. I’m with signing him with the max if we have to. No top free agent will ever come here period as long as GARPAX is here

    • Tim Moran

      Thanks for your input, and yes it will be difficult to sign free agents with GarPax.

  4. This is the NBA…guys get overpaid…Period! Pay the man…he will be awesome to watch in a Bulls Jersey once fully healthy. The league is about offense and the Bulls can’t afford to play it cheap on a guy that can score like he can

    • Tim Moran

      Thanks for reading, and for your input. He definitely projects as a prolific scorer.

  5. I don’t really care too much if the Bulls let LaVine go. He will be worse than both Dunn and Markannen 5 years from now I bet. If they can get him at a mid-level contract sure. Unfortunately, the premiss of this article rests on the idea that LaVine has dramatically improved over time, which is not evident to me at all. If you look at traditional stats, LaVine did score more points and raise his shooting percentage, but his steals, assists, rebounds and FT attempts all went down. His advanced stats show little improvement from year 2 to 3 and still put him at average to slightly below average. So, he has been an average player who now has an ACL tear. Players may recover from an ACL but even with today’s medicine players don’t come back to the same level of dominance. This is especially true for athletes like LaVine, who rely on otherworldly burst and athleticism to succeed. LaVine is going to struggle to be a high level starter let alone an all-star. Give him a mid-level contract and be done with it.

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