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Zach LaVine Is Just What Bulls Need

Zach LaVine has been a bright spot for the injury-plagued Bulls so far this season. His efficient scoring is all that separates the Bulls from an 0-6 start.

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Zach LaVine What Bulls Need

This summer, Zach LaVine signed a 4-year contract worth $78 million dollars with the Sacramento Kings, which the Chicago Bulls promptly matched. The reception was mixed at best. Many detractors of the deal pointed to his inefficiency in his injury shortened season, in which he played only 24 games, shot 38% from the field, and scored 16 points a game. He was coming off an ACL injury. Supporters of the deal believed last season was an anomaly, and that LaVine had another gear in him, one that might be worth the hefty price tag to keep him. So far, the supporters have been right. And that’s been a blessing for the Bulls, because if LaVine wasn’t playing up to his contract, this team would look like the worst in the league.

In six games for the Bulls, LaVine is averaging 29.3 points per game. In their loss to the Mavericks, he had 34 points on 11/15 shooting, including 5/7 from the 3-point line (CBS Sports). Zach looks like a completely different player this year, which is just what the Bulls were hoping for. If you look at his shot selection on NBA.com, it looks similar to his trends last year (lots of pull ups, yikes). But instead of shooting sub-35% in catch and shoot and pull up shots, he’s shooting 50% and 46%, respectively. From within ten feet, he’s improved from 56% to 81%.

LaVine also looks more like a combo guard, although that’s mostly due to the fact that his starting point guard has been Cameron Payne in all but one game. It hasn’t translated to big assist numbers yet, but it does put pressure on the opposing defense. When Zach drives, unlike last year, he’s able to get to the rim. Instead of contested midrange jump shots, he’s finishing with dunks like this, or collapsing the defense and dumping it off to a big man or kicking out to an open shooter.

All these positives are great for this young Bulls team, who sit at 2-4 with a daunting 4-game home stand coming. Without LaVine’s production, those 2 wins are almost assuredly losses and the 4 losses are much uglier. Without Lauri Markkanen, who is sidelined with an elbow injury, the Bulls didn’t have a reliable scoring option outside of LaVine coming into the season. A starting lineup of Cameron Payne, LaVine, Justin Holiday, Chandler Hutchison (in the wake of the Bobby Portis injury) and Wendell Carter Jr. is not a world beating lineup by any means, so a shot of scoring espresso from Zach is much needed.

Everyone had their doubts about Zach, including me. I thought he was best served in the 6th man role. He’s now proving everyone wrong, and showing how valuable of a scorer he can be. He’s got things to work on, mostly on the defensive side, but it’s hard not to get excited as he strings together so many strong performances. If he keeps this pace up, he could be a front-runner for Most Improved Player. For now, just bask in the glory of his efficient scoring. And maybe, if you counted yourself as a doubter, send him something nice with a card that says, “I’m sorry.”

Sports Communication major at Bradley University. Founder of BU Edge Radio. Bulls fanatic. I hope I'm good at writing.

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Bulls acquire Otto Porter Jr. for Bobby Portis and Jabari Parker

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Chicago Bulls acquire Otto Porter Jr. from Washington - Locked On Bulls

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Bulls Trade Deadline Countdown: Lakers check in on Jabari Parker

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Lakers interested in Bulls Jabari Parker - Locked On Bulls

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Bulls head into NBA Trade Deadline week with way more questions than answers - Locked On Bulls

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