Not going to get into the existential Bulls-ness of what this recent string of good play means for the franchise. Let’s instead remark on the small-picture, but perhaps largely-significant change that has been the unleashing of Zach LaVine, shooter.
We already noticed that in the month of December LaVine’s inside finishing has gotten back to his pre-latest-knee-injury levels. It’s not much of a logical leap to suggest that his 3-point shooting has opened up as a result of that (and also a knee injury doesn’t just affect dunking).
But what’s been even more noticeable is that the attempts have been way up. Over the weekend’s two wins he went 17-25 from distance.
“To me, 10 to 15 every night,” Donovan said when asked how many three-pointers LaVine should be taking per game. “I would love that.”
As Will Gottlieb noted at CHGO, there is both a necessity and opportunity at play here. The Bulls do not many shooters on the roster, so LaVine HAS to take a higher share of the team’s attempts to keep defenses honest. And it certainly helps that he’s extremely good at it.
Especially of the catch-and-shoot variety.
Zach obviously has more creation juice than a guy like Klay but it is painfully obvious that Zach should be taking several more catch-and-shoot triples per game. The efficiency is off the charts and it would clearly make the Bulls better.— Jason Patt (@Bulls_Jay) January 7, 2023
Now the Bulls also don’t have many playmakers, especially off the bench (heckuvajob with the roster, AKME). But Donovan could do more with manufacturing looks for LaVine beyond ‘here’s the ball, it’s your turn’
Movement three for Zach. Bulls don't do this nearly enough for how good he is at them pic.twitter.com/vz1RjECIF7— Will Gottlieb (@Will_Gottlieb) January 8, 2023
Perhaps some of it is also Zach’s feeling of himself as a player and his standing in the league. We already have heard some grumblings about him wanting to take more clutch shots and remember from the Boylen era Zach’s desire to espouse his hooper creds by praising the lost art of the mid-range game. I do wonder if he believes being called a supercharged Klay Thompson is somehow insulting.
19 of Zach LaVine's 21 shot attempts were threes or layups against the Jazz. 36 points on the night. That should be the model moving forward. pic.twitter.com/ldHOb9dEFn— Ricky O'Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) January 8, 2023
If so, my suggestion is LaVine should work on that expansion of his game on his own time. During this season, with this roster, he is best as a very good “number two” in complement to DeMar DeRozan’s lead ballhandling and shot creation. He can take that role when DDR is on the bench, and not during late-and-close situations.
I don’t know if that lowers his esteem in the eyes of the league or whatever, but it’d lead to both better numbers for him and more wins for his team, which is how you get the accolades.