2. Zach LaVine ($40 million)
Entering the 2023-24 season as one of the highest-paid players in the NBA, expectations are higher than ever for Zach LaVine to step up and prove he can be ‘the guy’ for the Chicago Bulls moving forward. Averaging 25.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game over the past three seasons in Chicago, Zach has thoroughly deserved his two All-Star selections and ensuing max contract extension.
Still, many critics remain doubtful of his ability to take the reigns and be the top option on a truly competitive team. If he can keep up his post-All-Star Break level of play, however, I believe it’s only a matter of time until the narrative begins to change.
Zach LaVine still has work to do if he wants to live up to his max payday with the Chicago Bulls.
When Zach hit unrestricted free agency, the Bulls found themselves in a situation where any other outcome other than re-signing LaVine would have been a catastrophic failure. The Bulls needed to retain their best asset no matter the cost, and they accomplished just that with a five-year, $215 million deal that went down as the largest in franchise history.
Regardless of the fact I believe signing LaVine was a necessity out of fear of losing Chicago’s best tradeable asset, that doesn’t mean he’s managed to live up to it just yet. I certainly think he can get there, but as the 17th highest-paid player in the league, you’d be crazy to call him the 17th-best player in the NBA right now. Many experts would dispute calling LaVine even a top 25 or 30 player at this point in time. In fact, both The Ringer and CBS have LaVine at No. 47 in their player rankings.
Still, Zach’s prowess as a scorer is simply undeniable. LaVine has scored the ninth most total points over the last three years with 5,139 — just 111 points behind his teammate and the 8th-ranked DeMar DeRozan. If LaVine can remain healthy and continue providing consistent production, it’ll be impossible to keep dismissing him as one of the NBA’s most lethal offensive weapons.