When the Chicago Bulls completely lift the minutes restrictions off of star Zach LaVine, they will fully unleash one of the most prolific scorers in the league.
Through the highs and lows of six games of action, LaVine has averaged 32.5 points per 48 minutes , which checks in at No. 20 in the NBA and is one spot behind teammate Nikola Mirotic.
In terms of volume scoring LaVine is in elite company. Since returning from injury, LaVine has had a career high 31.0 usage percentage which has prompted him to take a career high 27.5 field goal attempts per 48 minutes (previous career high was 20.1 field goal attempts per 48 minutes in 2015-2016). Logically, all of those shots have manifested in a ton of points.
Then next it’ll be time for the efficiency to match the volume. According to NBA.com, among 61 players with a usage percentage over 25 percent this season, LaVine is 50th in true shooting percentage.
Obviously, we’re working with small sample sizes and as Locked on Bulls writer Austin Hutchinson noted in his recent article, LaVine’s usage percentage will likely trend down as the season continues (Hutchinson wrote his article before the Sixers game).
His usage is actually something that needs to be noted. So far in his five games, Bulls’ head coach Fred Hoiberg has utilized him a ton, LaVine sporting a 32 percent usage, which ranks in the 97th percentile among guards. Likely, when LaVine’s minutes go up and he plays more possessions off-ball, that number will drop, but it shows how much faith Hoiberg is giving LaVine to be a vital part of the Bulls’ scheme.
While LaVine has the volume part of scoring down pat and has done some really good things offensively so far this season (shot the ball well from 3-point land, the first step explosion is still there, and that pick-and-roll play with Lauri Markkanen is great), he hasn’t scored the ball in a particularly efficient manner
His true shooting percentage this season (53.8 percent) is the lowest of his career since his rookie season and is below league average (55.6 percent). However, there’s reason to believe that the efficiency will improve with time.
Obviously, LaVine has played only six games after missing nearly a year, producing too small of a sample size to label him as an inefficient volume scorer. Especially considering that the sample from his other 206 career games suggests that he isn’t that.
LaVine’s shot 10-for-25 (40 percent) from 3-point range so that shooting stroke is already there. Additionally, LaVine has attempted 34.7 percent of his shots from 3-point range, with 44 percent coming from closer than ten feet, thus reducing his volume from mid-range attempts in the process.
As The Athletic writer Will Gottlieb noted in his recent breakdown of LaVine, the Bulls star has the rare ability to hit 3-point field goals off the dribble.
An area that he can work on to help improve his scoring efficiency moving forward is drawing contact on drives.
Although LaVine has drawn fouls at a higher rate than in previous seasons this could be a product of the higher usage percentage. Per 48 minutes he’s drawing 6.1 free throw attempts per game which is his highest rate since he drew 4.5 free throw attempts per 48 minutes in his rookie season. But his free-throw attempt rate (number of free throws attempted per field goals attempted), is right at his career average 22.2 percent.
We still see too many plays like this, for example.
This is a fairly weak foul call on DeMarcus Cousins because LaVine twists away from contact midair instead of going straight up at Cousins. Embracing contact on drives to draw more fouls is an area where LaVine needs to improve.
Like this whole season with LaVine, improving efficiency is a process and the early feedback points to him making a full recovery to the efficient, volume scorer that made him so special with the Minnesota Timberwolves last season.