Zach LaVine has been a heck of a tank commander for the Chicago Bulls lately.
Last night in a 112-106 loss against the Los Angeles Clippers, he poured in 10 points, but needed 13 shots to do so. He was 1-for-5 from behind the 3-point line and dished out the same amount of assists (two) as turnovers. He was a -13 in 26 minutes of playing time.
Admirably, LaVine always takes accountability for his play and that didn’t change after his clunker last night.
“I was expecting to have some good games, some bad games,” LaVine told the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson and other reporters. “But I always have a (big) confidence in myself to do better regardless of what I am doing. I think I should be doing better and I am going to keep striving for that.”
Unfortunately, LaVine’s performance on Tuesday evening wasn’t an outlier. In his last ten games he’s averaged 15.6 points, but on an excruciatingly inefficient 35.5 percent from the field while posting an average +/- score of -10.7. He’s scored 10 or less points in three of his last five games.
On Monday against the Clippers, several factors compounded to make it a very difficult night for him at the office.
As Bulls color commentator Stacey King pointed out multiple times during the game, Clippers wing Sindarius Thornwell and his 6-foot-5-inch, lengthy frame clearly bothered LaVine. Coupled with DeAndre Jordan’s presence inside, those two made for a night where LaVine didn’t have too many good looks.
Also, LaVine was on the wrong side of several questionable foul calls, earning just three free throw attempts in the game. LaVine earned a technical foul on this play by doing his best Dwyane Wade impression and arguing with the officials instead of hustling back on defense.
LaVine is the new Wade. He's dogging it in transition defense tonight. pic.twitter.com/ltXcD3quUw— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) March 14, 2018
Shot selection has played a role in LaVine’s inefficiency this season as well. According to Basketball-Reference.com, 21.3 percent of his shot attempts have come from 10 feet to the 3-point line. He’s shooting 35 percent from 10-16 feet from the basket and 28 percent from 16 feet from the basket to just in front of the 3-point line.
Also, according to NBA.com, 52.7 percent of his shot attempts come in very tight (closest defender 0-2 feet) to tight coverage (closest defender 2-4 feet).
But more simply, LaVine is converting shots at the rim at a rate that is almost 10 percent less than his career average. That’s another big reason why his offensive efficiency is down this season.
Unfortunately, the Bulls are in a position where they almost have to extend LaVine this summer lest they undermine the decision that brought him to Chicago as a long-term building piece last summer.
Paying a guy coming off an ACL tear who will have about a 35 game sample of solid but inefficient scoring is a risky prospect indeed.