NBA free agency 2022: Zach LaVine returning to Chicago Bulls on $215 million max deal

Zach LaVine has been one of the NBA's highest-efficiency volume scorers over the past two seasons. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Zach LaVine has been one of the NBA's highest-efficiency volume scorers over the past two seasons. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Two-time NBA All-Star Zach LaVine, one of the most coveted free agents on the market, has agreed to a five-year, $215.2 million contract to stay with the Chicago Bulls, per The Athletic's Shams Charania.

LaVine has averaged 25.8 points (on 49/40/85 shooting splits), 4.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists in 34.9 minutes per game for the Chicago Bulls the past two seasons, earning his first two All-Star bids at ages 25 and 26.

Defense and playmaking remain obstacles to his superstardom, but LaVine has been one of the most efficient high-volume scorers in the league, joining Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Stephen Curry, Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid and LeBron James on the short list of players who have averaged a true shooting percentage greater than 60% on more than 15 field-goal attempts in more than 100 games played over the last two seasons. The only others to have hit those marks in fewer than 100 games since the start of the 2020-21 season: Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Zion Williamson and Kawhi Leonard.

LaVine is in rare company as a pure scorer, any way you break the numbers down. He is a two-time Slam Dunk Contest champion and a 39% shooter from 3-point range in his career, demonstrating the breadth of the athleticism and skill he leverages to create shots at every level. His ascent is the sole reason Chicago's June 2017 trade of Jimmy Butler for LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn was not an abject disaster.

In an effort to retain LaVine, the Bulls added All-Stars Nikola Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan in addition to the free-agency signings of Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso. Together, they formed the core of a sixth seed that might have competed in the Eastern Conference playoffs if not for mounting injuries throughout the season.

"We’re prepared to do what it will take to bring Zach back in the fold," Bulls general manager Marc Eversley recently told reporters in a post-draft press conference, adding, "It's our every intention to bring him back."

A five-game, first-round series loss to the Milwaukee Bucks this past spring marked LaVine's first career playoff appearance. He averaged a respectable 19-6-5 on 43/38/93 shooting splits through the first four games before he entered the NBA's COVID-19 health and safety protocols prior to an elimination Game 5.

Prior to this past season, LaVine said of his expiring $78 million contract, "I just want my respect. I think that's the main thing. I outplayed my contract. I've been very loyal to Chicago, I like Chicago. I just want my respect." He was equally non-committal at season's end, telling reporters, "I plan to enjoy free agency."

LaVine's injury history could be cause for some concern over the life of his new contract. He tore his left ACL in February 2017 and has played no more than 67 games in the five seasons since. LaVine re-injured the same knee against the Golden State Warriors in January. He sporadically missed 13 of the Bulls' final 42 games, had the knee drained at the All-Star break and underwent arthroscopic surgery at season's end.

All that said, LaVine is an upper-echelon wing in his prime at a time when the league is most coveting them, and any number of teams would be happy to have him under contract for the longterm at his market price.

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Ben Rohrbach is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach