In recent NBA communities, rumors of Zach LaVine trade packages have been flying around. Whether it’s to Miami to add more star power, to the Spurs to become the sidekick of DeMar DeRozan, or even the Magic to help out big man Nikola Vučević.
Zach LaVine will be staying with the Chicago Bulls for two reasons: He is a player to build a franchise around, and the Bulls’ front office is brand new and committed to him.
It is no question that ever since LaVine got to Chicago, he has made career leaps.
Last season, LaVine improved big time. He averaged 25.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game. LaVine shot 45% from the field, 38% from three, and 80.2% from the free-throw line. He averaged a solid 1.5 steals per game, along with a nearly league-average of .091 win shares per 48 minutes. LaVine took a step forward in his career, even when skepticism arose from his efficiency, shooting the ball around 20 times per game, and sinking just nine of those shots on average.
This season through 27 games, LaVine has taken larger steps in his career. He averages 28.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game this season. He is shooting career bests in all areas, shooting 51.5% from the field, 43.1% from distance, and 85.4% from the charity stripe. LaVine is shooting a supreme 64.5% true shooting percentage, compared to the league average of 57.7%. He is also shooting career bests from distances of 0-3 feet, 10-16 feet, and three-point distances.
LaVine’s efficiency continues to go off the charts statistically. He is averaging .152 win shares per 48 minutes, which is well above league average. He has 2.9 win shares this season, which is just 1.1 short of his total last season. LaVine also is representing the best player efficiency rating he has ever had in his career, at a 22.3 value this season. The Bulls’ plus-minus without him on the floor vs. on is a difference of 6.7 points.
Most impressively for LaVine, is the facilitating he has done this season. With a 30.5% usage percentage, LaVine has recorded a whopping 24.5% assist percentage on the year so far. His ability to make plays for others around him is eye-opening. In the Bulls dire need for a true facilitator at the guard spot, LaVine makes up for that void.
His biggest question marks have been with his defense and his turnovers. His defensive box plus/minus has never been positive, meaning he is not an above-average defender. However, it has gotten better every year, this year sporting a -1.0 DBPM. His assist-turnover ratio is not appealing, considering he does not rank in the top-100 of NBA players for that category.
While there is some work to do, LaVine is turning into a franchise player that the Bulls can build around. LaVine is one of the best scorers in the NBA, he can elevate the play of his teammates, and he is a leader who wants to win. Bulls fans saw examples of his passion to win last season when he got into screaming matches with former head coach Jim Boylen on the sidelines.
He should be an Eastern Conference All-Star this season. It’s important to remember that LaVine is only 25 years old, going into the seventh season of his young career. It can be argued that he is the perfect player to build the Bulls around because he is young and an All-Star caliber player in the NBA.
The Bulls rely on LaVine heavily to be the guy they turn to in clutch situations too. That has been apparent all season this year. On Monday, against the Indiana Pacers, LaVine hit an isolation three-point shot over Demontas Sabonis to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
The Chicago Bulls cleared out their front office and inserted a new Vice President of Basketball Operations, Arturas Karnisovas, and a new general manager, Marc Eversley. The Bulls have not had much success since making the playoffs in the 2016-2017 season. They have not eclipsed more than 25 wins in the past two seasons, and need to make roster changes.
But not with Zach Lavine, according to new VP Arturas Karnisovas.
“He’s been an unbelievable individual player,” executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas said. “He has a skill set that is hard to find in our league. We just have to put it in a way that is going to be in a team setting. It’s all about results. It’s a results-driven league,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
Zach LaVine is wildly appreciated by the Bulls organization and the fans in Chicago. His ability to lead a team, be a consistent scorer and facilitator and show his dedication to an organization checks a few of many boxes to be a franchise player.
The real questions remain, what will management do about the rest of the roster? Is Lauri Markkanen good enough to resign this off-season? Is Wendell Carter a good enough rim protector? Can Coby White fill the spot of a true point guard? These questions should be answered in the offseason for the Bulls. For now, fans can enjoy watching their leader continue their hopes of making the Eastern Conference Playoffs.