Here’s why the Bulls are better off without Zach LaVine

Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

Fans of the Chicago Bulls have grown to love Zach LaVine. Maybe even a bit too much.

From the moment LaVine laced up his sneaks and stepped onto the hardwood in the United Center in Chicago, he was met with deafening cheers. The appreciation for LaVine’s game only grew once he officially got going.

LaVine swooped to the hoop, blew by defenders, and before you knew it, he was meeting the opposing team’s big man at the rim, usually leaving them on the wrong end of his posters.

Ultimately, it resulted in him being ranked among the league leaders in points per game, and it routinely landed him a spot on ESPN’s nightly highlight reel. As for winning, that was never quite a part of the equation.

This past season, after Bulls’ management opened up their wallets and paid DeMar DeRozan and swallowed Nikola Vucevic’s massive contract from Orlando the year prior, the Bulls enjoyed their first postseason berth since LaVine joined the squad.

Overall, while the Bulls were shown the door after five games against the defending champs, the Chicago fanbase has to be drooling over the countless deep postseason runs their squad is about to embark on in the next few seasons. With that said, in order to truly become contenders, they’ll be forced to leave one of their fan-favorites in the rearview mirror.

With free agency just around the corner, LaVine could enter the $200 million club if Chicago’s brass deems him worthy. LaVine could opt to sign elsewhere, but the allure of the biggest five-year contract possible would likely entice the two-time All-Star to remain in the Windy City.

Although the gaudy numbers, weekly highlights, and his ability to mesh alongside DeRozan and Vucevic have been chronicled, the Bulls are better off playing hardball with the newly turned 27-year-old … and, if need be, allowing him to take his talents elsewhere.

Zach LaVine’s defensive faults and offensive shortcomings aren’t worth it for the Bulls

For as great as LaVine has proven to be, his numbers are fairly superficial. In four postseason games against the Milwaukee Bucks, LaVine’s averages suffered, going from 24.4 points on 47.6% from the field to 19.3 points a night on 42.9% from inside the arc.

In addition to his shooting numbers taking a hit, LaVine has always been a liability on defense. Of players who played a minimum of 2,000 minutes this past season, LaVine registered the 12th-worst defensive rating at 116.1. Not too far behind him, was his running mate DeMar DeRozan. Furthermore, LaVine’s recent injury woes haven’t helped him in his case to pocket even more dough from the Bulls.

Horrific defensive numbers aside, if Chicago were willing to look past his defensive deficiencies and ignore his postseason shortcomings, LaVine would become just the seventh player in NBA history to ink a deal worth over $200 million, joining Rudy Gobert, Russell Westbrook, Luka Doncic, Stephen Curry, Trae Young, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Signing LaVine to such an enormous contract would tie this Chicago franchise to the hip with a player who isn’t a stellar defender, hasn’t shown an ability to lead a franchise on his own, and one they’ll ultimately rely on once DeRozan, 32, begins slowing down. Is that worth it for a largely incomplete/oft-injured player?

With unrestricted free agents such as Ricky Rubio, Gary Harris, Andre Iguodala, and Joe Ingles set to hit the open mark this summer, LaVine, rightfully so, is pegged as the crown jewel. Still, while tempting and mouthwatering to keep their core together, the Bulls aren’t going anywhere with LaVine and surely aren’t going anywhere without him either.

Replacing LaVine, at least in the short term, is no easy task. But the emergence of rookie Ayo Dosunmu, who averaged north of 11 points per game when he wasn’t straddling the bench, makes LaVine’s departure more tolerable in the immediate future.

It’ll take a team effort to make up for LaVine’s offensive numbers and moving on from him won’t placate their defensive issues all at once. Still, allowing the Bulls to remain flexible in their cap space while planning for the future means that LaVine must be ushered out the side door.

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