Zach LaVine not making an All-NBA team can save Bulls a ton of cap space

Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /

Zach LaVine will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, leaving the Chicago Bulls with a tough decision. He’s eligible for a five-year, $200 million deal this summer if he re-signs with the Bulls. He can get a four-year $160 million deal if he signs with another team. If he makes an All-NBA team, howver, that number skyrockets.

If signed to a supermax contract, LaVine would carry a starting salary of $42.4 million and, with annual eight-percent escalators, he would earn in the neighborhood of ~$245 million over five years. If that’s the case, the Bulls will likely have to part ways with him.

"“Free agency is going to be a big milestone for me,” LaVine said in February. “It’s my first time going into it really being an  unrestricted free agent. I dealt with it being restricted before so it’s a whole new experience.”"

LaVine has been part the free agency circus before as a restricted free agent back in 2018. He almost left the Bulls for Sacramento that offseason, as the Kings offered him $78 million. The Bulls matched that offer, retaining him for the following years.

Zach LaVine not making an All-NBA team could save the Bulls big money

At the time, he was only a year removed from his ACL surgery, which has bothered him since. He improved his outside shooting and passing, becoming an All-Star with Chicago. This season, he’s averaging 27 points 47% shooting from the field and 38% shooting from 3-point range.

His value is undeniable on this particular Bulls team. However, considering he’s in line for a max contract, the Bulls have to be cautious in over-valuing that price. The Bulls are trying to build a contending team, but aren’t done yet. They need one to two more veteran pieces in order to truly be title contenders. Signing LaVine to a max contract would have eat up 30% of the salary cap, adding up to ~$210 million over five years.

If he makes an All-NBA Team, that number jumps to 35% of the salary cap in what we’d call the “designated veteran max contract,” which is the ~$245 million figure mentioned earlier.

And the cap hits are vastly different for both:

Zach LaVine max contract with Bulls

This info comes from Kevin Smith of Spotrac:

  • 2022-23: $36,300,000
  • 2023-24: $39,204,000
  • 2024-25: $42,108,000
  • 2025-26: $45,012,000
  • 2026-27: $47,916,000

Zach LaVine designated veteran max contract (supermax) with Bulls

  • 2022-23: $42,350,000
  • 2023-24: $45,738,000
  • 2024-25: $49,126,000
  • 2025-26: $52,514,000
  • 2026-27: $55,902,000

You can see the difference of the Bulls’ saving between $6-$7 million per year, which would make a huge difference should they bring him back and still need to add other personnel to the roster.

Then you have the question about LaVine’s health. He had to get his knee evaluated during the All-Star break and has looked less explosive the more the season has progressed.

The decision to sign him to max will be a tough one. The Bulls may decide to bring LaVine back, especially since he is likely not going to make an All-NBA team. What LaVine wants to take hasn’t been expressed. Publicly, he has states that he knows his worth and wants to be paid just that.

"“I think we all get what we deserve at the level we play at, for our team and around the league. I think I stack up with everybody at that level. We’ll let the chips fall. Is the [max] the goal? I don’t know if it’s the goal, but I should be getting what I deserve. I’ll let them tell me what that is and we’ll go from there.”"

Free agency is three months away. LaVine’s knee and playoff production will have a huge impact on his financial ceiling come July.

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