Bulls guard Zach LaVine

Patrick Gorski/USA Today Sports

Bernstein: A Max Deal For Zach LaVine? Bulls Should Pass

LaVine will be a restricted free agent come July.

Dan Bernstein
June 12, 2018 - 2:30 pm

By Dan Bernstein--
670TheScore.com senior columnist

(670 The Score) The latest news from well-connected NBA reporter Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports might be alarming to Bulls fans concerned with how they're navigating a path back to competing for championships.  

When discussing restricted free agency on Chris Mannix's podcast, Charania said he believes the Bulls would match a maximum offer sheet to guard Zach LaVine, who's set to hit restricted free agency in July. Charania described the Bulls' thinking as "we have too much invested in him." 

It's curious logic if true, because the only real investment other than injury rehab time and a short stretch of game action is the Jimmy Butler trade that brought him here. The investment would be that match, actually. In a maximum contract, LaVine would start with a salary of around $25 million in 2018-'19 if we estimate his percentage of the projected total cap number.

It's too much for a player who looked like an uncomfortable fit in a very small sample of games with his other material teammates. In 24 games this past season, he averaged 16.7 points on 38.3 percent shooting, 34.1 percent from 3-point range.

LaVine's game is a series of long, contested two-point shots, "my turn" possessions and defensive lapses, all of it hurried and lacking a sense of situation and pace. To be fair, his team-imposed minutes limit may have spurred him to play faster and try to do more in less time as he returned from ACL reconstruction, leading to the out-of-sync sequences. But my concerns persist about his future in a rapidly evolving league that prizes versatility, awareness and team play more than ever.

To commit one-quarter of the cap to LaVine based on a forcedly optimistic reading of his early work would be an unwise allocation of resources. A deal at a lesser number merits consideration, certainly, but locking in that much expensive uncertainty based ostensibly on investment already made wouldn't seem sensible.

Besides, the pleasant surprise of Lauri Markkanen's upside should cancel out any desire to have to commit to LaVine only to not be seen as retroactively "losing" the Butler deal. Call it a win by betting on two foundational pieces in Markkanen and Kris Dunn, and then make the smartest possible decisions looking to the future instead of the past. Spend all that max money in another way, at another time, with a better chance buying closer proximity to a title.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.​​