Out of the three players the Bulls got back in June’s Jimmy Butler trade, Zach LaVine is the one with the greatest potential to make or break their future. Despite his limited skill set, his improved shooting and explosive athleticism give him clear star potential. Combined with his age (22), it’s clear he’s going to be a part of the Bulls’ plan for years to come as they undertake a full rebuild.But unlike Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen, LaVine doesn’t come with years of team control on a cheap rookie contract. He’ll make $3.2 million this coming season, his fourth, before hitting restricted free agency in July 2018. Depending on how this season goes, LaVine could be in line for a huge payday — north of $20 million annually, in all likelihood. The biggest variable in the amount of money LaVine could make is his health. He suffered a torn left ACL on Feb. 4, which has the potential to affect his explosiveness going forward. All signs have been positive when it comes to LaVine’s rehab from the injury, but there is no clear timetable for when he’ll be back on the court. All signs are that the Bulls will be conservative in their approach. “I’m feeling really good,” LaVine said in June, at the Bulls’ press conference following the Butler trade. “I’m wholesale nba jerseys attacking this injury like I do everything in life, working my butt off for it every day, in the gym and doing as much as possible. There’s always that base timeline of nine to 12 months with it. I feel like with my ability, I’m able to come back early. But I really haven’t set a timetable for that. I’m very confident that I’ll come back better. This has given me time to work on my mental game, my strength and learn the game more. I have no fear at all coming back from this.” LaVine has since said that he expects to be ready to play when training camp begins in late September. It’s a nice thought, but in a rebuilding year, the Bulls have no reason to let him play that early in the calendar. Don’t expect him back before January at the earliest, and even then he’ll almost definitely be on a minutes limit, and probably not playing on back-to-backs, either. The Bulls aren’t expecting to win games next year, and LaVine is too important to their long-term future to not be cautious with his health. All of which is going to make for an interesting decision for the Bulls and for LaVine before the Oct. 15 rookie extension deadline. Depending on where the salary cap lands, LaVine will be eligible for an extension somewhere above $100 million over four years, the same as the max offer sheet he can sign with another team next summer. Given his talent and upside, it seems likely on the surface that if he hits free agency, another team will throw big money at him, like the Brooklyn Nets did with Otto Porter, the best restricted free agent on the market this summer. (Porter signed a four-year, $106 million offer sheet with the Nets, which the Wizards matched.) If LaVine signs an offer sheet with another team, there’s virtually no scenario in which the Bulls wouldn’t match it, even if it’s for close to the max. It could hurt their cap sheet to pay LaVine that much, but it will hurt more if they let the centerpiece of the Butler trade walk over a few million dollars. If LaVine isn’t willing to take anything less than the max, it makes sense to wait until next summer. But holding out for the absolute most money is a gamble for LaVine, one that could wind up costing him if he and his agent misread the market. It’s no guarantee that he will get a huge deal next summer, especially with his current uncertain health status. The market this summer hasn’t been strong for restricted free agents. Porter and Tim Hardaway, Jr. got paid, but it’s been a tough climate for everyone else. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope signed a one-year deal with the Lakers after Detroit pulled his qualifying offer, and Washington’s Bojan Bogdanovic signed a disappointing two-year, $21 million deal with the Pacers. Dallas’ Nerlens Noel and Memphis’ JaMychal Green are still unsigned, and the Bulls themselves are currently locked in a contract stalemate with Nikola Mirotic, who hasn’t been able to get leverage from other offers. It’s not going to get better next summer. According to a recent story from ESPN.com’s Tim MacMahon and Bobby Marks, executives and agents around the league are expecting a “nuclear winter” when it comes to the size of free-agent deals next year, a market correction from the spending frenzy that was 2016 free agency. If LaVine has a setback in his injury rehab, or isn’t the same player coming back that he was before the injury, there may not be a team out there willing to toss him the kind of offer sheet that might make the Bulls think twice about matching. He might find himself in Mirotic’s position, going into free agency hoping for a huge deal and inevitably being forced to sign a smaller one (as Mirotic is expected to do by the start of the season). Signing an extension before the October deadline might make the most sense both for LaVine and for the Bulls. Given how hesitant teams have been to sign long-term deals this summer, LaVine may be willing to take a discount off his max (say, a four-year deal worth between $70 and $80 million, rather than $100-plus) in exchange for four guaranteed years. If he hits the market after anything less than a stellar year, he might be stuck choosing between shorter-term deals or taking a smaller deal from the Bulls. In the best-case scenario, LaVine comes back fully healthy from the knee injury and proves himself to be worthy of a max contract the Bulls will be more than happy to pay him. But there are a lot of variables that could prevent this from being the case, from his health to an uncertain free-agent landscape. How LaVine and the Bulls navigate it between now and October will be worth keeping an eye on as the team positions LaVine as a core piece of its future.
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It was no secret Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler were close teammates on the Chicago Bulls, but now that they’re rivals, Wade said he isn’t holding back.Wade and Butler will likely face off against each other when the Bulls and Timberwolves play during the upcoming season, but Wade doesn’t appear worried about the challenge. “I get 6 fouls and I’m not afraid to use them in the first 6 mins!” he wrote on Twitter in response to a fan’s tweet about the upcoming battle. Wade, who agreed to pick up his 2017-18 contract option with the Bulls last month, will likely now be the star of the team following the blockbuster Butler trade that left many fans questioning. Butler was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves during the first round of the NBA Draft in exchange for the seventh overall pick, Zach LaVine, and Kris Dunn. Wade signed with the Bulls prior to the 2016-17 season, and he was looking to form a strong trio with Butler and point guard Rajon Rondo. The three looked good at times during the season, but injuries and poor play derailed the group as they were knocked out in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Butler had long said he wanted to stay in Chicago despite numerous trade rumors leading wholesale nba jerseys up to the event. After news of the trade broke, Wade took to Instagram to share his feelings on the deal, posting a photo of him with Butler.
In case you missed it this morning, ESPN’s Tim McMahon and Bobby Marks collaborated on an excellent piece detailing how the irresponsible spending by NBA teams last summer could impact a star-studded free agent class in 2018.Which is music to the ears of Bulls’ front office executives John Paxson and Gar Forman, who are hoping to be a major player on the free agent market next year. The ESPN report projected only nine teams having cap space to bid on a free agent class that could include Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins, Chris Paul, Isaiah Thomas, Carmelo Anthony, DeAndre Jordan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Avery Bradley, Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wilson Chandler, Danny Green, Enes Kanter and Greg Monroe, along with restricted free agents like Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Gary Harris, Jusuf Nurkic, Marcus Smart, Rodney Hood, Julius Randle, Dante Exum, Aaron Gordon and Clint Capela. Bad summer not to have any spending money. But that’s exactly what Paxson and Forman were anticipating when they chose not to get involved in the reckless spending triggered by the league’s new TV deal last summer. We all know about some of the terrible contracts handed out including a four-year, $72 million deal to Joakim Noah, four years, $64 million for Timofey cheap jerseys authentic Mozgov and Portland spending almost $150 million to lock up reserves Allen Crabbe and Evan Turner for four years. The Bulls signed Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo and Isaiah Canaan last summer, but avoided any salary commitment beyond two years. Both Rondo and Canaan were bought out of the team options the Bulls held for next season. Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers are now in such a deep luxury tax hole that they basically gave Crabbe away in a trade with Brooklyn earlier this week, immediately waiving the player they got back, power forward Andrew Nicholson, under the league’s stretch provision. Portland figures to be one of at least 10 teams paying the luxury tax for the 2018-19 season. I know what many of you are thinking, “Why will 2018 free agency be any different than in years past?” Yes, the Bulls missed out on primary targets James, Wade and Chris Bosh in 2010, and they failed to land Anthony in 2014. But with so many teams capped out, the Bulls will face less competition in pursuing the players they want most next summer. We’ve all heard the rumors about James wanting to finish his career in L.A., and it’s unlikely Durant, Westbrook, George or Paul would have any interest in coming to Chicago. But the Bulls could get significantly better right away in a weakened Eastern Conference by adding one or two players from a list of unrestricted free agents that could be looking for a new situation, including Cousins, Jordan, Bradley, Thomas, Caldwell-Pope, Kanter, Chandler and Green. They also could use their cap space to make a massive cap offer to a restricted free agent whose team is already in the luxury tax. Of course, the Bulls have decisions to make with their own roster as well. They still haven’t re-signed Niko Mirotic, and any contract beyond one season will reduce their cap space next summer. Plus, the key player coming back in the Jimmy Butler deal, shooting guard Zach LaVine, will be a restricted free agent next summer, and if he comes back 100 percent from ACL surgery, could command a multi-year contract starting at $20 million or more. The Bulls have contract options on the rookie deals of Bobby Portis, Kris Dunn, Cam Payne, Jerian Grant, Denzel Valentine and Lauri Markkanen, while Paul Zipser’s $1.5 million salary is not guaranteed for 2018-19. Paxson said the Bulls are committed to re-building through the draft, and the hope is they’ll wind up with a top 3 pick after next year’s lottery to grab a franchise changing talent like Missouri’s Michael Porter, Jr., International star Luka Doncic and 7-footers DeAndre Ayton of Arizona and Mohamed Bamba of Texas. Looking at the big picture, if LaVine comes back 100 percent, Dunn emerges as a legit starting point guard and Markkanen shows potential as a stretch 4, the Bulls rebuild could move quickly. Adding one of the top players in next year’s draft would be the first step, then Paxson and Forman would be armed with somewhere between $40-50 million dollars in cap space to pursue an impact free agent or two. Bulls fans remember how long it took to re-build the team after the end of the Jordan era in 1998. Jerry Krause couldn’t land a major free agent, and the Tyson Chandler-Eddy Curry experiment failed badly. Let’s hope Paxson and Forman have more luck this time around. At least they’ll have a built-in advantage when the 2018 free agent market opens for business next July with the Bulls projected to have more cap space available than any other team in the league.