Chicago Bulls: Grading Zach LaVine’s 2018-19 season

Chicago Bulls (Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images)
Chicago Bulls (Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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The 2018-19 season was the most important season of Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine’s young career. Here’s how he performed.

When the Chicago Bulls traded Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves in return for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen, Bulls fans knew the success of the deal would largely depend on Zach LaVine’s health.

At the time of the trade, LaVine was still recovering from a torn ACL. For players that rely on explosiveness and athleticism, knee injuries are always unsettling. When LaVine returned to the court in 2018, it was pretty obvious that he wasn’t himself yet. He only played 24 games in the 2017-18 season, but most of those games didn’t go all that well.

During the summer of 2018, the Bulls were faced with a tough decision regarding their future involvement with LaVine. Despite what a lot of fans wanted, the Bulls decided to bring LaVine back on a 4-year, $78 million deal.

The Bulls were banking on him taking his game to the next level once he was finally healthy – and he did just that.

From day one of the 2018-19 season, it was clear that LaVine was a different guy than he was in the previous season. He attacked the rim confidently and got to the free throw line at a high rate.

As the season wore on (and as the Bulls added more scorers to the active roster), LaVine’s scoring took a dive. Still, he had a nice scoring season – he just didn’t maintain the 30+ points per game that he was getting to start the season. He averaged a career-high 23.7 points per game on .467/.374/.832 shooting splits – a huge improvement from his .383/.341/.813 shooting splits from the previous season.

Along with scoring, though, LaVine took a step forward in his overall game. His 4.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game were both career-highs. The rebounding was definitely encouraging, but not nearly as encouraging as his playmaking. A lot of Bulls fans were even calling for LaVine to take over the point guard duties with Kris Dunn struggling.

The most frustrating part of LaVine’s game is his lack of ball security. His turnover numbers (3.6 per 36 minutes) were far too high during the 2018-19 season. If these turnovers were coming as a result of him trying to make plays for his teammates, then I could live with them. But so many of his turnovers are just lazy, careless blunders. A lot of that can probably be blamed on the Bulls’ lack of team success. I’m sure it’s hard to be laser-focused at all times when your team is almost always down by double digits. But still, that’s not a good excuse.

Take care of the ball, Zach. Please.

All in all, LaVine’s season was pretty good. Yes, he turned the ball over too much and his team defense was poor, but he had career-highs in points, rebounds, assists and free throw attempts.

LaVine’s game is definitely flawed, but nobody expected him to be an All-NBA guy. Bulls fans just needed proof that he was worthy of his lucrative contract.

During the 2018-19 season, LaVine slammed the door shut on people saying that he wasn’t worth the money he’s getting. It wasn’t a perfect season for him, but it was good enough.

dark. Next. Bulls players as characters from "The Office"

Grade: B+