As the Dallas Mavericks continue their Western Conference Finals battle against the Golden State Warriors, rumors are already starting to heat up around an upcoming unrestricted free agent that Dallas might be interested in pursuing this summer.
“A prominent topic of conversation this week has been Zach LaVine’s future. Opinion — some of it educated, some of it guesswork — is varied on what the Chicago Bulls’ two-time All-Star guard will do when he hits unrestricted free agency on July 1,” wrote Bulls Insider K.C. Johnson on Friday.
“But this much is certain: His return to the Bulls no longer is considered the slam dunk it once was.”
We have pipe-dreamed the Zach LaVine-to-Dallas idea at DallasBasketball.com for a while now, but for the first time, the Mavs might actually have a shot to make it happen — although it would likely have to be in a sign-and-trade scenario.
“Absolutely. There’s no question,” said Dallas Mavericks GM Nico Harrison on the Mavs Step Back Podcast when asked if the Kristaps Porzingis trade opened up bigger trade possibilities going forward.
“We’ve been saying it gives us depth and flexibility, and the flexibility comes in different ways. Not just with your roster, but with potential moves down the road.”
The Bulls, who knocked last offseason out of the park by acquiring DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso, were in first place in the Eastern Conference at the All-Star break before things started going downhill in a hurry. Chicago finished as the sixth seed in the East and lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in five games in the first round.
LaVine, who not only is set to be an unrestricted free agent, but is also expected to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery next week, averaged 24.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game while shooting 47.6 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from 3-point range.
After making $19.5 million per year on his current contract, LaVine will be looking for a max contract this summer. Whether the Bulls are willing to accommodate that or not is still uncertain.
“Free agency is gonna be a big milestone for me,” said LaVine in a mid-season interview with Yahoo Sports. “It's my first time going into it really being [an] unrestricted free agent. … Moving forward, it's gonna be a whole new experience for me.”
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If the Mavericks are not done making moves, there are some intriguing names still out there to consider.
LaVine could sign with a new team for four years and $160 million, or he could potentially re-sign with the Bulls for five years and north of $200 million… if they even decide to offer him that much.
“I know it's a different front office, a different time,” said LaVine, who has greatly out-performed his current contract. “I'm gonna take it day by day and let my agent handle it. But I remember everything. It's something — I always have a chip on my shoulder for multiple reasons.”
With the Bulls already being capped out with their current roster and DeRozan assuming the team’s top-player role as an MVP candidate for most of this season, perhaps LaVine getting max money from Chicago isn’t a sure thing… especially with his knee situation.
“I think we all get what we deserve at the level we play at,” said LaVine. “I think I stack up with everybody at [this] 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 [the Bulls] tell me what that is and we’ll go from there.”
As well as Luka Doncic has played through his first four seasons, he deserves to experience what it’s like to play with a true secondary superstar teammate. He deserves to have some of the burden of carrying the Mavs off his shoulders. We know it, Mark Cuban knows it, Harrison knows it — everybody knows it.
If the Mavs beat the Warriors and eventually win a championship in the coming weeks, Doncic would have the highest usage rate of any player to ever win a title. His usage rate in the postseason is 40.2 percent, which is the highest in NBA history for a player with at least 10 games in a single playoff run.
“I don’t know that there’s an ideal [star] player [to pair with Doncic],” said Harrison. “I really think that if you have the opportunity to bring in another amazing player to play alongside Luka [Doncic], they could be any position. Great players figure it out.”
As summertime approaches, maybe Doncic and LaVine can both get what they truly deserve.