Bulls Season Rewind 18-19: Zach LaVine
This was a big season for Bulls guard Zach LaVine. After tearing his ACL in 2016-17 while with Minnesota, LaVine was traded in the summer of 2017 along with Kris Dunn and the rights to Lauri Markkanen for Bulls star Jimmy Butler. He completed his rehab and finally made his Bulls debut in January 2018. He wound up playing 24 games in his first season in Chicago and gave Bulls fans a taste of his dynamic athleticism and scoring prowess. After getting a new deal over the summer, LaVine was finally able to play a full training camp over a healthy summer.
He showed Bulls fans exactly what they were hoping to see this season: development as a leader and playmaker on top of his talents as a scorer. He led the team in scoring at a career-best 23.7 points per game and assumed a much bigger leadership role in the locker room. He started the season hot, scoring over 30 points in the first four regular season games, and barely looked back from there.
LaVine was getting All-Star buzz this season as few players scored at the same rate as him, and at times showed why Bulls fans feel he has the potential to be a cornerstone of this team for a long time to come. When Zach was truly on, the Bulls were winning – the Bulls came out on top in each of his top 4 scoring games of the season.
There are a lot to choose from, but let's take a look at just a few of Zach's standout performances this year:
March 1, at Hawks (Bulls 168, Hawks 161 4OT)
LaVine Stat Line: 47 points (17-35 FG), 6-14 3PT, 9 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals
What a game. In one of the highest scoring games in NBA history and one of the most memorable nights of the season, the Bulls went on the road and beat the Hawks in a truly back-and-forth affair that featured seemingly endless drama and scoring. LaVine led the Bulls with a career-high 47 on this night, narrowly missing a 40-point triple-double and ludicrously logging 55 minutes.
"I've never been part of a game that long," Lavine said after the game. "I was so damn tired."
February 23, vs Celtics (Bulls 126, Boston 116)
LaVine Stat Line: 42 points (17-29 FG), 5-11 3PT, 6 rebounds, 4 assists
Just a week before the epic thriller in Atlanta, LaVine set a career high (that would last six days) with 42 points in a big win against Boston. The Celtics had beaten the Bulls badly in their last visit to the United Center in December, handing the Bulls their worst loss of the season. "We're not somebody you are just going to come here and step over," insisted Zach LaVine. "We might be a rebuilding team or a team that is up and coming, but you are not just going to have an easy win against us. What happened last time on this court was unacceptable for us and we had to make a stand."
The Bulls came out hungry for their third straight win, and Zach and running mate Lauri Markkanen carried the Bulls to a huge win against Kyrie Irving and the Celtics. LaVine knocked down five three-pointers and scored 11 fourth quarter points to hold off a late Boston run.
March 6, vs Sixers (Bulls 108, Philadelphia 107)
LaVine Stat Line: 39 points (14-26 FG), 2-5 3PT, 9-13 FT, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal
The Bulls really gelled during a stretch in late February and early March, winning six of nine games, in no small part due to LaVine asserting himself as one of the league's best scorers. In this Wednesday night matchup against the playoff-bound Sixers, the Bulls came out determined to show the NBA world and a nationally televised audience that they could play with the best of them. The Bulls fought back from a 10-point, fourth quarter deficit, but former Bull Butler hit two free throws with 4.8 seconds left to put the Sixers back on top by a point.
LaVine, who led all scorers in this one, took the inbounds pass and chose not to settle for the jumper. He took advantage of confusion by Butler and Sixers forward Mike Scott and attacked the basket, flying down the lane for the deciding layup and pumping his fist in exhilaration.
"We can beat any of these teams," said LaVine after the game. "We've always played with them. We just have to show we can win. We're in a good little rhythm now. When you are rebuilding you have to take your bumps and understand you have to build your way up. We're a young, exciting team. We have elite firepower. We have some of the best players in the NBA on this team, I feel like. And we're going to change it around really fast."