Zach LaVine

Why Zach LaVine fits alongside Josh Giddey for Bulls

Two-time All-Star guard is elite 3-point shooter, 3-level scorer if he regains form following surgery

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Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

A prevailing theme following the Chicago Bulls’ acquisition of dynamic, young guard Josh Giddey is that he needs to be surrounded by shooting and athleticism to fully utilize his strengths and limit his weaknesses.

If only the Bulls had a two-time All-Star guard who is a two-time Slam Dunk champion and career 38 percent 3-point shooter on high volume on their roster . . . oh wait, they do.

His name is Zach LaVine. And as recently as two years ago, the relationship with the Bulls and LaVine stood in full bloom, fresh off the signing of a five-year, $215 million maximum contract extension.

LaVine had recently earned his second straight All-Star appearance and stood less than a year removed from drawing praise from everyone from Kevin Durant to Gregg Popovich for his role on the gold-medal winning U.S. Olympic team in Tokyo. The future seemed limitless.

Instead, the Bulls and LaVine failed to make the playoffs the next two seasons. And LaVine played below his lofty expectations at the start of the 2023-24 season before succumbing to foot surgery after just 25 games.

It’s well documented that the Bulls are actively shopping LaVine, who has three seasons and roughly $138 million remaining on his deal. To this point, his market has been limited, a byproduct of his expensive deal in the face of a more punitive collective bargaining agreement, his two knee and one foot surgery and lingering questions on his ability to impact winning.

Never mind the widespread praise he drew from his Olympic colleagues. Or the fact he played through a knee injury that required an offseason arthroscopic procedure to help the Bulls qualify for the 2022 NBA playoffs. With just one playoff series in 10 NBA seasons, LaVine can’t shake those questions.

But what if the Bulls ultimately can’t find a suitable trade for LaVine? His shooting ability and scoring efficiency absolutely fit next to Giddey and other young talents like Coby White, Ayo Dosunmu and Patrick Williams. White and LaVine are the only remaining holdovers from the roster that this current managerial regime inherited in 2020.

To be sure, the relationship between the Bulls and LaVine, 29, would need rehabilitation. For months, the relationship has felt like it has run its course, headed for a divorce.

But for an organization that has held onto assets until they depreciate, keeping LaVine and letting him either rehabilitate his value, play well alongside Giddey and White or both isn't out of the question.

The Bulls engaged in multiple trade conversations centered on LaVine dating to last offseason. This privately rankled LaVine.

When the 2023-24 season began poorly, both the Bulls and LaVine’s representation agreed to be open to trying to find LaVine a new home. But NBC Sports Chicago reported in February that LaVine never specifically asked to be traded.

Nevertheless, the Bulls engaged with the Detroit Pistons leading up to the Feb. 8 trade deadline but gained little traction on moving LaVine.

“There’s a lot of things that don’t bug me. My name has been circulating around more than once from the beginning of my career to now. If I let people’s opinions bug me or influence me, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. So I go out there and keep doing me,” LaVine said in Los Angeles in March. “Haven’t really talked to anybody, but we’ll continue to push forward.

“My main objective is to help the guys play and be myself out there. When I’m on the court, I know I make an impact most of the time offensively, but defensively as well.”

The Bulls said in February that LaVine would be sidelined for four to six months following his foot surgery. But LaVine, who sought a second opinion leading to his foot surgery, said in March that he is “a little bit ahead of schedule” and just needed to let the soft tissue around a tendon heal.

The Bulls, by all accounts, remain motivated to move LaVine. But remember: Prior to last season going off the rails, LaVine was viewed as the bridge piece between the older core of DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic and the younger core headlined by White and Williams and Dosunmu.

Add Giddey to that mix.

“It’s not hard to fit back in, especially with the way I play the game and want to go out there and help,” LaVine said in March. “You never want to be hurt, but it’s not hard to see yourself back out there.”

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