Bulls poised to make guard Zach LaVine a max player ... history be damned

With the NBA’s free-agency period set to begin at 5 p.m. Thursday, the Bulls have been very public about their desire to keep LaVine in Chicago.

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The Bulls have indicated that they will do whatever it takes to keep Zach LaVine in the fold.

The Bulls have indicated that they will do whatever it takes to keep Zach LaVine in the fold.

Jacob Kupferman/AP

James Harden, Bradley Beal, Ben Simmons, Damian Lillard — the cautionary tales are many.

They are one-dimensional guards who have been given max contracts, plunging their organizations into mediocrity and bad decision after bad decision in an effort to crawl out of it.

The Bulls are about to step into that threshold, looking to change that history.

With NBA free agency opening at 5 p.m. Thursday, the worst-kept secret of the last 10 months has been the Bulls looking to make Zach LaVine a five-year, roughly $215 million max offer to keep him as the face of the franchise. That’s $55 million more than what any other franchise can offer him.

And the Bulls are unabashedly all-in. When asked about LaVine last week, general manager Marc Eversley reiterated the message from the end-of-season interviews that the Bulls had ‘‘every intention to bring him back.’’

When he was pressed about whether that meant giving LaVine a max contract, Eversley responded: ‘‘I think we’re prepared to do what it will take to bring Zach back in the fold and be a Chicago Bull.’’’

Executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas also has been public about his desire to keep LaVine in Chicago.

‘‘We’ve been very open that we hope Zach is here for a long time, and nothing has changed,’’ Karnisovas said this week. ‘‘And June 30, 6 p.m. Eastern time, that’s when the conversations start.’’

LaVine and agent Rich Paul intend to have conversations with multiple clubs. While sources told the Sun-Times that teammates close to LaVine expect him to re-sign with the Bulls, LaVine also has made it clear that he wants to go through the process of exploring all his options.

‘‘I plan to enjoy free agency with what it is as a whole,’’ LaVine said in his exit interview with the media at the end of April. ‘‘I think you’re going to have to experience A to Z without making any fast decisions. I think that’s something that me and Rich get to go through and experience.’’

The reality, however, is that unless there’s a sign-and-trade deal in the works, no team can offer LaVine more than the Bulls financially and from a competitive standpoint. If winning really means as much as LaVine has insisted it does in the last few seasons, taking a four-year deal for less money to play in Portland or Detroit would be the ultimate contradiction.

Then there’s the Bulls’ side of this equation. Giving one-dimensional point guards a max deal seldom has worked out in the last decade. Giving a one-dimensional scoring guard a max deal never has worked out in the history of the league.

The Bulls are betting on LaVine being the player they saw last summer with Team USA and during the first six weeks of the regular season — before his left knee began betraying him. If they get that smooth scorer and the improving, willing defender LaVine showed he could be, there is hope.

But if they get the player that has had a history of too often getting lost on defense, especially late in a possession, then the Bulls are about to sign up for five years of frustration.

That scenario was posed to LaVine during the season in an exclusive interview with the Sun-Times.

‘‘You’re assuming that I’m done,’’ LaVine said when he was asked about his improving defensive mentality at the time. ‘‘How’s my defensive rating now? It’s better. What does that tell you?’’

More important, what did it tell the Bulls? It told them LaVine — when healthy — was worthy of a max offer.

History be damned.

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