Draft Profiles: Zach LaVine, 6’5, SG, UCLA, 185 lbs., Freshman

Draft Profiles: Zach LaVine, 6’5, SG, UCLA, 185 lbs., Freshman

Athletically, LaVine is just as talented as any player in this draft and that includes Wiggins.  In fact, LaVine has a chance to be one of the best athletes in the NBA.  At 6’5, a nice wing-span, great vertical explosiveness, great north/south speed, and great lateral quickness, LaVine has all the tools to be a great player at the next level.


Right now, LaVine is a string-bean out there.  That said, LaVine also grew two inches to 6’5 in the past year.  Before his growth spurt, LaVine was simply an athletic freak at the point guard position.  Now, LaVine has great height and some skills to play shooting guard.  The only issue is that the first year or two will be an adjustment because LaVine will be unlikely to handle the rigors of the physicality at the NBA level.

Basketball IQ

While it is typical for Freshman to be raw and have to adjust to playing team ball at the college level, LaVine does shoes some concerns about overall basketball IQ.   As one of the most talented players in college this year on a loaded team, LaVine had the chance to come off the bench and play an energy scorer role.

LaVine has many tools, but spent too much time shooting long two’s when he could drive to the basket or shoot the more efficient three ball.  His decision making may in part be due to a lack of toughness and ability to absorb contact.


LaVine  possess a nice skill-set.  Like many young freak athletes, he plays at his best when out in transition and finishing.   He has a nice three point shot that should extend out to NBA range, good handles, and a great first step.  He also plays disruptive defense, garnering steals as well.

As noted above, LaVine needs to improve his court awareness and improve his shot selection and stop settling for long two point jumpers.

Unfortunately, on the defensive end, LaVine’s got plenty of work to do.   While disruptive, he lacks the strength to fight through screens and or to hold up to a shooting guard with a post up game.  He also shows poor anticipation about getting to the right spots.  With his athleticism, defense can usually be coached up though.

LaVine is coming out very raw raw, passing on the chance to be the go-to-guy next year at UCLA.  All the tools are there, but LaVine was too impatient to stay and play.  Many times a player with all that talent, but not taking the time to develop those talents ends up either go through a journey to get back into the NBA or switching teams several times before finding their niche [see Gerald Green].

While I know Steve Alford runs a complicated motion offense and LaVine is more of an athletic slasher/shooter, I still wonder why he was in such a rush to declare?  Will the workouts reveal that LaVine was not given the right tools to succeed, or will he take too much time to develop?

Overall Impression

LaVine is the biggest boom/bust pick in this draft.  While playing a very talented UCLA team that was extremely deep at the wing position, interviews and workouts might determine where he will go in the draft.  Can LaVine put on muscle quickly?   Is Lavine going to bust out of this league, be a Jamal Crawford, Gerald Green, or be a Russell Westbrook type player?

To me, LaVine would be best to go to a team that has multiple picks, has a system and veteran leadership in place, and possibly a place that is fast pace and that team screams the Suns to me.  LaVine is also the type of player that can get G.M.s fired or a pay-raise.

Fit with Bulls

While the Bulls need talent and LaVine could be what we need at the shooting guard position, if we are committed to Coach Thibs, I really don’t see LaVine developing here despite how I feel on him as a prospect.  Coach Thibs rightfully so wants to play players that will make the right basketball plays.

I feel at this time, LaVine would be too far back on the basketball depth chart to really contribute for a while if playing here and probably would have Coach Thibs pulling out what hair he has left.  In most drafts, I would be thrilled with LaVine at pick 16 or 19, but this year I feel other players will contribute on this team more likely.  I do think LaVine has a great chance to be really good, but I just think he is too raw and Thibs would likely not develop him as some other team might.


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  • LaVine played for the same AAU program my son plays for and for a HS we face in a feeder league so I have been following him this past year at UCLA. While he shows some nice talent I am surprised he decided to come out after only one year. He wasn't even a starter and now he is a first round pick? I thought he played pretty well at the end of the year but think another year in college would do him very well considering how deep this draft will be. Probably top 10 if he would wait another year. That said I guess I would like him for the. Bulls. He has many tools and I can tell you that his HS and AAU team are both known for developing smart Bball IQ players so I wouldn't worry about that. I don't know is he will be ready for much playing time this next year but with a couple 1st rounders I guess I would be happy if they snagged him.

  • In reply to UnstopaBull:

    I like that we have 2 first rounders and normally I would take a chance. If we get irking that we might not get Melo and somehow Thibs gets the boot, I would be interested. However, he just seems like one of those players to me that might take time. However, he is a very unique talent.

  • Nice review, and I agree LaVine's a long ways from ready to play in the NBA let alone for the rookie in absentia chamber known as Thib's bench. I watched UCLA(Jordan and Kyle Anderson) all year. I just didn't see much performance or presence wise from this kid at all.

    I understand you like someone with crazy athletic skills, and why shouldn't you? Most stars and good players in the league have exceptional and beyond athletic gifts and speed. So I get it. Plus LaVine did shoot 37% from three on 3.5 attempts per game so there's that as well. It's also somewhat understandable how he didn't see more minutes when you have Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson as your two starting wings, both first rounders.

    That said, right now he's too skinny for a wing, unaware and uncommitted defensively, and he is in no way, shape, or form a PG.
    In 24 minutes per game he gave you little scoring and even less production. From his high school days to the present he is known to be satisfied with his jumper as in NOT A DRIVER. And the level of his handle is debatable as well if you read DraftExpress for example. The majority of basketball plays he just doesn't go to the basket. This year out of the top 100 prospects DraftExpress has him dead last at 2.8 free throw attempts per 40 minutes pace adjusted. So no defense and no offensive game then what does he give you??

    Also, scouts question LaVine's lack of mental toughness and consistency. He shoots 69% from the free throw line which good three point shooting guards don't all that often do even as freshman. His shooting absolutely tanked from three for the last month and a half of the season. The fact that he has dropped from No.6 on boards like NBADraft.net to now 17 both there and on DraftExpress tells you something as in scouts feel he's years away from NBA ready.

    I agree with Kevin that Zach, who seems like a nice kid and a hard worker by all accounts, should have stayed in school and developed as he's very, very raw. Hope you're ready for the D-League because that's likely where you're headed. Sure he has his guaranteed $5-6 Mil or whatever it is so enjoy. However waiting, developing as a higher pick teams are much more vested in you and your future by not only the franchise that drafted you but others in the future who pay attention to pedigree and probability of success based upon draft order. That's why it's not always a good move to come out right away unless it's really all about the money. I'd have to pass on him. Still, I understand Bulls fans who are intrigued enough by his crazy physical gifts to want to draft him.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    Good point about the FT rate and %. That is ridiculous. He's definitely a stash and hope type of guy, but with two picks, you have that luxury to sit a guy for 1-2 years. Hell, Snell and Teague have barely played early on. Teague would have never played if Rose was healthy.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    My question for both of you guys(Kevin and RW) is he better, do you like him better than Snell coming out.

    Secondly, I say stop evaluating guys as wings, we need a guy who is a shooting guard period, not a tweener, not a swing guy like Butler, who we all seem to agree is better suited to small forward. This guy seems to be a shooting guard and not a wing. Is he someone who can shoot lights out in the NBA.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    He is more aggressive than Snell - who isn't. He is not basketball low IQ like Teague. He just is very raw and very thin. As a prospect, yes I like him better than Snell. However, Snell will do what Coach Thibs ask of him. I feel like LaVine will not get much playing time for at least 2 years under Thibs because he is rail thin and extremely raw.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    Pretty much agree with you - especially about driving. Will any additional strength change that? Also while he shot nearly 38 % showing some deep range, he really struggled with his shot towards the end.

  • My son is a student at UCLA and thinks highly of LaVine's skill set. I agree with everyone that he should have stayed another year and that Thibs just flat out won't give him minutes. That being said, I would hate to see the Bulls pass up on someone with so much up side. Unlike others posting here, I am not enamored with who will be available when the Bulls draft at 16 and 19. Whenever I see the projections at nbadraft.net I want to throw up. I'd rather take a chance on someone who could be real good later than a player who is just "eh" now.

  • In reply to Vic Nardozza:

    I agree with you that by the time you get to 16-19 you should probably swing for the fences, since anybody that you draft is a crapshoot anyway at that point.

  • In reply to Vic Nardozza:

    While we need talent, good draft choices in today's salary cap is a commodity. In most drafts I would agree. However, there are so many options with these two options in keeping, trading, etc... I do feel we can get good players at both of these picks even if they are not all-out studs. However, I see your point.

  • This is the problem with Thibs and Gar/Pax... he is a hard-nosed defensive coach. He'll only give playing time to players that thrive on the defensive end. But, that's the problem with this team - we need to develop/obtain offensive-minded players, not more of the typical Gar/Pax and Thibs-type of player.

    This LaVine kid is intriguing due to his height, length, high-end athletic ability and shooting touch. He may not ever be a defensive gem, but, like Rose, he should be at least average given his athletic ability and size.

    I sincerely believe that it's easier to learn to play defensive if you have the athletic abilities than it is to become an offensive force if you've never been a scorer/shooter.

    The Bulls need to consider guys like LaVine because they need what he has to offer - shooting and elite athleticism.

    When was the last time the Bulls had a contributing player that could play above the rim?

    Since they have two picks, why not get a Stauskas + Lavine combo because Stauskas should be able to come right in and contribute b/c the Bulls need shooting and he's probably in the top 2 percentile in terms of shooters coming out of college over the last 10 years. (The guy made about 72 of 75 outside in a rain, you can look up the video!)

    The draft lacks solid back-up bigs and you may as well try to sign one with more experience, IMO. With Mirotic (potentially), Gibson and Noah, you are just looking for spot minutes anyway.

  • In reply to Granby:

    Agree about defense, I've always believed that if you are an elite athlete you should be able to learn how to be at least a good if not great defender. Offense requires work too, but there seems to be more of a natural born talent element at play on that end.

  • In reply to Granby:

    I agree whole heartily with you. Thibs hasn't won a championship and probably won't finish his contract. That being said build your team to win. This coach only play rookies by accident. I have seen many players and Lavine has it. If we had a chance at Exum we would take him and Thibs would sit him. You see the pattern.

    So draft the kid and let him play for you can be at 48 to 50 wins and make the playoffs in the east

  • In reply to humbleservant:

    Exum shows basketball smarts, but is a great talent with basketball IQ - that what separates him!

  • Many of you have seen this b/c it's a few months old... but makes you realize how lucky the Bulls are to have this type of talent available if they can create the space. I think that if there is ANY way to get he and Melo on the Bulls next year it should be priority #1. I'd hate to lose Gibson, and would look at every alternative avenue first, but a lineup with Rose/Butler/Melo/Mirotic/Noah would be unreal. Gar/Pax and Thibs all probably have wet dreams just thinking of it...


  • It would be nice to have a guy like LaVine, but I don't know if the Bulls can take him. I feel like they are in a win now situation. That means they need to draft or trade for guys who can contribute now to winning a championship. I can't see them drafting guys who they have to wait on and who take up a roster spot unless it is a Dario Saric or a Bogdan Bogdanovic type of player who might not be around for a few years.

  • In reply to PaBullfan:

    I was thinking the same thing, the team needs guys who can contribute NOW!

    I recall that it took Tracy McGrady 3 years to develop, then he bolted to another team. Similar with lots of very young players. Can the Bulls afford that if they want a championship?

  • Thanks so much for these write-ups. I don't watch a ton of college b-ball so I rely upon these to be well-informed.

    LaVine sounds like such a tough call but I think the Bulls need to roll the dice for a potential difference-maker. They have enough solid role players and are good at finding and developing those. Where they struggle is with athletic, offensive difference-makers. LaVine sounds like he could be one. I wouldn't risk a lottery pick but for the mid-round, he sounds like he's worth the gamble.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    He is a very unique talent - I just see him taking time to really develop and are window is close if we somehow get Melo!

  • Thibs would never play a kid like LaVine because of his poor defensive skill set. I'd like to see Chicago trade Thibs to the Laker's for their 1st round pick--and hope it turns out to be the top pick of the Draft. Then the could draft the top center or even better Jabari Parker and maybe forget about Anthony all together.

  • In reply to penwit1:

    On the contrary, if the Bulls could land Parker or Wiggins, then adding Carmelo probably brings the championship. Do it!

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