Rumor: Zach LaVine wants to stay member of Chicago Bulls

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The Chicago Bulls’ aggressive retooling over the past six months — adding Nikola Vucevic, DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso — was done not only to win now but also with another goal in mind:

Keep free agent to be Zach LaVine in Chicago.

LaVine, who averaged 27.4 points a game last season and was an All-Star, is the top free agent target for Boston and others next summer. Coming off his Tokyo experience — playing with other elite NBA players can change a player’s perspective — other teams are watching LaVine for signs he wants out. However, ESPN Chicago radio personality David Kaplan said he heard from sources LaVine wants to stay (hat tip R.P. Salao at Clutch Points).

“He has told people that I know: ‘Hey man, if they want me here, I’m not going anywhere. I’m building this thing. I’m the first guy in the door. I wanna be part of this.’”

With all due respect to Kaplan and his sources, let’s see how this season plays out for the Bulls and how LaVine feels about it before we take him off the market. It very well may be he likes the idea of being the No. 1 option and having a team built around him in the Windy City, but whatever he is thinking now, feelings and attitudes can change over the marathon of 82 games.

LaVine didn’t sign an extension with the Bulls but don’t read anything into that — the most the team could offer was four years, $104.8 million, but as a free agent next summer he can re-sign with Chicago for five years, $201 million. Nobody is leaving $100 million on the table. (Chicago could have used cap space to renegotiate LaVine’s deal then extend him, but then they could not have added Ball and DeRozan and made the team better.)

Next summer, LaVine most likely re-signs with Chicago and remains the face of the Bulls. However, it is a very dry free agent market next summer: Outside of the potential of a Bradley Beal free agency (there’s a lot of moving parts with that one), the biggest name unrestricted free agent may be T.J. Warren, with Joe Ingles and maybe Kemba Walker available. (In theory, James Harden and Kyrie Irving have player options, but both are expected to sign extensions with the Nets.)

With no other franchise-changing players available, teams will be watching and rumors will be flying around LaVine until he puts ink to paper.