Bulls guard Zach LaVine adds recruiter to his talent arsenal

Bulls guard Zach LaVine adds recruiter to his talent arsenal

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It seems that Zach LaVine’s shooting range is about 6,300 miles out.

According to a source, the Bulls guard was in constant contact with not only his front office with the start of free agency, but with several of the targeted players the Bulls had been in discussions with, all the while working with Team USA from the Olympics in Tokyo.

He took his best shot to play the role of recruiter and delivered.

Not that it should come as much of a surprise, considering how LaVine was talking about his role in the free agent process at the start of this week.

“I should have a good idea of what’s going on,’’ LaVine said. “I take that very serious. I’m going to keep up to date on what’s going on back home, but obviously still get my rest.’’

He did both even if it did make him the fourth-highest paid player on the roster for the upcoming season.

With the Bulls reaching agreements with Lonzo Ball for four years, $85 million, and then a day later DeMar DeRozan at $85 million over three years, that drops LaVine to that payroll clean-up spot.

Depending on the details of both deals, Ball still breaks down to an average of $21.3 million a season, while DeRozan is at $28 million. Big man Nikola Vucevic will make $24 million for the upcoming season, while LaVine is in the final season of a deal that will pay him $19.5 this year.

Obviously that could drastically change at this time next offseason, but what LaVine showed the last few weeks is he has no problem putting the salary ego in check for the betterment of his organization.

Not all former Bulls All-Star quality players thought that way.

That’s why LaVine should be applauded. Even when the Olympic team came together for training in Las Vegas last month, the guard acknowledged that the recruiting process between elite talent was undoubtedly going to happen, and if that meant immediate changes of address or a few years down the road for it to happen, so be it.

He was still all in.

“I mean players is gonna be players, man. You gonna mingle and talk,’’ LaVine said.

And for LaVine that obviously didn’t mean mingling and talking to only the players in the Team USA camp. It doesn’t mean he was done, either.

There’s still the ongoing drama with restricted free agent Lauri Markkanen and what the Bulls could try and turn him into in a possible sign-and-trade for another piece. Especially with Markkanen reiterating on Friday how he would like a fresh start elsewhere in an interview he did with a media member from Finland.

Markkanen had been expressing — both privately and publicly — that same sentiment with the Chicago media for the past two seasons.

So how did LaVine do in his first real major push in helping the organization talk to guys about joining him? He should be proud.

Free agent grades for the Bulls:

Lonzo Ball – PG – It’s been the worst-kept secret since 2019, when the Sun-Times reported the old Bulls regime was kicking the tires on Ball. Then a Laker, Ball’s camp leaked that Chicago was a destination place for the former No. 2 pick, and GarPax definitely gave it a sniff.

With this current roster needing a true point guard, as well as a player who can control tempo and be a willing defender for coach Billy Donovan, the timing was perfect. More importantly, Ball can be a star for the second wave of talent that executive vice president of basketball Arturas Karnisovas is building — along with Patrick Williams — so a complete home run. Grade: A

Alex Caruso – G – It’s pretty simple why this signing happened. The Bulls guards were terrible at disrupting the pick-and-roll at the point of attack, and that’s Caruso’s specialty. Is $9.2 million a year pricey for the former Laker? Maybe, but they were paying Cristiano Felicio $8 million a year the past few seasons to guard the end of the bench and model street clothes. Grade: B-

DeMar DeRozan – SF – The third year of the deal could hurt, but for the immediate upcoming season, DeRozan could be a perfect fit. Yes, the 20 points a night are nice, but it’s his ability to be a play-maker from that position that will shine in Donovan’s system. Grade: B+

Tony Bradley – C – The big man is a rim protector who could have a few solid moments off the bench. Great pickup for the money and the need. Grade: B

NOTE: Combo guard/forward Javonte Green is reportedly returning to the Bulls on a two-year deal. The front office and coaching staff loved his defensive energy last season, and have put an emphasis on that side of the ball this summer.

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