Since acquiring Zach LaVine from Minnesota back in 2016, Chicago Bulls fans have become accustomed to high-flying dunks and impressive offensive efforts. The only thing that hasn't changed much is the win column. Despite his best offensive efforts, LaVine's high-scoring performances always seem to come up short when it comes to securing the dub.
In each game this year where LaVine has scored 30+ points this season, the Bulls have posted a disappointing record of 0-3. Even when their star player is at the top of his game, Chicago can't seem to get the job done, so what's not working?
The third game of the season was where LaVine finally came alive offensively, setting an early season high, as well as a career-high of 51 points. Despite his best efforts, the Bulls lost 102-118 to a young, low-achieving Detroit team. LaVine spoke on how it felt to come up short despite his excellent outing during his post-game presser:
"I came out wanting to be real aggressive. Obviously, I got it going. It’s upsetting you have a performance like that and lose. It sucks.”"- Zach Lavine
In order for LaVine to be effective, he needs to continue being aggressive. That being said, it's important to remember — ahem — that basketball is a team sport. Zach was the first player since Klay Thompson in 2018 to score 50+ points while simultaneously tallying 0 assists, against the Bulls no less. The only difference? Thompson's team didn't lose.
Granted there have been only three games this season where LaVine scored 30+ points, so it's a small sample size we're working with here. But these games reveal some issues that prevent this level of play from being sustainable if the Bulls are looking to be competitive in a strong Eastern Conference.
Despite being an offensive powerhouse, great performances from Zach LaVine aren't adding up to wins for the Bulls.
These numbers clearly speak to LaVine's ability to create quality shot opportunities. Anytime Zach is playing downhill, he is at his best. But the excess amount of fadeaway shots and quick threes led to too many rushed offensive trips with nothing to show for it. In order for LaVine to be efficient and effective, he must continue attacking the rim with authority. He bails out a lot of beaten opponents by settling for a contested jump shot, rather than diving to the basket.
Attacking the rim isn't just about LaVine getting better shot selections either, it also opens up others for a better, uncontested jump shot. LaVine wouldn't have to shoulder the load offensively if he looked to kick the ball out more during his drives. Not to say Zach should assume full-time point guard duties, but when the leader of the team is unable to make plays for his teammates and dish out assists, it creates a stagnant offense whenever Zach goes iso — which is quite often. When he drives, however, it opens up the defense, allowing others to cut more effectively and create spacing for a better shot.
As previously mentioned, LaVine is a ball-dominant scorer - you don't need to be a Bulls fan to notice that. But when he remains active off-ball, it creates a more dynamic offense rather than four jerseys lined up along the three-point line. Part of the blame could be placed on coaching (and God knows there are plenty of articles on that at the moment) and part of it is not having Lonzo Ball around as the playmaker at the helm of the offense to orchestrate these off-ball movements, but if LaVine truly wants to be the super-start caliber player he thinks of himself as, he needs to create more opportunities without the ball in his hands.
It's difficult to check highlights of the franchise player putting on an offensive clinic just for the game's final tally to be a blowout. It's also cause for concern when he is able to be most effective and comes as a deterrent to the team's overall success. If the Bulls are going to pull themselves out of this losing streak with the players they still have, the offense simply cannot solely run through whoever has the hot hand that night. It's going to take a full team effort to play together and trust one another, but it's far more rewarding than worrying about being benched two seasons ago!