LaVine has been nothing short of spectacular this season, and he’s been at his best the past month. In February, LaVine is averaging 31.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game. He’s shooting 52.7% from the field, 42% from three-point range, and making 84% of his free throws.
At one time, efficiency was a question mark for LaVine, but that can no longer be a question mark in his game. LaVine has matured throughout his career, and his leap within this season has been a pleasure to witness. He’s even a far better defender than he has been his entire career.
It seems evident, LaVine is a building block for the Bulls’ future, but what about the rest of the players on the team who fans and Bulls brass expect to be a part of the nucleus moving forward?
Some startling on-court statistics suggest the Bulls are a better team when LaVine is on the court with the veterans instead of the other young guys. Previous Bulls management has positioned this group to be by his side while the team hopefully turns into a legit contender.
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Bulls Have Been Better When LaVine is on the Floor With Satoransky
Numbers don’t ever tell the whole story, but it is unwise to dismiss their validity completely. True Hoops’ Tom Haberstroh posted the plus-minus ratings for LaVine, Coby White, and Patrick Williams compared to LaVine, Garrett Temple, and Thad Young.
Mark Karantzoulis of Bulls HQ piggybacked and expanded on the concept. He posted the plus-minus net ratings for the entire Bulls young core, including Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. Karantzoulis compared the veteran lineup mentioned above, with Tomas Satoransky thrown in.
Take a look.
Further context to the below:
LaVine, White, Williams, Markkanen, Carter: -17.3 net rating
LaVine, Sato, Thad, Temple: +34.9 net rating
Playing with better players matters, something Zach has rarely had a chance to do in seven seasons. https://t.co/BFo9w9xOx1
— Mark K (@mkhoops) February 23, 2021
As much as many in Chicago love White, it seems obvious the Bulls are better when Satoransky is at point guard. That doesn’t mean White has no value, and the Bulls need to trade him.
However, it does mean the team needs to put him in a position where he isn’t tasked with running the show and can be more of a streaky and explosive scorer without it hindering the flow of the entire offense and negatively impacting things on defense as well.
Carter Jr. and Markkanen Are Expendable
The metrics with Carter and Markkanen are especially telling.
The Bulls can still go shopping for an upgrade at point guard, and the much-discussed trade for Lonzo Ball makes tons of sense. While getting Ball would make the Bulls better, you could argue Chicago has an even more significant void at power forward and center.
Markkanen and Carter are there, but neither man has proven capable of staying healthy. Markkanen still hasn’t started practicing again after his most recent injury, a shoulder issue.
He has missed more than half of the team’s 30 games this season. During the 2019-20 season, Markkanen missed 16 contests and had the worst campaign of his career from a statistical standpoint.
In his first two seasons, Markkanen missed a total of 44 games. It’s pretty safe to say he’s injury-prone, and the Bulls were right not to commit to him long-term this past offseason.
Carter is in a similar boat. He recently returned from a thigh injury, but he has already missed 11 games this season. Last year, Carter missed 23 games, and as a rookie, he missed 38. Like Markkanen, he’s earned the injury-prone label.
Even when Carter is healthy, he has some clear limitations to his game. He’s not a stout interior defender, and he has no range on his jump shot to establish a stretch-big threat. Perhaps if he were available more consistently, his issues would be more tolerable.
The Bulls would be wise to explore trades for both of their young bigs, especially if it would help facilitate an acquisition of a point guard or draft assets.
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