The past 24 hours or so have been rather interesting for the Chicago Bulls. First, the Sacramento Kings stepped up and presented an offer sheet to Zach LaVine. The terms of the deal were reported to be four years and roughly $80 million. It didn’t take long for Chicago to step up and say that they would match the offer sheet.
With that settled, LaVine is going to stay in the Windy City. But was it the right call? There has been some intense debate on whether the Bulls should have let LaVine walk rather than sign the offer sheet. Did the Bulls make the right decision? Let’s dive into some pros and cons of LaVine as a player.
First and foremost, LaVine is only 23-years-old. He’s just barely scratched the surface on his overall potential. He’s definitely shown that he can be a star in the National Basketball Association. He’s athletic, even with the injuries he has sustained, has a smooth jump shot that can be a thing of beauty, and he has the potential to be a phenomenal defender, even though he hasn’t shown it at all.
There aren’t many guys his age that have the ceiling he does. There is a reason the Bulls considered him the main centerpiece of the Jimmy Butler trade. Not to mention Chicago knew that he was coming off ACL surgery and wasn’t going to be healthy the entire season. Butler was a bonafide star in Chicago; why would the Bulls even think of making this trade if they didn’t believe LaVine could match that or be higher?
Secondly, there have been many reports about a clause being in the contract that would protect the Bulls should LaVine become injured again. At this time, it’s unknown what type of protection is there, but it’s still something to note. Even with the lack of information, the Bulls are playing it smart and protecting themselves just in case something else happens. So even if LaVine ends up being injured again, the Bulls aren’t going to be in as bad as shape as they would be without it.
Thirdly, this type of deal proved that there is a market for LaVine. Even though it was the Kings that offered the deal, it prevented Chicago from making a disastrous contract offer. $19.5 million is a lot of money, but compared to some of these other players that are getting four-year deals worth well over $100 million, it’s looking like a steal. If the Bulls aren’t pleased with how LaVine is playing, this type of money will look a lot better than $25 million or higher. But that does lead to some of the negatives.
Even with all the positives in the world there is still one giant issue surrounding LaVine, and that would be his health. As mentioned above, LaVine came over to the Bulls rehabbing from a torn ACL injury, and he only appeared in 24 games. He hasn’t appeared in all 82 games since the 2015-16 season. The Bulls must be expecting him to avoid any sort of injury to promise him $19.5 million. Still, as injury plagued as he is, it’s a significant risk, even if he has the ceiling of an NBA star.
That leads into the second point. The Chicago Bulls are giving him a tremendous amount of money to be a bonafide starter and potential all-star in the NBA. LaVine has all the potential in the world, but he didn’t exactly show that ground-breaking game consistently in his short time with the Bulls. Granted that could just be a lack of an ideal sample size, but it’s a little worrisome.
Thirdly, this is going to drastically affect the Bulls when the 2019 free agent class plans. The top two players are arguably Butler and Kyrie Irving. The Bulls, who have been stacking cap space to potentially add two players on max-contract level deals, have lost that ability with this signing. Sure, they are still going to have roughly $40-$50 million in cap space, but nowhere close to the $70 million they were predicting before this deal. It’s going to handicap them, and Chicago just has to hope it was worth it.
Whatever the case is, the Bulls made the deal official. Time will tell if this was a worthwhile deal or a horrible one. For right now, Chicago has another young player locked up for a long time.