In the 2014 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Zach LaVine with the 13th overall pick. LaVine started in 40 games during his rookie season, often playing at the point guard position. There had been indications that the Timberwolves planned to groom him slowly, as they felt he was unpolished but possessed a high ceiling.
LaVine did display flashes of potential, becoming only the second teenager in NBA history to score at least 25 points in a game as a reserve.
The hyper athletic LaVine also became the youngest NBA Slam Dunk champion since Kobe Bryant.
During LaVine’s second season, he continued to display flashes of tremendous potential with numerous breakout games where he displayed his scoring prowess.
Despite this, it was not until his third season that he received a larger role, starting every game he played and markedly increasing his production. Mid-way through this season though, he would suffer a season ending torn ACL injury.
Prior to the start of his fourth season, Minnesota shipped LaVine alone with Kris Dunn and the rights to draft what would eventually be Lauri Markkanen for Jimmy Butler and the 16th pick in the 2017 draft (Justin Patton).
Still recovering from his injury, LaVine missed much of his first season with the Chicago Bulls, playing in only 24 games and averaging a disappointing 16.7 points per game, 3.9 rebounds per game, and 3.0 assists per game.
In the two seasons since then however, LaVine has increased his production and showed signs of continued improvement.
Zach LaVine’s pros are obvious, he is a capable scorer and above average shooter that is also capable of running the offense from the point guard spot. His athletic prowess is clear and needs no analysis, he can get by and dunk over almost any player in the league.
Any player possessing those attributes in today’s NBA would be highly sought after. The problem with Zach LaVine, however, is that even ignoring his subpar defense – he seems to be a perpetual talent tease.
Forever inching towards taking the next step from star to superstar, but never quite getting there. Though LaVine is worth every penny he is being paid, as a player that is just a few months shy of his 26th birthday, it is fair to say he is who he is at this point.
LaVine is simply not good enough, nor will he likely be ever good enough, to be the best player on a championship contending team. At best, he may have what it takes to be the second option, but more likely the third best player on a championship squad.
To be sure, LaVine is still getting better, and expect him to take another leap this season. However, he is not likely to garner more than three All-Star selections once his career is all said and done. Even a singular All-NBA team selection would be mildly [though not totally] surprising.
Perhaps with increased defensive effort, LaVine may be able to change the trajectory of his career and secure his place in NBA history as an elite player rather than just another athletic scorer.
Clint is an avid fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, and contributed to various sports publications prior to his work with Upside Hoops.