Some positivity, maybe, out of the Bulls latest loss that dropped the Bulls to 9-14 on the season: is Zach LaVine back?
LaVine was the Bulls only offensive weapon on Sunday night, scoring over 40% of the team’s points with a stat-padded-at-the-end-but-still 41 points on 16-28 shooting from the field.
It was LaVine’s most productive scoring output of the season, by far, and perhaps most encouragingly it involved a lot of finishes at the rim instead of just a good night shooting threes.
LaVine now has his within-5-ft shooting percentage at 61%, not near last season’s mark of 66.8% but a great improvement over the 56% he was at on November 29th (before the last 3 games).
So is Zach actually back? This is a good trend but we need to see more, and more sustained. Even with the successful results shown below, LaVine still doesn’t look to have his pre-2021-injury explosiveness. Also he’s doing a lot of this against known rim-escorter Domantis Sabonis:
Here’s basically every finish from Zach LaVine at the rim last night.— Elias Schuster (@Schuster_Elias) December 5, 2022
Bulls hope this is a sign of what’s to come. He looked way more like his old self, attacking in transition and finish strong in the halfcourt.
The more he can play in attack mode the better. pic.twitter.com/w8IQqLzIRJ
It’s looked like all season that we only get the old LaVine bounce when he jumps off of two feet.
Love this side out for a Zach oop— Will Gottlieb (@Will_Gottlieb) November 29, 2022
He's gotten a couple layups now on back cuts this game, something he hasn't been doing as much this year. Good to see him getting some easier looks pic.twitter.com/ldgnbuQrJi
Hopefully the rest of his athleticism comes back, and Zach’s finishing against the Kings was the start of a trend. I’d say it’s strange that LaVine’s 3 point percentage has also dropped this season (35.1%), but you need knees to do that as well.
And really, saying ‘hopefully’ underscores how important this is for LaVine and the Bulls. LaVine earned his max contract because he’s elite at scoring at all 3 levels, and he can do that because of his athleticism. I don’t foresee LaVine being the type of player who can lose that and make up for it in other areas where he’s been deficient his whole career like decision-making or defense.
We’re seeing the limits of Alex Caruso
This is a very minor problem, but I was still annoyed that Will Gottlieb’s takeaways at CHGO from the Sacramento loss still led with “omg Alex Caruso floppin around ::heart eyes::”
Yes, Caruso is great and has had a positive impact when on the floor. I’ve been clamoring for him to stop being held back as some secret weapon and get him in the starting lineup. But since being in, his lineups are a -17 then a -4 in that Kings game, where he had zero points in just under 30 minutes and was left open at the end.
So, no, Caruso doesn’t “deserve the shout out”, and calling it “quintessential” may be more of an insult than intended. We already know Caruso is a force in limited minutes off the bench. If he can’t apply that to the starting group, then he’s properly rated as a bench guy, not still perpetually underrated as some +/- monster.
Has Drumm-agic magic worn off?
The Bulls ‘big’ offseason acquisitions of veterans Andre Drummond and Goran Dragic have paid unexpected (to me, anyway!) dividends already this season. Drummond looks to be in shape and has kept the Bulls defensive rebounding edge when Vucevic sits. And Dragic has looked way more spry than a 36 year old should, hitting a career best 41.7% from three.
But maybe the grueling season has already started to...gruel. Dragic has scored in double digits only one time in his last 8 games, and had a season-low 7:45 on the court in Sacramento.
Drummond has perhaps turned back into goo:
Bulls stars obviously need to be better, but since Drummond returned from his injury, Bulls have a -17.8 net rating in his 140 minutes on the court. By far worst on the team during this stretch. Billy really limited his minutes last few games because of ineffectiveness. .— Jason Patt (@Bulls_Jay) December 5, 2022
Both were on the court during that turnover-fest to begin the 2nd quarter, and their connection in particular was snuffed out easily by the defense.