During the Chicago Bulls’ loss to the Dallas Mavericks, Zach LaVine found himself on the wrong end of a posterizing dunk by fellow high-flyer and former teammate, Derrick Jones Jr. Jones flexed after finishing over LaVine while the Bulls guard simply walked away toward the baseline.
“I don’t care who’s there, to be honest with you,” Jones said, per Brad Townsend Jr. of the Dallas Morning News on November 1. “I’m sorry to say it, but I don’t even care if my mom’s there. I promise you, if mom’s there and she’s on the opposite team, mom’s gotta get blessed.”
The Bulls are now 2-3 on the season and LaVine is off to another slow start.
LaVine’s 24.0 points per game are similar enough to his production over the previous two seasons. He averaged 24.4 and 24.8 points in 2021-22 and 2022-23, respectively. But his 54.4% true shooting mark is the second-worst of his Bulls tenure behind only his 2017-18 campaign when he was recovering from ACL surgery, and it is the third-worst mark of his career.
The two-time former All-Star is also currently shooting 34.9% from beyond the arc, the second-worst mark of his career. He had 22 points on 17 shots against the Mavs, shooting 41.2% from the floor, though he did connect on 5-of-9 deep looks.
While he has never been a premier passer, LaVine’s 1.2 assists and 6% assist rate would both be career lows.
Dallas also benefitted from (one-time free agent target of the Bulls’) Grant Williams and Tim Hardaway Jr. combining for 49 points on 60% shooting including 14-of-22 triples. The win helped the Mavs remain undefeated in this young season at 4-0 and sitting atop the Western Conference standings.
Bulls’ Big 3 Worse Together This Season
This season is different for the Bulls for many reasons. Not only did they approach this offseason with a clear understanding that they would not have Lonzo Ball, but players like LaVine and Nikola Vucevic have also been vocal about the group needing to produce better results this season.
“For how explosive we are as individually, it hasn’t been shown as a unit,” LaVine said via the team on October 2. “So we have to do a better job with that, and it’s been 3 years of it. It’s time to put pen to paper and actually see some results.”
But they took a step back this season.
Chicago’s top trio of LaVine, Vucevic, and DeMar DeRozan played more minutes together than any other trio last season only to produce a net rating that was slightly below average (minus-0.4), per NBA.com. This season, the group is not even the most-used grouping on the Bulls. But, more importantly, they have a minus-16.1 net rating in 107 minutes.
“We have to do better,” Vučević said, per Yahoo Sports NBA reporter Jake Fischer on August 31. “And we know it’s kind of our last chance as this core of guys to do something.”
Trade Rumors Picking Back Up Already
We are not even one month into the regular season but the Bulls’ tepid start has them in the crosshairs of the rumor mill. And, with the Philadelphia 76ers seemingly needing to add another high-caliber player to keep Joel Embiid happy, LaVine’s name has come up.
But their asking price is seen as the reason LaVine is still a Bull. Perhaps, armed with their new assets, the Sixers can cobble together a package that would entice the Bulls into parting with LaVine. Perennial trade destinations like the Los Angeles Lakers could even try to get into the mix if so inclined.