Zach LaVine has been underpaid for his entire career. As a late-lottery pick, he missed out on the generational wealth that only top picks have access to on their rookie deals. He did significantly better on his second contract, but still made less than the max and needed to goad the Bulls into paying him by signing an offer sheet with the Sacramento Kings first. Now he's headed for his first trip into unrestricted free agency this summer, and he's made it clear that he expects to get paid.
"I think we all get what we deserve at the level we play at, for our team and around the league. I think I stack up with everybody at that level," LaVine told Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. "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."
The max may not be a goal, but it's what LaVine deserves. He's now a two-time All-Star and is leading one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. If the Bulls don't offer LaVine the max, someone else will.
The only real question left about LaVine's value is which max contract he winds up signing. There are three feasible options.
- If LaVine chooses to leave the Bulls, which seems unlikely given their success this season, he would be eligible to earn roughly $163 million over four years from a new team.
- If LaVine remains in Chicago, he will be eligible for a five-year, $210 million pact no matter what.
- If LaVine earns All-NBA honors this season, a distinct possibility, he will be eligible for the designated veteran "supermax" contract which would pay him roughly $245 million over five years. LaVine retains eligibility for such a deal because the Timberwolves traded him to the Bulls during his rookie contract.
Unless LaVine willingly decides to leave money on the table, it seems like a near lock that he lands one of those three contracts. Multi-time All-Stars in their mid-20s almost never become available. If Chicago hesitates for a single moment to pay LaVine what he deserves, one of the five teams projected to have meaningful cap space (San Antonio, Detroit, Orlando, Indiana and Portland) will swoop in and make sure he gets paid.