While the Bulls smacked around a moribund Pistons squad by 20 points on Wednesday night, it was an ugly night for Zach LaVine. The Bulls shooting guard had just five points on 2-of-11 shooting (1-of-3 from 3) and didn’t attempt a single free throw. It was the first time LaVine had scored in single digits since a blowout loss at Denver in January.
LaVine spent most of his evening driving into the lane and either throwing up an ugly shot, getting blocked or just straight up blowing a layup. He was 1-of-5 at the rim and 0-of-2 in the paint outside of the restricted area, giving him a 1-of-7 mark overall in the paint. The lack of free throws were certainly not on the officiating.
LaVine’s All-Star campaign is already in a huge hole, as he’s averaging just 19.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 3.3 turnovers while shooting 40.9% overall, 35.6% from 3 and 80.3% from the charity stripe. LaVine’s defensive problems are still very much a thing, but he has also regressed offensively this season, which is a big reason why the Bulls rank 30th in offensive rating, per NBA.com.
A major reason for this regression is what we saw on Wednesday night: a failure to convert in the paint. LaVine has again made it a point to get to the basket a lot this season, but he’s not getting to the line as much (4.1 attempts per game) and not finishing at even close to an acceptable rate:
Much has been made about LaVine’s shot profile and lack of mid-range attempts this season. By pure distribution, this looks great. 42.5% of his shots have come at the rim and 39.1% have come from 3-land.
However, the lack of finishing in the paint and a depressed free-throw rate is troubling. He has also been blocked 23 times this season, which is fourth behind only Ja Morant, Collin Sexton and Kemba Walker. That’s three small guards, including two youngsters who are still learning how to play.
Some of these struggles can be explained away by LaVine just missing shots he normally makes. He shot 61.7% at the rim last season and took an even higher percentage of his attempts at the rim. He also wasn’t quite as bad on the non-RA paint shots, though clearly that area isn’t a strong suit of his:
I expect LaVine’s percentage in the paint to go up a bit as the season goes on. I would hope the free-throw rate ticks back up as well.
However, perhaps it would behoove LaVine to add a few more mid-range shots back to his profile if there’s an opportunity instead of barreling to the rim with no plan. Not ALL mid-range shots are bad. I certainly won’t advocate for him dropping his 3-point rate down in favor of more mid-range shots, and he shouldn’t be jacking contested mid-rangers unless they’re late in the clock, but if he has an opportunity to pull up and take an open mid-range shot instead of forcing something into traffic, it might not be the worst thing in the world for his efficiency.