It's no secret that Zach LaVine has struggled coming out of the gate this season. The Chicago Bulls have posted a poor 5-13 record in games LaVine has played, in large part due to his poor performances on both ends of the court. The two-time All-Star is averaging just 21 points per game on 44.3% shooting from the field and 33.6% from three-point range — the worst marks he's ever posted in a Bulls uniform since 2017-18, the year he spent rehabilitating an ACL injury.
What's most concerning this time around is that LaVine doesn't have a knee injury to blame for his failures. He appears entirely disinterested in concocting an explanation for his poor play or even just continuing to play for the Bulls at all. LaVine's inefficient offense and horrid defense have been hurting the Bulls all season long, and now appear to be finally forcing the front office's hand. The Bulls are reportedly looking to trade LaVine first and foremost, before reassessing their roster and considering further moves.
If LaVine is indeed traded elsewhere, his departure would leave a massive void in its wake. Since acquiring LaVine back in 2016, he has consistently been Chicago's best offensive weapon and has earned his way onto several of the Bulls' all-time leaderboards. Unfortunately, these have not been a particularly successful seven years for this franchise, so I'm not all that surprised to see that a great majority of my fellow Bulls fans are ready to emotionally move on from LaVine.
Fortunately, it appears a successor as the face of the franchise may already be rearing his very bald head, as Alex Caruso has undoubtedly won the fans over in his relatively short amount of time spent in the Windy City. I polled over 200 Bulls fans on X (formerly Twitter) to gauge where the fanbase's heart lies, and the results were shockingly decisive.
Zach LaVine hasn't even been traded yet, but Alex Caruso has already usurped him as the face of the Bulls.
Of the 204 fans who voted in Saturday's poll, the overwhelming majority selected Caruso as their favorite player on the Bulls. 80.9% of all votes were cast in his favor, bringing the total to 165 votes. He may not have the All-Star credentials that LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic possess, but he's managed to endear himself to Chicagoans by bringing maximum effort to each game he's played in a Bulls uniform.
I'd be hard-pressed to imagine a player who better suits Chicago's blue-collar culture than Caruso, as his commendable work ethic and in-game awareness have helped him get the edge over other players who might be more physically gifted. Although nagging injuries have plagued him over the last few years, Caruso is one of the most dependable players in the entire NBA when he's actually on the court.
Despite playing fewer minutes per game this season than he did in his previous two years in Chicago, Caruso is averaging a career-high 9.7 points per game with career-high shooting percentages to top it off. He's drilling an incredible 47.7% of his three-point attempts while also contributing 3.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.4 steals per game while cycling between the bench and starting lineup. He may not always start, but Caruso is almost certain to close games. His defensive presence in the clutch is simply too valuable to not have out there on the court, but he's proven he can be a deadly offensive weapon too, as seen during his huge shot to force overtime against the Milwaukee Bucks.
For these same reasons, Caruso has attracted a great deal of attention as a potential trade candidate for contenders ahead of February's trade deadline. If the Bulls do decide to rebuild, Caruso may be one of the team's most valuable assets, as he'd likely net at least one valuable first-round pick and a quality role player or maybe even another non-lottery first-round pick.
After what we've seen from him so far this season, however, maybe Chicago's front office would be wise to hold their cards just a little longer. The Bulls have Caruso on contract through the 2024-25 season and don't need to rush to find a deal unless someone blows them away with an offer. Amid his best statistical season to date and set on a collision course to a second All-Defensive Team nomination, Caruso's value is only going to continue going up from here.