Rising salary cap makes Zach LaVine deal more palatable for Bulls than it appears

Bulls' Zach LaVine
Photos of guard Zach LaVine, acquired in the trade with the Timberwolves for Jimmy Butler.

Zach LaVine’s four-year, $78 million offer sheet from the Kings, which the Bulls will match before Sunday night, seemed to engender approximately 78 million opinions about the guard’s value.

Time will tell if the contract becomes attractive or an albatross for the Bulls, who will get four seasons of a player — who won’t turn 24 until March 2019 — entering his prime.

But the hand-wringing over the effect on the Bulls’ books overlooks some simple math. This isn’t the salary cap of 2015-16, back before the influx of money from the NBA’s new TV deal caused a historic jump.

Think about it: LaVine’s deal starts at either $18.1 million in the first year or $19.5 million, per a source. If it’s the former, that represents 17.8 percent of next season’s $101.8 million cap, and his $19 million salary for 2019-20 represents 17.6 percent of the projected $108 million cap. The dollar-for-dollar contract comparisons to the $70 million cap from 2015-16 are a $12.46 million salary for 17.8 percent of the cap and $12.3 million for 17.6 percent.

Here are some players whose salaries from 2015-16 were at or near $12.3 million to $12.4 million: Robin Lopez, Rudy Gay, Serge Ibaka, Al Horford.

If LaVine’s deal starts at $19.5 million, that represents 19.1 percent of next season’s cap and 18 percent of the projected cap for 2019-20. The dollar-for-dollar contract comparisons to 2015-16 are $13.3 million and $12.6 million.

Players whose 2015-16 salaries were at or…