Considering the Chicago Bulls performance last season, turning the franchise around and being a 6th seed in the East at 46-36, the team had high expectations coming into this year. However, with 16 games left in the season, the Bulls find themselves at 30-36 and one game behind the Washington Wizards for the final play-in spot.
This is an incredibly disappointing result for a team whose roster construction is seemingly built to win now. Chicago has had injuries, including an extended one to its point guard Lonzo Ball, but there is a lack of direction within the franchise that has led to the frustration of the organization and its fans.
Adding onto the issues within the team, the Chicago Bulls mortgaged their future for this roster, and they will feel its effects in this upcoming draft. Because of the Nikola Vucevic trade, the Bulls will likely give up their first-round pick to the Orlando Magic, as it is top-4 protected. With this in mind, there have been pushes for the team to begin a rebuild this season and tank to obtain one of the most coveted spots in the draft.
Despite the many questions surrounding the Chicago Bulls’ future, it is clear that they must build around 28-year-old Zach LaVine.
Despite the Chicago Bulls’ struggles, Zach LaVine has been a rare bright spot for the team, as he has played at an all-NBA level as of late. In his 30 games since 2023 began, Zach LaVine is averaging 27 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game while shooting 50% from the field and 38.6% from deep. One of LaVine’s main criticisms on offense was that he had previously been prone to throwing up contested three-pointers and not looking to go to the rim.
However, LaVine has since shifted his attack and he has seen excellent results. Zach is averaging 7.2 free throws per game at this time, while he only averaged 4.2 through his first 32 games this season. LaVine’s athleticism gives him a unique ability to get to the rim and make acrobatic finishes, and it is refreshing to see him lean into his strengths.
LaVine was outstanding in the Bulls’ dominant win over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, scoring 29 points on 12-18 shooting and going 3-5 from deep. Flight 8 showed his ability to finish at the rim, going a perfect 9-9. The Chicago Bulls need to see more of this from LaVine in the future, as he is bringing results.
Additionally, this aggressiveness is adding more issues for his defenders, allowing him to score from anywhere on the court.
In the 7 games since the All-Star break, Zach LaVine has taken his game to another level, averaging 30.7 points per game on 58.9/52.3/90.9 shooting splits. While his co-stars DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic have been inconsistent in this time, Zach has more than picked up the slack with tremendous performances, including reaching 40 points in two of his last four games.
The second half of the season has reminded Chicago Bulls fans why the organization gave LaVine a max contract, and if the Bulls choose to rebuild, Zach must be the focal point.