When Zach Lavine was entering the league back in 2014, I was not a fan of his game. He played zero defense, had almost no playmaking skills, and was a streaky scorer at best. The one thing I was confident he could do at an elite level was dunk.
Lavine was rumored to get selected by the Bulls in that draft, so when he was selected 13th by the Timberwolves, I was thrilled. However, I was much less thrilled when three years later, the Bulls traded Jimmy Butler for Lavine after he had torn his ACL only a few months earlier.
Since then, Lavine has only gotten better in almost every aspect of his game. Lavine is now having an all-star season putting up 26 PPG, 5 AST, and 5 REB, and he doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.
UCLA throwback highlight of the day:
Zach LaVine’s windmill dunk vs. Missouri (2013) pic.twitter.com/MpmuIWFtPF
— UCLA Barstool (@UCLABarstool) July 27, 2020
When most people hear Zach Lavine, the first thing they think about are his show-stopping dunks.
But Lavine is so much more than that. In addition to being one of the best dunkers the game has ever seen, Lavine can score with the best of them.
Lavine recently became the first Bulls player to have a four-game 30 point streak while shooting at least 50% from the field since the GOAT himself, Michael Jordan.
Of the 20 games Lavine has played so far this season, he’s put up 30 points eight times. He’s doing all of this while shooting 50% from the field and 40% from three.
What He Needs to Improve
Lavine being a great scorer is nothing new, given he’s averaged at least 23 PPG the last three years. The drastic improvements for Lavine have been in his decision making and effort on defense. Since joining the Bulls, Lavine has suffered from something I have personally deemed “Hero-Ball Disorder.”
This is a common disorder for talented, young scorers, especially when they are on bad teams. It entails a player becoming convinced that taking ridiculously bad shots and not passing will result in a win.
Some examples of the symptoms below:
Zach LaVine dribbles for 18 seconds, puts up a bad shot. Just horrible offense. pic.twitter.com/dMBTourxib
— David Morrow (@_DavidMorrow) October 19, 2018
Something @ZachLaVine (& many analytics folks) needs to learn better? The diff. b/w a good and bad 3. When you look at the court only thru a spatial lense, you miss the context: not many shots even at the exact same spot are exactly the same. This is a bad shot. pic.twitter.com/2igCxdRDnb
— SCOUTWITHBRYAN (@ScoutWithBryan) October 18, 2019
Unless your name is Kobe, it’s pretty unlikely that Hero-Ball Disorder ends well for a player.
The good news, though? Players can recover, and Lavine has already shown improvements. His field goal percentage going up 5% so far is a good indicator that Lavine is taking better shots.
Rather than putting up a shot from 35 feet with three guys on him, Lavine has looked to pass more. Lavine by no means is cured, but he’s shown a lot of improvement.
I have had far fewer instances of yelling, “what the hell were you thinking, Zach!” at my television this year. So, if that doesn’t show improvement, I don’t know what else does.
To this point, Lavine’s defensive career is very comparable to that of a revolving door.
Just apply a little bit of pressure, and you get by pretty easily. But this season has been much different for Lavine on defense. It’s clear Lavine has been putting a lot more effort on defense this season.
He is by no means a lockdown defender, but he’s certainly not the liability he once was. For me, great defense is 90% effort and 10% natural skill, so Lavine needs to just keep trying.
For a long time, I was what you might call a “hater” of Zach Lavine, even after he joined my favorite team. As I sit here today writing this, it’s pretty damn clear he’s changed my mind.
I really believe Lavine has the potential to win a scoring title someday, and the steps Lavine has taken back me up. Every healthy season of his career, he’s improved his game.
Some might even think it’s downright logical to think this trend will continue.
Obviously, nothing’s for certain, but the one thing I’m sure of is that Zach Lavine is an all-star talent.
If he gets robbed again this year, though, Adam Silver should be expecting a VERY strongly worded letter from yours truly.
This should be all the supporting evidence I need.