(photo via Bulls.com)
By: Thomas Gibbons
There was little doubt that the Chicago Bulls would let Zach LaVine walk, even if an offer sheet was above what they wanted to pay. You cannot let a 23-year old explosive player walk out the door for nothing. LaVine was the centerpiece of the Jimmy Butler trade last summer and a key part of the rebuild.
The Bulls officially matched the Kings 4-year, $78 million offer sheet Sunday morning. In a statement on Bulls.com, John Paxson said, “We were excited last summer when we got a dynamic athlete in Zach LaVine through the trade, and we’re excited now that we get to keep him. Zach showed a relentless work ethic in rehabbing his ACL injury to return to the court, and he has a visible passion for the game of basketball. We know that those attributes, along with his honed skills, will make him an impact player in this league for years to come. We’re thrilled to keep Zach on this Bulls team moving forward.”
Is LaVine worth $19.5 million per year? Many say no but let’s not get hung up on the money. Here is a perspective from Chicago Bulls radio stat man Jeff Mangurten: $20M per year with this cap is the same percentage as $11.6M per year under what the salary cap was 5 years ago.
Since the new TV deal, the NBA cap has grown. For the 2018-19 season, the cap has been set at $101.869 M and it expected to go up again in the next two seasons. The Bulls cap is in a great place. Even with the LaVine deal, they will have plenty of room to chase the big free agents next season.
If LaVine can drop 20 points a night, he is worth every penny of the contract. We saw last season how explosive he can be on the offensive end. He can create his own shot, take it to the rim, and executed on set plays off the ball for easy buckets. And his first step is very difficult to stop. We saw LaVine take over against his old team the Timberwolves in February. He has the potential to be a special player for the Bulls for years to come.
In other news, the Bulls were involved in a three team trade on Saturday night which sent guard Jerian Grant to Orlando and Juylan Stone from Charlotte to Chicago. Stone’s contract is non-guaranteed so expect the Bulls to release him. Grant came to the Bulls in the Derrick Rose trade to New York along with Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday. Sending Grant out East clears the way for Cameron Payne to take the backup point guard duties.
The Bulls were loaded with guards. Between Kris Dunn, LaVine, Grant, Payne, Justin Holiday, David Nwaba, and Justin Holiday, someone was bound to be the odd-man out. In his two seasons with the Bulls, Grant averaged 7.1 PPG and 3.2 APG. Primarily in the backup role, Grant did a fine job running the offense. But we know what Grant is. He’s an okay shooter, solid defender but nothing that cannot be replaced. Payne has missed significant time the past two seasons and now he will have a full season of work with the second group.
Could another move be coming for the Bulls? Grant’s cap hit was not very big, around $2.6 million, but it creates a roster spot. The Bulls have been linked to Jabari Parker the past few weeks. The 23-year old Chicago native is a restricted free agent and there has been no news that the Bucks are all in on him. Parker has already suffered two major knee injuries in his short career but averaged 20 points per game just two years ago. He’s 6-8, 250 and fits a Bulls need of a small forward. His contract would not be taxing and I think he would be a perfect candidate for a one-year prove it deal and see if he fits the system. It would not hurt the Bulls books going forward and it’s a low risk, high reward situation.
Along with the Grant news, the Bulls opened up their summer league action Saturday night as they handled the Cavaliers 86-81. Wendell Carter Jr. impressed with 16 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks in his Bulls debut. Antonio Blakeney dropped 25, 18 of those points coming in the first half. Chandler Hutchison added 13 points and 5 rebounds. The Bulls are back in action tonight versus Lonzo Ball and the Lakers at 10:30 CT.
Here is an updated Bulls depth chart:
SG: LaVine/Valentine/Kilpatrick/Blakeney( not signed but probably will be)
C: Lopez/Carter Jr./Felicio/Asik
Roster notes: Expect the Bulls to release Paul Zipser before his contract becomes guaranteed. on July 18th. Sean Kilpatrick’s contract is also non-guaranteed so expect him to be gone as well.