Bulls Star Gets Honest on Career Goals

Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls

Getty Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls reacts

This is a big year for the Chicago Bulls and two-time All-Star guard Zach LaVine. The Bulls are out to prove that they are a team to reckon with in a revamped Eastern Conference. LaVine is set to take on a different set of challenges.

He recently became a first-time father with his wife, Hunter LaVine, which he said has rearranged some things in his life.

LaVine’s new $215 million contract is also the largest ever in Bulls franchise history.

He was adamant that he doesn’t feel any additional pressure despite the changes in his reality. The guard also reassured fans that he would continue to work hard as he always has. Now, he’s doubling down and bringing receipts.

LaVine on Goals

“I want to be an NBA champion,” LaVine told reporters in February. “As an individual thing, that’s something that you want to do. You want to be the MVP of a championship team.”

Most people think of his elite athleticism first. But LaVine has become one of the best scorers in the game today. He was one of just three players to average 24 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists, during the regular season while also shooting 38% or better on three-pointers.

He did that on a bum knee for much of the season, averaging 25.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4. assists before that.

Can he be even better next year? LaVine has made it a habit.

“I think I’ve gotten better each and every year and I continue to grow my game,” the Bulls guard told Jason Tabrys for Dime. If you have the confidence in yourself to see yourself at a certain level, and you have a goal set, you strive for those things. That hasn’t stopped. I’ll continue to do it. I just want to be the best version of myself, and when it’s all said and done, have no regrets and reach those milestones and goals I put out for myself.”

He told Natasha Dye of People Magazine something similar and it’s something that he believes wholeheartedly.

His self-assessment is not at all off-base, either.

Year-to-Year Progression

Before last season, LaVine had increased his scoring output year-over-year since coming to the Bulls via trade ahead of the 2018 season. He battled back from a torn ACL that season and only played eight games.

There was plenty of handwringing over his injury history leading up to this contract.

But LaVine made 67 appearances during the regular season and has made at least 60 appearances in three of the past four years.

And he made it through four of the Bulls’ five playoff games before being shut down.

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It stands to reason that he could finish with better numbers with a full season of improved health, and not just from himself. That is particularly true for LaVine on the defensive end where, despite strides on that end, it is best to surround him with capable defenders.

“I wanted to take it a step further with my playmaking and my effort on defense,” LaVine said during “Hoop Streams” on ESPN. “Just try and become the player that [can do] whatever the team needs to win.”

His defensive rating finished as a 116, per Basketball-Reference, the worst mark of his career. However, it was 113 before the Bulls lost Lonzo Ball for what turned into the rest of the campaign.

Getting Ball back and, the Bulls hope, a full season of Alex Caruso and Patrick Williams will help.

Championship or Bust

Coming off of the heels of his franchise record-setting contract, The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry has said that it’s now championship-or-bust for the swingman and the Bulls who are fully invested in seeing this core group work out.

They have left plenty up to chance by relying on improved health given the track record of some of their players.

But we could see them take a leap for the better as a whole if they follow LaVine’s career lead.