I have to assume that when the Chicago Bulls new front office started their work this season, everything was on the table. No players on the roster – besides Patrick Williams and Garrett Temple – were added by their own hand. Thus, evaluations had to be done to determine which pieces would fit into their future vision. And those evaluations likely included Zach LaVine.
While he may have been the team’s best player, he still wasn’t free of being labeled as a potential “tough decision.” I feel pretty confident in saying that if he bombed this season, the front office would be on a very different path right now. Instead, he flourished. He made his first All-Star game and played like one of the most efficient scorers in the league. The performance was enough to convince the front office that he was a building block. One that was worth an All-Star companion.
The move was significant for a number of reasons but the most important might be LaVine’s future in Chicago. LaVine is in line to receive a significant pay raise after just one more season. The Bulls are likely willing to pay him that money, but the real question is whether or not LaVine would be willing to take it, and according to one rival Eastern Conference executive, that’s why the Nikola Vucevic trade was pivotal.
Bleacher Report’s A. Sherrod Blakely spoke with executives about the Bulls big deadline move, and here is what one had to say:
“That’s why them getting Vooch was a really big deal,” an Eastern Conference executive said. “Players want to get paid, just like we all do. But they also want to win, and guys like Zach have been around the block long enough to know they can’t win in this league by themselves. LeBron’s the best to do it, and he couldn’t win it all by himself. Even he needed help.”
The exec added, “Them getting Vooch sent a clear message to Zach that yes, Chicago is serious about trying to put together a winner here and now.”
I don’t necessarily think this is any grand revelation, but it does stress that other people around the league view LaVine as a long-term bet to stay in Chicago. And, obviously, if one executive refers to that outcome as a “really big deal” it emphasizes just how good some folks believe LaVine can be.
We know several teams around the league have monitored LaVine’s availability in recent seasons, and that would likely spill over to his free agency in 2022. This means the Bulls would have plenty of competition – which would include teams ready to sell LaVine on a winning formula – and that’s why it’s important the Bulls convince LaVine sooner than later that they can prioritize taking that next competitive step with him. This process started at the deadline, and I expect it to continue in the offseason.