Bulls guard Zach LaVine has a certain amount of self-awareness. He was candid about where his game was in his fifth season and listed improvements he planned to make this summer.
But more than the on-the-court fixes, LaVine would like to improve his standing in the Bulls’ organization. The way he sees it, he has been one of the few proven players on the roster to make the trip to the Summer League each July to get to know his younger teammates. He also has continued to establish friendships with players from all around the league.
So LaVine is hoping that when vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman start tweaking the Bulls’ roster — through free agency or trades — he can be involved in the process, whether it’s reaching out to targeted free agents or simply giving his opinion about how a player would fit.
‘‘It will be cool if you build that relationship,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘That’s something that would be good. There’s a trust factor to it if you can start talking with those guys like that in that position. I’d be happy to. I always feel like I voice my opinion, so when that time comes — or if it does come — I’ll be fine doing something like that.’’
It’s a helping hand that should be welcomed.
It’s no secret the Bulls’ front office has struggled to lure big-name free agents. But Paxson was adamant that the perception the Bulls aren’t a destination franchise isn’t accurate — and that it can be turned around if it is.
‘‘You always have an opportunity to change that,’’ Paxson said recently. ‘‘My feeling is that the relationships that are really important are with the player and, subsequently, with their agent. If you have good relationships with the agent, then you’re going to be able to get people into your door in terms of recruiting them or whatever that may be.
‘‘I personally cannot listen or pay attention to the outside noise and those things that are said. Some of it’s true, some of it’s not. I do think that when you establish yourself, as we’re trying to do right now, as a relevant team again and as we get better positioning ourselves to have money when guys come up in the future, I think this will be a destination place. I do. But we have to get better. That’s the thing: We have to get to a point where we are playing for important things.
‘‘Our young guys have to develop into the type of players that other guys would want to play with. I think we have a couple of guys right now on the roster, and I think we’ll have more in the future.’’
That’s why the NBA Draft on June 20 will be so important.
The Bulls think a core of forward Lauri Markkanen, big man Wendell Carter Jr. and LaVine, along with another talented young player to come out of the draft, not only will lead to more victories but will make them a more attractive landing spot for a veteran player.
‘‘I’m sure there’s some people out there who believe it’s not a great destination,’’ Paxson said of the Bulls. ‘‘Maybe it’s a media guy; I don’t know who it is. But there’s so much noise out there, we can’t pay attention to that. All we can worry about is what we do in this building. I like what we’re doing right now. I think we’re going to have a good summer.’’
And when the time comes, LaVine is just a phone call away.