In the Spotlight: The Evolution of Zach LaVine as a Chicago Bull – Free Agency to Playoffs

It’s been over six years since the Chicago Bulls traded Jimmy Butler and the 16th pick in the 2017 draft (Justin Patton) to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the seventh pick (Lauri Markkanen).

Full Zach LaVine Chicago Bulls timeline: Free agency, All-Star selections, playoff  performance, trade rumours | Sporting News Australia

After years of unclear direction, culminating in the infamous ‘Three Alphas’ season of Butler, Dwyane Wade, and Rajon Rondo, the Bulls opted to undergo a rebuild, moving off their star talent in order to aim for the future.

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But following seven seasons, three head coaches, two front offices, and one playoff appearance, it looks like the Zach LaVine era is drawing to a close, with he and the team reportedly agreeing to find a trade for the two-time All-Star.

But how did we get here?

Chicago Bulls Zach LaVine era timeline

Jun 23, 2017: Bulls trade Butler, Pick 16 for LaVine, Dunn, Pick 7

It was midway through the 2017 NBA Draft lottery that the direction of the Bulls changed, when they traded All-Star Jimmy Butler for up-and-coming prospect Zach LaVine, elite defensive guard Kris Dunn, and the seventh pick, used to take elite Finnish big-man Lauri Markkanen.

The team reset their trajectory, believing Butler was not the caliber of talent to build a contender around, and instead chose to move forward with LaVine as their centrepiece.

Jan 14, 2018: LaVine makes Bulls debut

It took over six months from the day he was traded, but two weeks into 2018, LaVine played his first game for the Chicago Bulls.

In his first action after rehabbing from a torn ACL, the guard played 19 minutes, and scored 14 points.

After the game, he thanked the crowd, saying “I feel so loved here, I love it, thank you guys.”

Jun 21, 2018: Bulls draft Wendell Carter Jr.

In the Bulls first draft since acquiring LaVine and Markkanen, the team used its second seventh pick to take Wendell Carter Jr, the big man out of Duke.

Speaking after the draft, Carter Jr said he was willing to do whatever it took for his team.

“Just being a hard worker, coming in, doing whatever they ask me to do, if it’s being the best rebounder, or taking more shots, setting great picks for other players to get open, it’s whatever I have to do to win.”

Jul 7, 2018: Bulls match Kings LaVine offer-sheet

It didn’t take long for tensions to build for LaVine in Chicago when in his first free agency since the trade, they didn’t rush to re-sign him.

In fact, the Bulls waited until another team moved first – Sacramento signing him to a four-year, $80 million deal – before they chose to match, due to LaVine’s restricted free-agent status.

LaVine was not pleased about the Bulls’ perceived reluctance to lock him down, while then-vice-president of basketball John Paxon said it was all just business.

“I’m disappointed that I had to get an offer sheet from another team. But Sacramento stepped up and made a strong impression,” LaVine told The Undefeated.

“Well, the market dictates a lot and how things go… We obviously value Zach a lot, and we think he’s a part of our future, but he has the opportunity to explore things,” Paxon told the Chicago Sun Times.

Dec 4, 2018: Bulls fire Fred Hoiberg, promote Jim Boylen

When the Bulls traded Butler for LaVine et al, it was done under the understanding that the team had opted to choose coach Fred Hoiberg over the star, after the two reportedly struggled to see eye-to-eye.

But a year and a half later, Hoiberg found himself in the same position as his former All-Star, being ushered out of the windy city.

Hoiberg was fired with a record of 115-155, with his assistant Jim Boylen promoted to head coach.

“I hope what we can do is own Bulls across our chest better,” Boylen said after being promoted.

“I don’t think we’ve owned it very well. And we have a lot to play for in this program and this place. So, to me, that’s where its got to go. Who we’re playing for, what city were representing, and I’m going to preach those things every day.”

Jun 20, 2019: Bulls draft Coby White

Following an impressive season with the UNC Tarheels, Coby White was taken with the Bulls’ third-straight seventh pick.

White’s drafting is most famous for his reaction when he found out fellow UNC teammate Cam Johnson was drafted 11th overall to Phoenix.

Apr 13, 2020: Bulls hire Artūras Karnišovas, fire GarPax

After seemingly years of begging from fans, in April of 2020 the Chicago Bulls finally made a change to their front office.

The team hired Artūras Karnišovas, former Denver Nuggets general manager, as their executive vice president of basketball operations, and soon after hired Marc Eversley as their general manager.

“This is the height of a dream for me, and I am prepared for the challenge that it presents,” Karnisovas said at the time.

Portland Trail Blazers rumors: Zach LaVine linked as a potential free agent  target -

“I grew up watching the Chicago Bulls. They represented American basketball and the NBA to a kid from Lithuania. I’ve always had a love for this franchise, and to be a part of it and influence its revival is a privilege.”

Part of this also meant the firing of longtime Bulls front office duo ‘GarPax’ – Gar Forman and John Paxon – who had held absolute power in the franchise since 2009.

Aug 15, 2020: Bulls fire Jim Boylen

Jim Boylen was one of the NBA’s most controversial coaches ever, his antics including installing a punch clock at practice, so it was near-unanimous joy when the team finally parted ways with him.

Boylen never seemed to find his feet as a coach, and was reportedly in constant friction with LaVine, including an infamous benching of the star that directly preceded a 49-point explosion from the star against Charlotte.

“After doing a comprehensive evaluation and giving the process the time it deserved, I ultimately decided that a fresh approach and evolution in leadership was necessary,” Karnisovas said at the time.

Sep 22, 2020: Bulls hire Billy Donovan

Nearly a month after sacking Boylen, the Bulls found their next coach in former Oklahoma City Thunder boss Billy Donovan.

“We are very pleased to welcome Billy and his family to the Chicago Bulls,” Karnisovas said of hiring Donovan.

“The success that he has sustained over the course of his coaching career puts him on a different level. We feel his ability to help his players reach their potential, both individually and collectively, will mesh well with our roster. Whether as a player or as a coach, he has won everywhere his career has taken him, and we hope that will continue here in Chicago.”

Nov 19, 2020: Bulls draft Patrick Williams

With their first draft pick under the Karnisovas-Eversley-Donovan trio, the Bulls shocked the world when they took FSU’s Patrick Williams with the fourth pick in the draft – despite Williams not starting a single game in college.

“They want me to be what I am, which is versatile,” Williams told Chicago media after the draft. “They’re going put me in position to be successful. They’re going to allow me to guard one through four, one through five possibly. … The opportunity is there and I am going to embrace it and make the most of it.”

Mar 8, 2021: LaVine makes All-Star debut

After years of being on the fringes, 2021 was the first year that Zach LaVine was named as an NBA All-Star, heading to Atlanta to play under Team Durant.

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