By signing Zach LaVine to an offer sheet, the Sacramento Kings actually made negotiations easier for the Chicago Bulls.
As expected, the Bulls on Sunday matched the four-year, $78-million deal, keeping LaVine in Chicago. Without the offer sheet, negotiations could have dragged on for most of the summer, the way they did with Nikola Mirotic last year.
LaVine posted a response on his Twitter account Sunday, which read, “So excited to continue my career with the Bulls. Can’t wait to get back on the court with my brothers in front of the greatest fans in the world. I’m grateful to be able to call Chicago home. Now let’s get this going.”
Likewise, coach Fred Hoiberg felt good about the transaction. Hoiberg spoke to reporters in Las Vegas, where the Bulls’ summer squad was set to play the Los Angeles Lakers late Sunday night.
“We’re excited to have him back,” Hoiberg said. “He’s 23 years old; he’s got as good of athleticism as anybody in this league. He shoots the ball easy. I think he’s going to be in great shape coming off a full summer where he’s been (focused on) basketball as opposed to rehab.
“We’re going to be in a good place heading into the season with hopefully a full complementary of healthy players.”
Coming off a torn ACL in his left knee, LaVine made his Bulls debut Jan. 13 and played in just 24 games last season. So the Bulls were in a tough spot, having to make a financial decision on LaVine with incomplete information.
But the team also knew this day was coming when it acquired LaVine in the Jimmy Butler trade last year. The Kings essentially finished the process for the Bulls.
The $78 million deal might be considered a little high for an unproven player such as LaVine. But it’s hard to imagine the Kings believed the Bulls wouldn’t match. The Bulls’ initial offer to LaVine was in the $18 million range per season, according to a team source.
If Sacramento was serious about adding LaVine, the best strategy might have been to sit tight, hope negotiations broke down, and LaVine would sign the one-year qualifying offer with the Bulls and become an unrestricted free agent next year. Or the Kings could have made a larger offer, big enough for the Bulls to consider letting LaVine walk away.
Instead, the Bulls were given a very matchable offer, and the Kings reportedly added injury protection, giving the option of terminating the contract if LaVine tears the ACL in his left knee again.
All things considered, this was a nice scenario for the Bulls. They took care of the LaVine contract and still can have at least $40 million of cap space in 2019, after the salaries of Robin Lopez, Omer Asik and Justin Holiday come off the books.
There’s a train of thought that LaVine will be alienated by having to sign an offer sheet from another team, rather than feeling wanted by the Bulls. But he’s locked up for four years now. The Kings’ offer will be old news by the time LaVine becomes a free agent in 2022.
“There’s a ton of value in Zach and what we feel he can bring long term to the organization,” Hoiberg said. “He fits with the way we want to play with his athleticism.
“We’re going to build on the good times we had with Zach (last season) and try to hit the ground running with him. It’s an exciting time and we’ve got a really good young player.”
The Bulls still are negotiating with restricted free agent David Nwaba. It’s hard to imagine any team breaking the bank for Nwaba, an aggressive but undersized forward, but the Bulls would be in good position to match any offer sheet.