Let’s be clear, the Chicago Bulls‘ Zach LaVine is one of the most dynamic offensive players in the NBA. His play has been a big reason for the Bulls’ 6-2 start. LaVine and DeMar DeRozan have teamed together to give Chicago a legitimate dynamic duo.
While LaVine has improved as a defender, he still has a long ways to go on that end of the floor. You can watch the team play and see LaVine’s effort on defense a bit better than it has been throughout his career, but a closer look still shows a ton of cracks. Particularly, LaVine struggles chasing players off screens. This deficiency was on display on Wednesday night when the Bulls dropped a close one to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Early in the game, the 76ers’ Seth Curry had his way with LaVine lighting him up for a variety of pull-up jumpers and floaters. Curry’s work off screens was huge. Bulls analyst Stephen Noh put together breaking down LaVine’s defense against the 76ers and he compared it to that of Alex Caruso and Bulls rookie Ayo Dosunmu.
Take a look as this is really informative.
Can Zach LaVine Improve on Defense?
If we’re being honest, LaVine is 26 years old and he’s already in his eighth season in the NBA. If he’s not a great defender yet, the chances are he’s not going to become that guy during his career.
That said, LaVine doesn’t have to turn into Tony Allen. His biggest contributions will always come on the offensive side of the floor. That said, he should be able to adequately cover players like Seth Curry. That’s not a knock on Curry, but allowing him to go off isn’t a matter of being bested in one-on-one situations.
From a technique standpoint, LaVine’s flaws are not allowing him to stay with a player whom he is far superior to athletically. If LaVine could simply stay attached to his assignment and contest the way he has been, he’ll have more success.
In his defense, Curry has become adept at using screens and players like Joel Embiid are among the best pick-sitters in the NBA. It won’t always be this difficult.
Did LaVine Have the Right Defensive Assignment?
You could make the argument LaVine had the wrong defensive assignment. It might have been a much better idea for the Bulls to have placed LaVine on Tyrese Maxey while allowing Lonzo Ball, one of the team’s best defenders, on Curry.
Maxey is quick, but he’s not a strong three-point shooter. If the 76ers wanted to attack LaVine on defense with Maxey, LaVine should be a bit more capable of staying in front of the young point guard than he is chasing an elite shooter off screens.
The two teams rematch on Saturday night. It’ll be interesting to see if there are any defensive adjustments in the second meeting.
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