The Bulls will be investing in an unknown commodity by matching the Kings’ four-year, $78MM offer sheet for Zach LaVine, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN. Chicago’s most recent offer to LaVine was only about $2MM less per year than the deal with the Kings, so it’s not a great financial burden for the team to take on. The bigger question is what kind of player LaVine will be after an ACL tear limited him to a combined 71 games over the past two seasons.
The 23-year-old got into just 24 contests in his first season with Chicago and wasn’t particularly effective. LaVine averaged 16.7 points per game, but shot a career-low 38.3% from the floor and the Bulls were outscored by 7.2 PPG while he was on the court. Friedell states that LaVine hasn’t progressed beyond what he was when he entered the league, an athletic marvel who lacks efficiency on offense and consistency on defense.
The Bulls may also have to repair their relationship with LaVine, who said he felt more wanted by the Kings in free agency. The front office believes it has to match LaVine’s offer sheet so it won’t lose the centerpiece of the Jimmy Butler trade, Friedell adds, but it isn’t certain that it’s getting a player to build around for the next four seasons.
There’s more news out of Chicago:
- An escalating salary cap will make LaVine’s new contract look better in future years, notes K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. Conflicting reports give LaVine a starting salary of either $18.1MM or $19.5MM, which would be either 17.8% or 19.1% of the salary cap, and that percentage will fall in future years as the cap continues to rise. Johnson also notes that the Kings did the Bulls a favor by putting substantial injury protection for themselves in the deal in case LaVine has more problems with his left knee. Chicago’s front office didn’t suggest that in its negotiations out of fear of angering LaVine and his representatives.
- Tonight’s decision to trade Jerian Grant was a sign of confidence in Cameron Payne as the backup point guard, Johnson adds in a separate story. The Bulls will save about $1MM in swapping Grant for Julyan Stone and another $1,656,092 by waiving Stone before his August 1 guarantee date. Injuries have limited Payne to just 36 games since being acquired from the Thunder at the 2017 trade deadline.
- The Bulls will create a $2.6MM trade exception in tonight’s deal, tweets salary cap specialist Albert Nahmad. The team can open as much as $29MM before officially matching LaVine’s offer sheet by waiving Paul Zipser and Sean Kilpatrick (Twitter link).