Whether we’re discussing the days of old with Jerry Sloan and Norm Van Lier, the peak years led by Michael Jordan, or the 21st century teams with Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler, the Chicago Bulls have earned their reputation as a team with great guards. Zach LaVine has carried that mantle into the modern era and has managed to become the face of the franchise in the process.
But in a league loaded with more talent than ever before, how does LaVine rank among his peers? Former Bulls guard and NBA icon Jamal Crawford weighed in on the subject of the league’s best shooting guards entering the 2023-24 season.
Although Chicago normally receives more than their fair share of criticism from the media, you might be surprised to hear what Crawford had to say. Ranking LaVine as the sixth-best shooting guard in the NBA, here’s how Crawford justified his decision.
"“This my lil bro, and I’m not saying he’s this high because he’s my lil bro. Zach LaVine has to be number six. Proven scorer, can do it effortlessly, his maturity has gotten better in terms of making plays for other people… He’s a walking bucket. Without a doubt, he’s someone Chicago has to value. I think the best is yet to come. He’s always obsessed with working on his game. We haven’t had a high-flyer in [Chicago] like this since D Rose, so we’ve got to put Zach LaVine higher.”"
Jamal Crawford sang the praises of Bulls All-Star Zach LaVine when ranking the top 10 shooting guards in the NBA.
I must admit, I was surprised to see LaVine being given relatively fair treatment by the media for a change. This could simply boil down to Crawford being a former player himself who respects the finer points of Zach’s game and how easy he makes it look out there, but it’s hard to really argue with his placement among the rest of the full list below:
- Devin Booker
- Anthony Edwards
- Jaylen Brown
- Donovan Mitchell
- Bradley Beal
- Zach LaVine
- Klay Thompson
- Dejounte Murray
- Tyrese Maxey
- Austin Reaves
It’s interesting to see how LaVine and the top five players ranked above him all come from the same vein of score-first, athletic guards who can shoot and drive the ball with great effectiveness. None of these players are elite on the defensive end, but all are at least semi-competent on-ball defenders.
Unlike in years past when players like Kobe Bryant and James Harden would reign supreme above the rest, this group feels like it’s truly anyone’s for the taking and could look dramatically different just two or three seasons from now. As for the players below him on this list, none are seriously threatening to break into the top six any time soon, barring a miraculous event where Klay Thompson discovers a way to channel his peak form more consistently out there on the court.
At this point in his career, LaVine is probably closer to the top player on this list than he is to the players ranked below him, a fact fans of other teams would likely be unwilling to admit. That’s because until Zach finally starts to rack up a successful postseason resume like Booker and Mitchell above him, he’ll continue to be one of the most disrespected and underappreciated assets in this league. Hopefully, he can begin to rewrite his story starting this season.