Zach LaVine probably isn’t going to drop 30 points on a nightly basis. But through five preseason games and now one game that actually counted, the fifth-year guard has established himself as the Bulls go-to scorer and best player, already showing major improvements from last season when the recovery from an ACL tear routinely hampered his performances.
“A year after tearing my ACL I feel like I’m back to myself – athletically, speed-wise, quickness,” LaVine said via NBC Sports Chicago. “I’ve got my legs under me. I just needed y’all to give me a little bit of time. I was about 70 percent last year and I think I did alright. I feel good now. It feels good to be back in my own skin again.”
Beware the super small sample size fallacy, but the biggest improvement with LaVine has been his efficiency.
He shot 11-for-19 for the game (57.9 percent) and only three of his 19 shot attempts weren’t either in the paint or behind the 3-point line. He said after the game via Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic that he’s making a concerted effort to improve his shot selection.
I feel like I can get to my spot and shoot the ball, but it might not be the best shot for the team and for the offense. So I try to limit those and get to the line a lot more.
We know how freakishly athletic LaVine is, so it was always a mystery why he didn’t just attack the rim at will until defenses proved they could stop it. This season, he’s put in a much more concerted effort to do just that. This impressive drive comes against a double team which includes Robert Covington who made the NBA All-Defensive First Team last season.
LaVine’s knack for getting to the free-throw line has been encouraging. For his career, he’s only averaged 2.7 free-throw attempts per game. Last season, he attempted seven or more free throws just five times in 24 games.
Last night he shot seven free throws and made six of them.
“I love Zach’s attack,” Fred Hoiberg said via NBC Sports Chicago. “I thought, especially early in the game, he didn’t settle for shots. He was getting around his guy and seeking contact and doing a good job getting to the free throw line.”
Although he scored well, LaVine wasn’t without his mistakes. With Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen out and Jabari Parker messing around on second units, LaVine had the opportunity to take the reigns of the offense. He had a 32.5 percent usage percentage in 32 minutes of playing time, yet only mustered three assists to five turnovers. One of those turnovers caught the attention of the Shaqtin’ a Fool twitter account.
Furthermore, only two of his 11 made field goals were assisted as he sometimes reverted to isolation ball and shot attempts outside of the Bulls regularly scheduled offense for his scoring.
LaVine was really good last night but once again you’d like to see some more playmaking for his teammates from the guy the offense will probably run through for the remainder of the season.