CHICAGO – In a time where there is little certainty, this seems like a sure thing.

The Bulls wanted their two-time All-Star to return to the team as fast as possible after he entered unrestricted free agency for the first time. Plus the team was able to offer the guard a full max contract along with the opportunity to keep building up the franchise.

That’s why many assumed that Zach LaVine would return to the Bulls shortly after the free agency period opened on Thursday aft 5 PM, and that’s exactly what has happened.

Per a report from Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, the guard has agreed to a new five-year, $215.2 million contract that will keep him in Chicago for the long term. Per NBA rules, the Bulls cannot make the deal official until July 6th.

Acquired in the Jimmy Butler trade with the Timberwolves on NBA Draft night 2017, LaVine has become the face of the franchise over the last five years. The guard was able to play towards the end of the 2017-2018 season after recovering from a torn ACL suffered while playing with Minnesota, then found his form starting the next season.

The guard averaged 23.7 and 25.5 points the next two seasons as he emerged as the Bulls’ biggest scoring threat, then saw a major jump in the 2020-2021 season under new head coach Billy Donovan. He averaged a career-high 27.4 points, five rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game as he was named an NBA All-Star for the first time.

Executive VP Arturas Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley then put some veteran players with proven history around LaVine, starting with the 2021 trade deadline deal to acquire two-time All-Star Nikola Vucevic. DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, and Alex Caruso were picked up in the offseason as the team had a supporting cast around the guard for the first time.

Shouldering less of the scoring load, LaVine still averaged 24.4 points per game along with 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists as he was once again named an NBA All-Star. While hampered by left knee pain that limited him to 67 games, the guard was able to help the Bulls to the playoffs for the first time in five years and the first time in his career.

The guard had a scope procedure on his left knee this summer before heading into free agency.