Zach LaVine Expects Extension Negotiations to “Play Out the Right Way,” But Timing Is Everything

Looming over every single move the Chicago Bulls have made (and will continue to make) is Zach LaVine’s contract and current lack of extension.

The 26-year-old has one foot into his prime after earning his first All-Star nod last season. However, the upcoming 2021-22 season will be his last on a remarkably valuable contract that currently pays him just $19.5 million per year. With that being the case, the Bulls front office is able to open up extension talks this summer, and LaVine told reporters on Friday afternoon that those conversations will start soon.

 

To no surprise, he continues to sound comfortable and confident in a future with the Bulls, which also might give us some insight into how the front office has handled this whole situation. If LaVine is telling the truth and legitimately believes things will “play out the right way,” then the front office has likely made it clear to him that they fully intend to pay him everything he’s worth. But does that mean it will happen THIS offseason?

Let’s remember the standard contract extension the Bulls can offer LaVine will be far smaller than what he can make one year from now. The starting salary on an extension of this kind is allowed to be 120 percent of the final year of the player’s contract. However, since the $19.5 million LaVine is making this season is far under the market value for his level of production, it would be silly for him to accept an extension built off that number. If he waits until he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2022, the first year of his salary would get roughly an $11 million bump.

Now, the Bulls do have the power to speak to LaVine about a renegotiation of his current contract. What that would give the organization the power to do is use this offseason’s cap space to bump up the final year of his deal and get him on basically the same path as next season’s max contract. Again, doing this would eat into the team’s cap space, thus restricting any other flexibility they have to improve the team this summer. I have to imagine the front office wants to drastically improve other areas of this roster, especially after the active trade deadline we saw, but maybe they are willing to sacrifice some of that for the security blanket of inking LaVine early. Maybe that is what LaVine views as the “right way.”

The alternative, of course, would be waiting for next summer. We can not rule out the fact that maybe LaVine does view this as the best possible path for everyone involved. They will briefly talk about a renegotiation but ultimately decide to spend the money on improving the roster and revisit LaVine’s deal after a (hopeful) playoff run. This direction leaves more room for a year-long festival of bad LaVine trade rumors, but it could also leave room for the team to achieve more immediate success in 2021-22.

Oh, well. LaVine said the talks will start soon, so it is only a matter of time before we get some more answers.

written by

Elias Schuster is the Lead Chicago Bulls writer at Bleacher Nation. He started with BN full-time in 2019 immediately after graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign with a degree in Journalism (yes, he started with the Jim Boylen Era). Since joining, Elias has been the driving force behind Bulls and NBA content for both the site and social accounts. You can follow him on Twitter/X @Schuster_Elias.

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