I heard Kendrick Perkins the other day say Zack Lavine is a 2nd best player or sidekick at best and like a lot of things he has said lately, I completely disagree. So many people are sleeping on his ability and potential. The player that he reminds me of is James Harden and most people, including Bulls fans, scoff at this idea. Yes, Zack isn't winning defensive player of the year--which is what was said about Derrick Rose in his heyday, Curry, Harden, Steve Nash, and many others--and the Bulls are a lousy team at the moment. But Zack is 24 years old and showing that he can score like the best of them and more importantly, in the clutch, when we literally have not one other player on our team who can make big shots. (which is one reason why we're terrible) The game against Charlotte will go down as one of the greatest regular season performances in history. It doesn't instantly make him into a superstar, but it shows that he has the ability to play at that next level. I think the comparison to James Harden lies in his ability to score inside and outside. Harden's 3 point shot and step back are miles better than Zack's, but Zack has Jordanesque athleticism taking it to the basket and finishing, that Harden doesn't have. What James Harden is doing now is historic, but what was he up to when he was 24? In 2013-2014 he averaged almost exactly the same numbers as Zack this year, and his trajectory looks very similar when you look at his first few seasons in the NBA. Harden was playing third fiddle on the Thunder and being criticized for his matador defense. Once he found himself on his own team, where he was the centerpiece, behind a GM and coach who made him the primary player, he exploded into a mega star. In my opinion, Zack Lavine can make a similar kind of jump in his career. He's making it as we speak. The Bulls front office needs to build this team completely around Lavine and allow him to become their primary superstar player.
This situation reminds me a little bit of the Vinny Del Negro era, when the Bulls were built more around Luol Deng with a rookie Derrick Rose in tow. They brought in Thibs--who also obsessed over Deng, but acknowledged that Rose was the player who was going to make them into a contender. The results: we went overnight from being a #8 seed to #1 two years in a row. The approach to this year was a balanced offense built around Zack, Lauri, and Otto, and the results have been horrific. If there's any good that can come out of this season, it's the realization that Zack Lavine is our franchise player and that the rebuild should be around him. I loved seeing Dwayne Wade reach out to him and recognize his talent. I only hope that Zack can keep developing the same psychological edge of a D. Wade or an MJ, because the sky's the limit with this kid.
Ditto. Though I probably need a more substantive response. To digress briefly, however, the only thing Kendrick Perkins knows about scoring and offense is he couldn't do it and when the team needed it he was asked to leave the court. Based on some things I've heard recently, his knowledge of the game is about as accurate as his free throws, which in 14 years barely was above 50 percent. Seriously, who's listening to that guy? Take that! Has the media become that desperate? OK, I withdraw that one. Though there's no problem with No. 2, as Scottie Pippen probably could attest from the Hall of Fame. As for Zach, I'm sure a lot of this has to do with the losing records in the last few years. Though I've rarely witnessed a more dismissive attitude toward an elite player than I see toward LaVine. Who also happens to be an excellent ambassador for the NBA, cooperative with the media and fans, one of the team's more fan-friendly players, someone who routinely makes himself available to reporters in the best and worst times, someone outgoing with everyone. OK, there are many nicer people who aren't very good at basketball. The comparison with Harden is a good one because observers generally cannot delineate defensive responsibilities. So it becomes that first impression thing, like Toni Kukoc when he came to the Bulls. That Bulls team happened to have elite defenders. But the American xenophobia and prejudice then toward European players was that they couldn't defend. So fans and reporters pointed at their failings.
You don't hear much these days about Luka's defensive weaknesses. Zach, who happens to be a better defender than Harden (and certainly Westbrook), has endured that first impression bias. Zach was criticized a few games ago for an opponent's back door cut late in the game for a score. I watched Thad Young give up several of those as well. No one mentioned it because Thad is regarded as a good defender. There's an argument sometimes about a No. 1 or No. 2. Zach is good enough to be your best player on a winning team because he has so many skills. But there's nothing wrong with being No. 2. It works for Paul George. And has for the likes of Bradley Beal, Klay Thompson, Anthony Davis. There's no shame. Everyone understands a player lacks the ultimate recognition without team success. The Bulls' challenge is to provide it around LaVine. He's doing his part.