Chicago Bulls: Grading Zach LaVine at the halfway point of the season

The Chicago Bulls are halfway through the 2019-20 season. Here’s how their best player, Zach LaVine, has performed so far.

Prior to the 2019-20 season starting, many NBA fans thought the Chicago Bulls would be one of the sneaky-fun hipster teams to follow. They have a super talented young core, they added some veterans in the summer and most of all, Zach LaVine looked ready to make the leap.

Unfortunately, the Bulls have fallen short of nearly every expectation at the halfway point. At 14-27, they have a lot of work to do if they want to sneak into the playoffs.

One thing fans predicted correctly, though, is Zach LaVine’s breakout year. He’s been sensational and should be on his way to his first All-Star appearance.

LaVine got off to a relatively slow start in October but has gotten better each month. So far in January, he’s averaging over 30 points per game on impressive .474/.383/.833 shooting splits. He’s also turning the ball over less than he was prior to January.

Despite LaVine’s gaudy month, the Bulls still aren’t winning. In January, they’re 1-6, with their only win coming against a lowly Pistons squad. This has only fueled the fire of those who claim LaVine is a good stats, bad team guy. That’s an unfair label to put on a 24-year-old who’s consistently gotten better as he ages, though.

LaVine usually gets knocked for two things: defense and poor shot selection. Those are both fair arguments against LaVine, but he’s actually shown some improvement in both areas.

The defense still needs a lot of work, but he’s better than he’s been in the past. At least he’s improving.

As far as the shot selection goes, it’s not as bad as advertised. When you watch the Bulls on offense, it’s an absolute disaster and LaVine is constantly tasked with bailing the team out. There’s a lot of standing and watching when Zach has the ball. What’s he supposed to do? Pass it to Thaddeus Young on the wing?

LaVine is also taking fewer mid-range jumpers and more 3-pointer jumpers this season. That means he’s becoming analytics friendly. The last piece to that puzzle is getting to the free-throw line. He didn’t do a good job of that at the beginning of the season. In November, he was taking less than five free throws per game. In January, though, he’s almost taking seven per game. He’s trending in the right direction.

All things considered, Zach is having a really good season. It didn’t start as smoothly as I was hoping, but January has been a tour de force for him so far. Good things are on the horizon for this budding star.

Next: Zach LaVine gets dunk contest invite

Grade: A-

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