Talk to NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson on the Bulls Talk podcast, Bulls president and chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf said the plan is to keep All-Star custody Zach LaVine in Chicago for “years to come” and reiterated that the property is comfortable becoming a taxpayer as long as the team is a legitimate competitor.
“Absoutely,” said Reinsdorf. “All you have to do is go back and look at the last number of championship teams, how many of them were in the luxury tax? With the nature of the NBA and its soft cap, if you want to compete for championships, you have to be prepared to spend in taxes.
“I think most people will say to you, ‘I don’t want to pay tax if we’re not competing for championships, if we’re not good enough. I don’t want to be the eighth seed or get out of playoffs and going into the luxury tax. But when it comes to a team like this, and if we can take the necessary steps next year to allow us to compete for a championship, then that’s sure we’ll get in the tax. It’s part of the nature of the NBA.
The position is the one that Reinsdorf and his father – team owner Jerry Reinsdorf – have transmitted in the past. However, the franchise has a history of being relatively conservative in its spending, having only paid the luxury tax once. As Johnson points out, the club was on course to be a taxpayer for the second time in 2014, but traded Luol Deng after Derrick Rose tore his meniscus to go below the tax line.
“It was a special circumstance”, said Reinsdorf. “You’re not going to see us making trades like that when we’re competing for championships. It just doesn’t make sense.
As Johnson acknowledges, the Bulls have shown an increased willingness to spend over the past two years, expanding their player development and scouting departments and offering full 15-player rosters. They also used part of their semi-annual exception to offer Tristan Thompson more than minimum wage, ensuring they beat out other potential contenders in the buyout market.
Currently, the Bulls owe around $98 million in guaranteed money to nine players in 2022/23. This number would increase to $100 million if Tony Bradley exercises his player option.
A max salary contract for LaVine, who will be an unrestricted free agent, would net him $35.7 million next season, or $41.7 million if he qualifies for a super-max. Theoretically, Chicago could give him a max deal and still stay below the projected $147 million tax line by filling the roster with low-cost contracts.
Still, Reinsdorf’s comments suggest the Bulls might be willing to make moves — perhaps in the trade market or using their mid-tier exception — that push the team’s salary above that 147 threshold. million if the property believes the club is close to claiming the title.
“We are going to spend the money because you have to invest in your team”, said Reinsdorf. “I’m looking forward to it because if we’re spending on tax it means we have a really good team.”