When injured star Zach LaVine returns to the floor this season with his new team the Chicago Bulls, he will enter unchartered territory.
For three years in Minnesota, he played second fiddle to somebody. During his rookie season, it was to No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins. Then, the next season Karl-Anthony Towns came along and LaVine suddenly became the third option.
Now, thrust into the middle of the Chicago Bulls rebuild, LaVine will become the No. 1 scoring option for the first time in his professional career.
Does he have what it takes to succeed as a first scoring option. Over at Vice Sports, Michael Pina attempted to answer this question, but Bulls fans may not like the answer (but hold on because there is a silver lining at the end!).
Pina compares LaVine’s move to the Bulls with that of James Harden and Reggie Jackson. All three players were third/fourth options on teams with two superstars. In Harden and Jackson’s cases, their careers trended in opposite directions once they joined new teams and became the first scoring option. Pina argues that LaVine is more likely to turn out like Jackson (a good player but not a superstar) than like Harden for these reasons.
- He wasn’t great when he was the focal point of the offense in Minnesota and he doesn’t really make his teammates better
LaVine struggled, relatively, when any of those three [Wiggins, Towns, and Ricky Rubio] didn't share the court with him last season. He was thrust into a familiar yet uncomfortable spot and struggled to balance his needs with decisions that would untangle complications for his teammates. For LaVine to enter another realm and justify any worthwhile comparisons to the most diversified players at his position, he must expand his repertoire enough to impact games when he, himself, isn't putting the ball through the net. -Per Vice Sports writer Michael Pina
2. He has a very one dimensional half-court game and he doesn’t draw fouls.
LaVine is not that special. He's slippery, and single-handedly marks an asterisk beside the rules of gravity, but was one of eight players in the last 10 years to average at least 18 points with a free-throw rate below .200 last season.
LaVine only averaged 4.3 drives per game last year—the same amount as Philadelphia 76ers backup point guard Sergio Rodriguez, who averaged 15 fewer
Although this forecast appears bleak, Pina didn’t contextualize the argument with an important detail. Yes, next season LaVine may struggle in his first year as the primary scoring option with the Chicago Bulls. But, if the tank works, the Bulls are poised to get a player in the 2018 draft that will take the scoring burden off of LaVine. Though it should be mentioned that LaVine himself will be a restricted free agent then.
The Bulls need to figure out how to get superstars to the Windy City. LaVine isn’t necessarily a superstar, but he is a good supplement to superstars.