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COLUMN: Chicago Bulls plans for the future starts with Zach LaVine

By. Japheth Bandi

CHICAGO -- Although the Chicago Bulls ended the season on a high note, beating the Milwaukee Bucks,118-112, last Monday at the United Center, the frustration of missing the play-in tournament was evident during the exit interviews the following day.

"Our goal this year was to make it, and we didn't make it, so that's disappointing, but I think moving forward, people around the league, especially us, we know that this franchise is about winning and we want to get there," All-Star center Nikola Vucevic, whom the Bulls acquired in a massive March 25 trade, told The Chicago Sun-Times.

But while he shares the frustration, Bulls vice president for basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas insists that the pain is fleeting.

"The disappointment is short-term,, which is we assume that if you add another All-Star to your roster, usually you get better and improve your record. It's a result-driven business. Unfortunately, that didn't happen."

Whatever plans the Bulls have for their long-term future hinges on Zach LaVine, who has one year left on his contract and could become a unrestricted free agent after the 2021-22 season. 

The 6-foot-5, 200-pound LaVine had a stellar season that earned him a nod as an All-Star for the first time in a career that began in 2014 when the Minnesota Timberwolves chose him as the No.13 overall pick in the draft.

He averaged 27.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists in 58 games this season while hitting 50.7 percent from the field and 41.9 percent from long distance.

A UCLA alum, Lavine can opt to negotiate a contract extension this summer. If LaVine and the Bulls can't agree on a deal

he can walk away in the free market and his price tag would be along the max deal range that would average $39 million a season per The Chicago Sun-Times.

Aside from keeping LaVine, the Bulls also need to figure out the point guard slot and add some punch on the bench.

It certainly looks like a long off-season ahead for the Bulls who hadn't made the playoffs since 2017.

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