Preparing for LaVine's (Non-)Extension News, Markkanen's Departure? Portis Goes Off, and Other Bulls Bullets

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Preparing for LaVine’s (Non-)Extension News, Markkanen’s Departure? Portis Goes Off, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

NBA Free Agency is set to start exactly one month from now.

With no first-round pick in hand, the Chicago Bulls will rely heavily on this superstar-deprived market to build out the remainder of their roster. We all assume point guard will be a key point of emphasis, as will finding an answer at the power forward position with the future of Lauri Markkanen very much up in the air.

But adding talent isn’t the only thing August 2nd will allow the Bulls to do. The start of free agency also officially opens the door for a Zach LaVine contract extension. With that being the case, as a formality, there is likely going to be the following Woj tweet that sends Bulls fans into a frenzy: “Zach LaVine has declined the Chicago Bulls contract extension. He is expected to be an unrestricted free agent in 2022 #GoWoj #ShamsSucks.”

•   I beg of thee … do not freak out when you see that tweet. The clear expectation is that LaVine will turn down the Bulls’ first proposed extension this offseason. He would be dumb not to. Why is that? Take it away, Bobby Marks:

As a result of the four-year, $78 million offer sheet LaVine signed with the Sacramento Kings (which the Bulls matched), Chicago is limited to offering him a 120% raise off his $19.5 million salary in 2021-22. That means the maximum starting point in any extension is $23.4 million, $11.4 million less than the projected max when he becomes a free agent in 2022.

•   Marks gave us a good pre-game to the Bulls offseason in his latest work for ESPN. We have pointed all of this out before, but his description above is as easily digestible as it gets. Now, the Bulls can technically get LaVine close to next season’s max contract money by renegotiating his contract this summer. And while it could never hurt to secure the asset sooner than later, doing so would greatly restrict any other kind of flexibility that could have this offseason. The Bulls have made it clear that they want to be immediately more competitive next season, and that becomes a lot harder when most of the cap space is spent in-house.

•   Marks also provided some key information on Lauri Markkanen:

A starting contract for Markkanen projects to be $13 million, according to ProFitX, and Chicago could certainly go in that direction, looking to flip him down the road once his trade restriction on Jan. 15 expires or maybe even keep him. However, Markkanen would be better suited signing the qualifying offer and becoming an unrestricted free agent if the team-friendly contract is the only offer on the table.

•   He has a whole section dedicated to The Finnisher, so I encourage you to go give that a read. In my opinion, there is no question the Bulls want to move on from Markkanen. Not only is he a horrendous fit next to Vucevic thanks to his lack of aggressiveness and weak rim-protection, but he failed to show much life off the bench at the end of this season. A change of scenery simply feels like it would be good for both parties. With that said, the projection Marks provides for Markkanen’s value via ProFitX makes me question when Markkanen will be out of Chicago. If all Markkanen is going to net is $13 million annually, the Bulls might actually be best-suited matching a contract and trading him later on. I’m not a fan of losing assets. If the Bulls can’t figure out a sign-and-trade deal, I think the good alternative would be to keep him at that price and trade him at the deadline. The only reason you let him walk for nothing would be if the team finds a high-impact free agent who they need to spend the money on. And, hey, that could happen.

•   Speaking of Markkanen, Bleacher Report ranked the big man as the 14th-best free agent this offseason. I think this range is about accurate, but there are certainly other players B/R has higher on the list that I could see team’s actually valuing significantly less than Markkanen. Guys like Reggie Jackson (9th) and Kelly Olynyk (10th) do not provide the youth and upside Markkanen still does. Not to mention, Markkanen still shot a career-high from the floor (48.0 percent) and three-point range (40.2 percent) last season. I could easily see a team convincing themselves to invest more in Markkanen than either of these two, which is why I also think we could see that $13 million estimate trend up.

•   Bobby Portis will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and he came up huge for the Bucks last night with a playoff career-high 22 points. Would you embrace a reunion?

•   FWIW: I wouldn’t jump at the opportunity, but I also would not be 100 percent against it. If the Bulls miss out on a guy like Daniel Theis, Portis could at least be that physical presence off the bench that provides a nice counterbalance to Vucevic in the frontcourt. I do expect after a successful stint in MKE this summer that they will either (1) look to resign him or (2) someone will overpay him in this lackluster market. But, again, if he is sitting there for cheap, I’d consider it.

•   Shoutout P-Willy!

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.