The Bulls are reportedly interested in matching the Kings 4-year $78 million offer sheet for Zach LaVine, as reported by ESPN. LaVine being a restricted free agent means any team may attempt to sign him, but the Bulls have first right refusal by matching the offer sheet, thus keeping him in Chicago.
LaVine was able to get back onto the court after suffering an ACL injury in the 2016-2017 season. In his 24 games with Chicago last season, LaVine averaged 16.7 points per game while staying on the court an average of 27.3 minutes per game, according to basketballreference.com.
If his numbers with the Bulls remained the same for the duration of a full season, LaVine would have averaged the second most points in his career, and set a career highs in steals. However, LaVine was also on pace for a career low shooting, three-point and two-point field goal percentage.
Christian Peshek, host of the Sports Bark Podcast, is not in favor of bringing back LaVine.
"Waste $78 million on a guy when you're still not able to compete?" Peshek said. "Terrible decision."
Jake Barrett, co-host of the Fog Bowl Podcast, echoed Peshek's sentiments with a potential LaVine signing, and noted his struggles on both sides of the ball.
"LaVine doesn't play defense," Barrett said.
The Bulls, who brought LaVine over via the Jimmy Butler trade, are hoping to see him return to his pre-ACL injury form, when he won back-to-back dunk contest in 2015 and 2016, and averaged 18.9 points per game in 47 games before the injury.
Players averaging between 18-20 points per game can draw more than $78 million over a four year period. A 26-year-old Harrison Barnes, who averaged 18.9 points per game in his 77 games this season, is under a 4-year, $94.4 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks, according to spotrac—a website that tracks player contracts. And a 28-year-old Jrue Holiday, who averaged 19 points in his 81 games last season for the New Orleans Pelicans, signed a 5-year, $131 million contract.
Other factors contributed to these players signing large contracts, but it is not a reach to assume a healthy LaVine could play as well as Holiday or Barnes. In the season before his injury, LaVine played all 82 games. From his rookie season to his sophomore year LaVine showed improvements in points per game and shooting percentage, with marginal improvements in steals and bocks per game.
"Yes, Zach LaVine's offer sheet is expensive," said Ethan Anderson of the Fog Bowl Podcast. "But if the Bulls let him walk the Butler trade will look worse and worse. LaVine isn't a great player, but he is a solid guard who can score. The Bulls need players right now, and LaVine might be expensive, but he can help with the re-build."