Zach LaVine and Jim Boylen haven’t seen eye to eye of late. LaVine wanted to do his talking on the court, and he did just that as the Chicago Bulls won a thriller against the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday.
LaVine was sensational, shooting 17-for-28 from the field including 13 made three pointers on his way to a 49-point night. It was a career-high in scoring and a franchise record from beyond the arc. The former 13th overall pick is enjoying the best three-point shooting year of his career despite the Bulls disappointing over their first 17 games.
Approaching the quarter-mark of the season, LaVine’s usage rate of 29.2% ranks ahead of Anthony Davis and Pascal Siakam. There’s no doubt he’s the hub of the Bulls’ offence – which remains one of the worst in the NBA.
High usage players dominate the turnover list, and LaVine is no exception. It has blighted his career to date, and his 3.4 turnovers per game (the same as last season) ranks 15th in the NBA. Crucially, though, LaVine is turning the ball over about as many times per game as some of the best assisters in the game – LeBron James and Ben Simmons are both at 3.5
Okay, so comparing LaVine’s game with James and Simmons isn’t exactly fair. He’s a scorer rather than a playmaker, but he’s turning the ball per game nearly as much as he’s assisting. Assists require teammates hitting shots, which isn’t something the Bulls have been doing all that much this year.
LaVine’s decrease in assists from last season isn’t a concern as such, particularly with his teammates missing so many decent looks. Decision-making still has a long way to go, though. LaVine’s talent as a scorer has been evident for years; he’s got the athleticism, shooting and finishing ability to be an All-Star. His defence has even improved a bit this season.
To be the franchise player the Bulls need him to be, however, his vision needs to take a step forward. Chicago rank in the bottom eight in the NBA in passes per game.
LaVine isolates 13th-most in the league. He’s only in the 44th percentile from those possessions. The Bulls offence needs to move the ball more. LaVine isn’t solely responsible for that, of course, but he needs to lead the way to prove he can contribute to winning basketball and be the best player on a contending team.