Two-time dunk champ Zach LaVine continues to be an intriguing prospect. During his first few seasons in Minnesota, he proved that he’s much more than just a high-flier. He can put the ball on the floor, he’s shown flashes of versatility as a scorer, and at just 23, it’s understandable why a team would be willing to take a chance on him.
But LaVine is also coming off a major knee injury — a torn ACL — that limited him to just 24 games last season in Chicago and the Bulls were absolutely correct to let LaVine hit the unrestricted free agent market to figure out what his value is. According to the Sacramento Kings, who signed him to a four-year, $78 million contract on Friday, that value is extremely high, higher than most would’ve imagined.
The Bulls have 48 hours to match, and it appears LaVine was none to happy that his incumbent team had been dragging their heels about offering him a deal, as they had reportedly been trying in vain to work out a more modest contract somewhere in the $18 million per year range.
“I’m disappointed that I had to get an offer sheet from another team,” LaVine, 23, told The Undefeated. “But Sacramento stepped up and made a strong impression. It appears that Sacramento wants me more than Chicago.”
It’s understandable that LaVine would feel a certain way about this, but it’s essentially what any team in their position would’ve done if unable to agree on a deal to their liking. It also bears mentioning that the Kings are definitely outliers in terms of what they’re willing to shell out here, giving his injury history and numbers from last season.
Still, it’s enticing to think about what a healthy LaVine would add to a youthful, athletic core that already includes No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III, De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and more. But it’s also a move that could come back to haunt them if LaVine is never the same player again and gobbles up so much precious cap space for years to come.