Will Zach LaVine get added to the NBA All-Star team when commissioner Adam Silver selects a replacement for the injured Victor Oladipo?
Probably not because of the Bulls 12-40 record. But LaVine can make a good case for being unfairly overlooked. He’s the highest scoring player in the Eastern Conference currently not a 2019 All-Star after the reserves were revealed Thursday night.
LaVine, in his first full season since his return from knee surgery when he was with Minnesota, is averaging 22.9 points and shooting 34.2 percent on three pointers. He had a career high 41-point game this season and has led the Bulls in scoring in 32 of the 52 games. In the first month of the season, LaVine was averaging 28 points and was top five in the league in scoring and free throws. He scored at least 30 points in each of the team’s first four games.
“Numbers-wise, I feel I’m one of the top guards in the East,” LaVine said Wednesday before sitting out against Miami with an ankle injury. “But it’s not always about you and your individual stats. I think I’m shooting, what….? I’m 23, 4 and 4 (4.2 assists and 4.2 rebounds, leading the team in assists 16 times). I know that’s All-Star numbers. I came in here and did what I had to do. I know I come in here and try every game to prove my worth. So let it sit where it is. But sometimes when you don’t have enough wins that don’t help, and I can’t do much about that. However many wins factor into All-Star consideration, you want to be there. I know I’ll be there one day. I know I’m an All-Star caliber player. Regardless whatever happens. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing and get better every year.’’
The All-Star starters were announced last week. The Western Conference starters are LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Paul George, James Harden and Kevin Durant. The West reserves disclosed Thursday are Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson, LaMarcus Aldridge and Karl-Anthony Towns. The Eastern Conference starters are Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and Kawhi Leonard. The East reserves are Oladipo, Khris Middleton, Kyle Lowry, Bradley Beal, Blake Griffin, Nikola Vucevic and Ben Simmons. James and Antetokounmpo are captains by virtue of vote totals. They will select the teams for the game in playground style in a draft show on TNT Feb. 7. The game is Feb. 17 in Charlotte.
The 6-5 guard LaVine whom the Bulls acquired with Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn in the Jimmy Butler trade is 15th in the NBA in scoring. The only other player in the top 15 in NBA scoring not selected for the All-Star game is Phoenix’s Devin Booker.
Because Oladipo cannot play, the commissioner makes the choice. Possible replacement candidates for the East team include D’Angelo Russell, Butler, Eric Bledsoe and Dwyane Wade along with LaVine.
“Zach is one of the tougher guards in the league,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen said when asked about LaVine’s candidacy. “He can score the ball in a lot of different ways. He’s leading us in scoring and has been competing. We’d love to have an All-Star from Chicago.”
The All-Star game is in the United Center in February 2020.