Zach LaVine is signing with Klutch Sports, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. LaVine had previously been represented by Bill Duffy. The Chicago Bulls star is under contract for only one more year before hitting unrestricted free agency next offseason, and LaVine has made it clear that he expects to get paid.
“I just want my respect,” LaVine said during an Olympic media session. “I think that’s the main thing. I outplayed my [current] contract, I’ve been very loyal to Chicago, I like Chicago. I just want my respect. If it’s now, later, it’s something that we gotta work out internally and we’ll go from there.”
The Bulls technically could still give LaVine an extension this offseason, but it would be well below his market value. Typical veteran extensions can offer only a 20 percent raise on the last year of the existing deal. That contract LaVine has outplayed will pay him only $19.5 million this season, so a 20 percent raise wouldn’t take him close to his projected $35.7 million max for the 2022-23 season.
There was a workaround available to the Bulls this offseason, but they chose not to take it. They could have pushed him up to his max as early as this season by renegotiating and extending his contract using cap space. Doing so would have cost them roughly $14 million in space, but rather than using that money to extend him, the Bulls operated above the cap to add Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan through sign-and-trades. Doing so may have made Chicago more appealing to LaVine for the long haul, but it practically ensured that he would at least reach 2022 free agency without a deal.
Klutch Sports represents a number of high-profile players who have changed teams soon after signing with them, including Ball, who has been represented by Rich Paul for less than a year. Anthony Davis is another notable example, and Klutch also represents Ben Simmons, a player widely believed to be available through a trade right now. Paul is currently being sued by former client Nerlens Noel over $58 million in alleged lost wages.
This move guarantees nothing about LaVine’s future. Chicago will still be able to offer LaVine a bigger contract than any other team: a five-year pact worth over $207 million. Very few teams are currently positioned to have max cap space, meaning that if LaVine does want to leave, it would likely either have to come through a sign-and-trade that Chicago may or may not willingly participate in or a short-term deal with the Bulls before reaching free agency again in a more player-friendly offseason.
The Bulls added Ball and DeRozan in the hopes that they would make Chicago a viable long-term home for LaVine. If they prove capable of contending next season, it very well could be. For now, Chicago remains the heavy favorite to sign LaVine next offseason. They’ll just have to iron out that deal with a new agent.