Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine can be a free agent at the end of the 2021-22 season. But he reportedly has a genuine interest in going the Michael Jordan route of embracing the struggle and building a winner in the Windy City.
The Bulls had a big offseason, adding key pieces such as DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball to be more competitive this upcoming season. Still, LaVine could be the face of the franchise for years to come. He apparently relishes that possibility.
Zach LaVine, like Michael Jordan, has experienced his share of struggles in his first several seasons with the Bulls
Michael Jordan was at the center of a Chicago Bulls dynasty that remains among the most definitive in NBA history. But MJ experienced his fair share of adversity before he became a perennial champion.
Jordan and the Bulls consistently made the playoffs in his first several seasons. But they had a hard time winning a series and eventually dealt with Isiah Thomas and the Bad Boy Pistons. It took MJ seven years to capture his first NBA championship.
LaVine has also endured a frustrating lack of team success early on, just to a greater extent. Chicago has averaged just over 24 wins in the last three seasons. The Bulls’ 31-41 mark was their best since the 2016-17 campaign, which also marked the team’s last playoff berth.
Now, LaVine finds himself on the cusp of free agency, with the possibility to cash out next summer and maybe head to a more established winner. However, he has reportedly expressed a desire to be the guy Chicago builds around in the years to come.
LaVine wants to stay in Chicago
It doesn’t appear that Zach LaVine and the Bulls will reach a contract extension before the 2021-22 season. But that doesn’t mean LaVine is discouraged about his future in Chicago.
According to David Kaplan of ESPN 1000, LaVine’s preference is to stay right where he is. Kaplan reported on the Kap & J.Hood podcast that the All-Star shooting guard wants to be part of the process in Chicago.
“He has told people that I know: ‘Hey man, if they want me here, I’m not going anywhere,'” Kaplan said. ‘I’m building this thing. I’m the first guy in the door. I wanna be part of this.'”
Granted, the Bulls will still have to open the checkbooks to re-sign LaVine.
The 26-year-old has rapidly become one of the top scorers in basketball. LaVine averaged 27.4 points on 50% shooting from the field, including 41.9% shooting from beyond the arc on 8.2 attempts per game. He gives the Bulls a legitimate creator who can shoot off the dribble or get all the way to the rim.
Chicago is almost certainly going to stay in close communication with LaVine’s reps throughout the remainder of the offseason and into the start of the campaign. Still, much of his allegiance to the organization could hinge on the Bulls’ ability to show improvement.
Can the Bulls be a contender in the Eastern Conference?
LaVine remains the central figure in Chicago, but it remains to be seen how all the pieces fit together.
The Bulls now get a full season from Nikola Vucevic, whom they acquired before the 2021 deadline. Vucevic’s ability to pick-and-pop and finish via an assortment of runners and jump-hooks make him the perfect complement to LaVine. Ball gives Chicago a transition playmaker who showed considerable improvement on catch-and-shoot three-pointers, while DeRozan’s ability to get to the rim is hugely important for a Bulls team that ranked dead last in free-throw attempts last season.
Chicago will be a team of immense interest this upcoming season. LaVine will be at the center of it all. If the Bulls struggle early, they might even consider trading him at the deadline. However, he wants to build a winner and give the franchise the kind of cornerstone player it hasn’t had since the days of Derrick Rose and Michael Jordan.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.