Zach LaVine’s emergence as a legitimate star player in the NBA was instrumental to the Chicago Bulls’ impressive run during the 2021-22 NBA season. For the first half of the year, they were arguably the best and more complete team in the Eastern Conference.
While things obviously petered out for the Bulls towards the end of the season, what LaVine did on the floor was undeniably impressive.
Which is what makes his looming free agency something of a sticky issue.
Chicago can offer LaVine a max deal worth upwards of $210 million over 5 years. It is unclear whether the front office will go that route, but it’s definitely an option.
Should the Bulls not attempt to retain LaVine, there are four increasingly viable suitors out there for him.
“Whether that stems from LaVine’s own exit interview with local reporters in late April or a genuine belief he will leave the franchise that still can pay him the most is unknown,” wrote Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson.
“What’s certain is that league gossip throughout this week has linked LaVine to at least four teams — [Los Angeles] Lakers, [Portland] Trail Blazers, [Dallas] Mavericks, [Atlanta] Hawks — with almost certainly more to follow.”
All four of those squads present an interesting opportunity for LaVine.
The Lakers obviously badly need to upgrade their roster, but unloading Russell Westbrook’s insane $47 million contract is easier said than done. There is a reason why the narrative around trading him has changed so much in recent days. Plus, there are genuine questions regarding how LaVine would fit alongside LeBron James.
Portland is another intriguing option. LaVine would provide some much-needed offensive help for Damian Lillard – though he would also simultaneously create another defensive liability for this squad. It’s also worth noting that when recently asked to name his ideal running mate, Lillard named a player whose style is literally the opposite of LaVine’s.
The same general idea would be true for a LaVine-Luka Doncic pairing in Dallas. Offensively, there is a lot to love there. Defensively? Yikes.
Finally, the Hawks would be a fascinating fit. Theoretically they would be able to mask some of LaVine’s defensive weaknesses, but it’s unclear whether it’d be enough to truly make a dent.
On paper, the real best fit for LaVine would probably be the Philadelphia 76ers. There’s a reason why chatter surrounding that potential trade is picking up. Whether Philly will actually pull the trigger on it remains to be seen, though.
— Game 7 (@game7__) May 22, 2022
In any case, this is shaping up to be an interesting summer. Where will LaVine ultimately end up when it’s all said and done?
Time will tell.