The Bulls have missed the playoffs for the 3rd straight season & new management must thoroughly evaluate this young roster. Will LaVine lead the Bulls to the playoffs next season? Will Markkanen gain his confidence back? Is Coby White the point guard of the future? What to expect from the Bulls next coach? Spectator Sporting got the answers on episode #49.
Can LaVine lead the Bulls to contention?-00:43-04:54
You may be wondering why the Bulls matched the King’s 4 year $78 million dollar offer to restricted free agent Zach LaVine. He’s a player who tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament in February of 2017 with the Timberwolves and only played 24 games last season as a Chicago Bull. In those 24 games, his minutes was restricted to 27 per game, he averaged 16 points but only shot 38% from the field. However, there are 9 logical reasons why Bulls Vice President John Paxson and friends matched the Sacramento King’s offer.
The Bulls want Zach LaVine to grow and build chemistry with the young core of Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen. Last season was all three of those guys first season with the Bulls but they only played 12 games together. Markkanen missed 14 games, Dunn 30 and LaVine 58 due to injuries and tanking purposes. Their talents should blend in together as Dunn is a proven defender and drive to the basket type point guard, Markkanen is a stretch four with All-Star potential and LaVine is a scorer with highlight reel leaping ability.
Before LaVine tore his ACL, he averaged 19 points, shot 46% from the field and 38% from the 3 point line. LaVine put those numbers up at the age of 21 in his 3rd season. He only played in 47 games that season before tearing his ACL in February of 2017 but before he went down he was a legitimate rising star.
Zach LaVine is only 23 years old. No one knows if Zach LaVine is going to be a 20 plus points a game leading his team in scoring type of guy or a shell of his old self. It’s too early to tell. The only players on the Bulls roster younger than LaVine are Lauri Markkanen and the two rookies Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison.
Aaron Gordon got 4 years $84 million from the Orlando Magic as a restricted free agent. Both players
were lottery picks in the 2014 draft, they will be 23 years old at the beginning of the season and both guys have a similar career high in points per game (Gordon 17 and LaVine 19). Not only did the Kings set the market for LaVine but the Orlando Magic assisted the Bulls in determining his value with that Aaron Gordon contract.
ACL surgery is not as bad as you think. I know Derrick Rose and the Bulls has never been the same since he tore his ACL in the 2012 payoffs. However, former Bull Jamal Crawford tore his ACL in the 2001-02 season but missed only 4 games in the next two seasons and had a breakout 2003-04 year averaging 17 points and 5 assists. Kyle Lowry suffered the same injury at Villanova but now he’s a 4-time All-Star. High flying Corey Brewer tore his ACL in his rookie year with Minnesota in 2008 but he maintained those springs in his legs after the surgery. Just to name a few. Players who are disciplined with their physical therapy program can overcome Anterior Cruciate Ligament surgery with the assistance of the advancements in modern medical technology.
The Bulls traded Jimmy Butler and their 2017 first round pick (#16 overall Justin Patton) for Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine. Letting LaVine go to Sacramento would have hindered the Bulls chances of winning the Jimmy Butler trade. Not having LaVine in Chicago would put too much pressure on Markkanen to be a perennial All-Star and Kris Dunn would have been forced to be the number two scoring option. The Bulls have kept that core of the three young guys intact with a legitimate shot to be contenders in the East through significant player development and an addition of an impactful free agent next off-season, now that King James is gone.
There’s an Injury protection clause in LaVine’s contract. The Sacramento Kings were inappropriately confident that the Bulls was not going to match a $19.5 million per year deal for LaVine, so they put an injury protection clause in the deal. It turns out that the Kings were wrong about the Bulls willingness to pay up and they did the Bulls a huge favor by adding that injury clause in the contract. This could save the Bulls organization loads of money if Zach LaVine is hit with another serious injury.
The Bulls have plenty of salary cap space. According to Spotrac.com, the Bulls have the 3rd best practical salary cap space in the entire league. Plus, another $18.5 million will be freed up in 2019 when Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday become unrestricted free agents. Also, another $8 million will be available in the 2019 off-season when the Bulls decide to exercise their early termination option on Omer Asik. Even though the Bulls overpaid for LaVine, they can still offer max deals to highly coveted players during the 2019 off-season.
NBA stars in their prime don’t sign with the Bulls in free agency. Some guys may have thought that the Bulls should have pocketed that money and offered it to Klay Thompson, Karl Anthony-Towns, Kemba Walker, DeMarcus Cousins or Terry Rozier during the 2019 free agency. The problem with that is the fact that superstars in their prime like Tracy McGrady, Carmelo Anthony and 2010 Dwyane Wade like to pretend that they’re coming to Chicago just to negotiate for more money from the team they really want to join. Why?! You can blame Bulls management, cold weather, the Chicago crime rate or whatever. The fact of the matter is, the 34 year old Pau Gasol is arguably the best NBA free agent to ever play for the Bulls. So, Johnny Pax knows that he must keep those young guys with potential on his team at damn near all cost.