Analysis Bulls Opinion

Zach LaVine: NBA’s Most Improved Player?

Zach LaVine's 2018-2019 season has gotten off to a hot start. Jalen takes a look at his case for the NBA's Most Improved Player award.

Zach LaVine has gotten off to a hot start in the 2018-2019 campaign. Scoring 30 or more points in his first four games, resembling Michael Jordan‘s 1986 season.

He might as well change his number to 23 (just kidding).

LaVine’s first eight games have consisted of scoring 30, 33, 34, 32, 20, 27, 21, and 28 points. This immediately silenced any concerns of him being “overpaid” with his four year, 78 million dollar deal. And now, he’s being known as much more than the 2014-2015 Slam Dunk Champion.

He’s now considered an opposing threat to NBA defenses. And so far, the front runner for the NBA’s Most Improved Player.

In 2014, the Timberwolves used their 13th pick and selected Zach LaVine, who was known as the athletically gifted guard from UCLA. His first season he averaged 10 points per game while only playing 24 minutes. LaVine was always being out-shined by his rookie teammate, Andrew Wiggins, who was the number one overall pick.

LaVine was the “second fiddle,” as he says it.

In the next years we saw his point per game average increase from 10 to 14, and then a career high 18.9 points per game while being the third option for the Timberwolves. Unfortunately, that season came to an early end as he tore his ACL and only played 47 games.

At that point of his career it was a devastating injury due to the fact that he was in his contract year. I personally thought that with the injury, LaVine was not worth much money. Only known as a scorer without defense, who relies on his athleticism heavily, I assumed that he would either plateau or worsen.


LaVine featured in only 24 games with the Chicago Bulls last season after returning from injury, averaging 16.7 points per game. His shooting percentages weren’t delightful, but his only test for the 2017 season was to show that he still had his quickness and explosiveness.

He passed with an A+.

So, entering this season I wanted to see if he could increase his shooting percentages and to be that “go to guy” that the Bulls traded for back in 2017.

Through eight games, Zach LaVine has had a stellar season. Averaging 27.2 points per game, 3.8 assists, and 5.2 rebounds, while shooting 48 percent from the field and 36 percent from three.

I know it’s still early, but those numbers are insane, especially for a guy who has never been the number one option for a team. He fully dedicated himself all summer and became a player no one imagined him being.

He’s playing how his former teammate, Andrew Wiggins, should be playing.

The season is still very young, but I don’t see LaVine slowing down anytime soon. Even with defenses doubling him on pick-and-rolls, he either uses his speed to blow by them or orchestrates the offense and finds the open man.

He’s become a much smarter player, actually reading defenses and watching plays develop instead of just using his athleticism.

Plenty of times down the stretch in close games he’s served as the team’s point guard, due to Dunn’s injury and Payne’s inconsistency, and has shown he could play that role if need be.

The 23-year-old can do it all, he’s also improved his rebounding and defense.

I could see him being an All-Star with the way he’s playing. Unfortunately, due to the Bulls injuries and record we may not see that.

But things should get easier for him with the return of Lauri Markkanen, Bobby Portis, Kris Dunn, and Denzel Valentine. Defenses should be spread out more and allow LaVine to attack the paint or find his spots each and every possession (like he’s been doing).

As of now, I expect his spectacular play to continue and for him to win Most Improved Player by a landslide.

Follow Jalen on Twitter-Feature Photo Credit: Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune


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