After finishing the 2016-17 with a 41-41 record and an 8th place finish the Chicago Bulls wanted to be bad. So during the off-season they traded away All-Star Jimmy Butler for Zach LaVine and others and drafted a surprisingly good rookie in Lauri Markkanen. The Bulls would go on to finish this season with a 27-55 record.
All eyes will be on Zach LaVine this season. He was the prize asset in the Butler deal even though he was coming off ACL surgery. LaVine only played in 24 games last season before he was shut down so the Bulls could continue to lose. In those 24 games LaVine shot just 38% from the field while averaging 16 ppg. He did dunk on a few people so his athleticism was still intact after surgery.
LaVine was a free agent this past summer and people wondered if the Bulls would match any contract to keep his services. The Sacramento Kings offered LaVine and 4/$78-million-dollar contract which the Bulls match immediately. Again LaVine was the prize asset for the Bulls and letting him walk for nothing would lead to more criticism from fans.
At his best in Minnesota LaVine averaged 18 ppg, and shot 38% from 3-point range. He was becoming a better offensive player despite his defensive lapses. In the 47 games he played before the injury he hit 120 3-pointers. The year before he played in all 82 games and hit just 123 3-pointers. His 3-point shooting should return now that he’s fully healthy and he could have a career year from beyond the arc.
Can Zach LaVine be a better playmaker for this Bulls team? He struggled in Minnesota when he was asked to be a point guard. In Chicago he has a big in Markkanen who can really stretch the floor. If they can develop some chemistry they could be a nightmare to guard. The Bulls also added Jabari Parker in the off-season, another person who can score the ball. In just 24 games LaVine had a usage rate of 29.5, so it’s safe to assume he will have the ball in his hands a lot going forward.
The Bulls won’t be a good team but with a full healthy season LaVine can prove he’s worth that contract. If healthy he could average 18 points again while knocking down 140 3-pointers at 38%.