Zach LaVine’s first-ever All-Star appearance will likely have to wait at least another year.
The NBA announced the 2020 All-Star reserves on Thursday night, and the coaches didn’t pick LaVine, opting instead for players on winning teams:
Granted, Zach LaVine has had a hell of a season, and he certainly made himself a case for a spot with his prolific scoring over the past few months. Our own Mark Karantzoulis recently laid out the argument for and against LaVine making the All-Star team. LaVine also earned All-Star endorsements from John Paxson and head coach Jim Boylen.
LaVine said making the All-Star game was a goal of his prior to the season. Making an All-Star team is a huge deal for guys. From Rudy Gobert crying when he didn’t make the All-Star team a few years back to Bradley Beal calling it disrespectful that he didn’t make it this year (his agent and fiancée also got in on the action), guys truly care about getting an All-Star designation.
LaVine is a notoriously hard worker and has improved this season en route to becoming one of the very best pure scorers in the league, even if he still hasn’t quite been able to shed that one-dimensional microwave scorer label.
Per 36 minutes, he’s at a career high in points (26.3, the 11th-highest mark in the NBA). His 3-point shooting percentage is back up to 38 percent. His player efficiency rating is at a career high. The Bulls are a massive 10 points per 100 possessions better offensively when LaVine is the on court.
Most importantly, though, the Bulls would be one of the worst teams in the NBA if LaVine didn’t will them along to some of these victories. He passes all the eye tests in the scoring department: he scores in bunches, he’s flashy, he’s athletic, and he’s pretty good at dunking in case you haven’t noticed.
But in 2020, none of it was good enough to make the All-Star team.
The good news is there’s a chance he can slip into a spot if one of the guys who was selected can’t play because of injury.
If you want to be cynical, the messed-up part of the whole situation is this: If LaVine would have made the All-Star game, it’s an instant talking point for Gar Forman and John Paxson to justify the state of the rebuild. Suddenly, the trade that shipped Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves doesn’t look as bad because the Chicago Bulls have a 24-year-old All-Star. Couple LaVine with a team that is healthy across the entirety of the roster and suddenly the rebuild is totally working, right?
Obviously, it’s terribly unfair to LaVine that this even crosses the mind, and his individual performance should be appreciated regardless. Even if he’s still a very flawed No. 1 option, he has developed into one of the best scorers in the NBA and is doing it on a reasonable contract.
While he won’t play in the All-Star Game unless he’s an injury replacement, let’s hope he still chooses to do at least one of the major contests on All-Star Saturday. Or maybe he’ll wind up doing both the Slam Dunk Contest and 3-Point Contest. Aaron Gordon just committed to the Dunk Contest, so a rematch of 2016 would be a lot of fun.