The Chicago Bulls valued him as a franchise player when they traded for him last summer and they paid him like one this summer with a 4-year $78 million contract. I questioned the trade when it happened and I questioned the undeserved nearly $20 million a year contract when it was given. The 24 games Zach LaVine played last season for the Bulls were unimpressive to say the least. I of course saw the athleticism that led to his two slam dunk contest championships, but his shooting was inconsistent and he seemed to lack chemistry with our other core future pieces. Could he develop into a shooter? Can he really be our primary scoring option? Will he ever play defense? Or was he just a glorified dunker? These cliff-hangers LaVine left us with at the end of the season did not
Well, it looks like all that worrying was for nothing. Through four games, LaVine clearly put the work in this summer to improve in just about ever way imaginable. He has transformed into a bona-fide scorer that looks the part of a franchise player. He has scored at least 30 points in each of the Bulls first four games (the only other Bull that has done this is MJ. MJ!) and his ability to get to the rim with ease and draw fouls is something the Bulls offensive has lacked for a number of years. He is scoring efficiently (57%) and at a high volume (32.3 points per game). Above all, his three-point shot looks reliable and if he can consistently shoot around 40% from three, he has a great chance to finish as a top 10 scorer in the NBA. Yes, you read that right; LaVine can be a top scorer in the league at 23.
On the defense end, he no longer looks less committed than a Ariana Grande-Pete Davidson relationship. He looks to be at least trying (which wasn’t the case last year) and I would go as far sayings that he looks like an above-average defender out there, something the Bulls needed LaVine to be more than anything. In fact, his defense even won us the game on Wednesday, when he forced a turnover in the final seconds and then proceeded to hit two game winning free throws. His ability to develop into an elite two-way player is what could alter the future of the organization from being a middling playoff team to a future contender.
This four-game sample size, however small, gives a glimpse of the best-case scenario everyone has envisioned for LaVine since he entered the league. When an athlete of his caliber fully realizes their talent, the end result is an all-NBA caliber player. Consistency is key, but even the even bigger story is how he will fit in with the rest of our core, as Lauri is out for awhile. If they can’t develop solid chemistry on the court, none of LaVine’s progress really matters and that is what we all have to watch for. Until then, we can enjoy LaVine’s ascent to being one of the top scorers in the NBA.