Can Zach LaVine be the Chicago Bulls’ face of the franchise?


It remains to be seen whether Zach LaVine is ready to assume the “go to guy” role for the Chicago Bulls. Can he be that guy?

The Chicago Bulls matched the Sacramento Kings offer sheet for Zach LaVine earlier this summer. The Kings clearly were extremely interested in signing Zach LaVine to a long-term deal. You don’t offer 4-years, $78 million unless you are going all in on acquiring his services.

But the Chicago Bulls wasted little time in matching the offer.

That display of faith firmly cemented Lavine as the major centerpiece of Chicago’s long-term future plans, and according to LaVine, he wouldn’t have had it any other way.

According to Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago, LaVine said, “I never wanted to leave, that’s the main thing. But business is business. The offer sheet happened and thank God the Bulls matched it. That’s exactly what we wanted to happen. I never wanted it to get to that point.”

LaVine represented the focal point of the Jimmy Butler deal from the Minnesota Timberwolves that also netted them Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn. But an injury limited him to just 24 games for the Bulls last season. In those games, he averaged 16.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.0 in limited minutes.

LaVine’s minutes were restricted with the hopes of easing him back into the rotation. That might have explained his uneasiness within Fred Hoiberg’s offense. But even with those restrictions set in place, LaVine remained steadfast in his belief that he was the first option. Recently LaVine stated unequivocally that he wanted to be the unquestioned leader of the Bulls in the upcoming season.

The main threat on offense

“Obviously that’s what you work for. I put all this hard work in not to be second fiddle,” said LaVine. “Not saying there’s something wrong with that. There’s a lot of successful Hall of Famers that were second fiddle. Second options, third options. You come here, you put all this work in, that’s what you want.”

Preparing for the undertaking of assuming the role as the leader of the team would have been a difficult responsibility for a young newcomer to assume. That was particularly the case with LaVine coming back on a minutes restriction. And LaVine acknowledged this to be the case.

“You can’t come in halfway through the season, be the straight-up leader of the team,” LaVine noted. “You ain’t played half the year. You got to get to know everybody. I feel like now I have my feet in the water.”

But LaVine is hoping that his work ethic not only pays dividends for his body but also establishes how tough of a worker he is to his teammates. Hopefully, his reputation as a gym rat wins over his critics.

What must LaVine do to win his critics over

“It’s a tough situation but you can still be a leader off the court: be at practices, at film, showing the people how hard you’re working. That’s the main thing, I showed how I worked. I’m around the same age as everybody, so we all get along,” LaVine stated.

Aside from that, LaVine knows that he must get better in all aspects of his game, especially his defense. He fared well in man-to-man situations but struggled with recognizing the correct defensive team coverages.

With Jabari Parker in the fold, it will be interesting to see who takes the mantle as the foretold “go to guy” once the season begins. Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen established themselves as viable NBA players last year and the team added Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison via the NBA Draft to solidify the center and wing positions.

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LaVine shouldn’t think that the mantle will be handed to him seamlessly.