Bulls poised to make Zach LaVine a max player … history be damned

James Harden, Bradley Beal, Ben Simmons, Damian Lillard … the cautionary tales are many.

One-dimensional guards that have been given max contracts, eventually plunging their organizations into mediocrity or bad decision after bad decision to crawl out of it.

The Bulls are about to step into that threshold, looking to change that history.

With the NBA’s free agency gate bursting open at 5 p.m. on Thursday, the worst kept secret the past 10 months was the Bulls looking to offer LaVine the five-year, roughly $215 million max offer to make him the face of the franchise.

A face that would cost the organization $55 million more than what any other franchise can offer the unrestricted free agent.

And the Bulls are unabashedly all in.

When asked about LaVine last week, general manager Marc Eversley reiterated the same message from the end-of-the-season interviews that the organization had “every intention to bring him back.”

When pressed if that meant giving LaVine a max contract, Eversley responded, “I think we’re prepared to do what it will take to bring Zach back in the fold and be a Chicago Bull.”

Executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has also been very public about keeping LaVine in Chicago.

“We’ve been very open that we hope Zach is here for a long time, and nothing has changed,” Karnisovas said. “And June 30, 6 p.m. Eastern Time, that’s when the conversations start.”

Conversations that LaVine and his agent, Rich Paul, intend to be thorough and with multiple clubs. While sources told the Sun-Times that LaVine’s close Bulls teammates expect the two-time All-Star to re-sign, LaVine also made it clear that he wanted to go through the process of being wined and dined, exploring all of his options to the fullest.

“I plan to enjoy free agency with what it is as a whole,” LaVine said in his exit interview with the media at the end of April. “I think you’re going to have to experience A-Z without making any fast decisions. I think that’s something that me and Rich get to go through and experience.”

Posturing 101.

The reality for LaVine remained that unless there’s a sign-and-trade in the works, no team can currently offer LaVine more than the Bulls both financially and from a competitive standpoint. If winning really means as much as LaVine has insisted it does over the past few seasons, taking a four-year deal for less money to play in Portland or Detroit would be the ultimate contradiction.

Then there’s the Bulls side of this equation.

Maxing one-dimensional point guards seldom works out in the last decade. Maxing a one-dimensional scoring guard? It’s never worked out in the history of the league.

The Bulls are betting on the LaVine they saw last summer with Team USA and the first six weeks of the regular season, before the left knee began betraying him. If they get that smooth scorer, as well as the improving, willing defender LaVine showed he could be? Well, there is hope.

If they get the LaVine that had a history of far too often getting lost on the defensive end, especially late in possession, then the Bulls are about to sign up for five years of frustration.

That scenario was proposed to LaVine earlier this season in an exclusive Sun-Times interview.

“You’re assuming that I’m done,” LaVine said, when asked about his improving defensive mentality at the time. “How’s my defensive rating now? It’s better. What does that tell you?”

More importantly, what did it tell the Bulls?

It told them that LaVine – when healthy – was now max-offer worthy.

History be damned.

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