Zach LaVine expected to turn down Bulls contract extension, hit free agency in 2022

According to one report, many around the NBA expect Zach LaVine to turn down a contract extension with the Chicago Bulls.

Zach LaVine’s focus coming into the 2020-21 NBA season was getting the Chicago Bulls to the playoffs. They’re technically on the precipice, sitting in the final play-in spot in 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings, but it’s hardly felt like a playoff-caliber season for the 22-32 Bulls.

Convincing him that this franchise is capable of building a contender in the near future is key for Chicago, but this front office will have to do so quickly to prevent him from hitting the free agency market in 2022.

According to Bleacher Report’s A. Sherrod Blakely, rival executives round the league believe the Bulls will try and lock LaVine down with a contract extension, but they also expect the first-time All-Star to turn down that offer in favor of unrestricted free agency in 2022. After the final year and $19.5 million of his contract for 2021-22, he’ll be able to command a more lucrative, multiyear deal, and at that point, all bets are off whether it’ll be with the Bulls or another team.

This wouldn’t be surprising for Zach LaVine, but it’s worrisome for the Bulls

On the one hand, this doesn’t necessarily mean LaVine is a goner as soon as he hits free agency. At only 26 years old and coming off his best season yet, it’d make sense for him to forgo a contract extension now, hold out until 2022 and secure the best/longest deal possible. He could easily re-sign with the Bulls if they’re making enough progress to convince him to stay, since they’ll be able to offer him the most money.

However, this puts the pressure on Chicago to make sure this organization starts moving in a more positive direction toward regular playoff contention — and not just as a play-in team in a weak conference. That’s why the Bulls traded for Nikola Vucevic, but the results haven’t been there yet, especially with LaVine recently entering health and safety protocols.

LaVine is heading for a big payday in 2022, and it’d make no sense to lock himself in with an organization that’s been struggling to get its act together for years now. The new front office should be given a chance to prove itself, but it sounds like there won’t be much time to dilly-dally.

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