The Chicago Bulls‘ Zach LaVine is going to be one of the most watched, appreciated or criticized players in the NBA this season. After a career year during the 2020-21 campaign, LaVine reached heights he’s never seen before in his basketball career.
LaVine made his first All-Star Game and represented his country at the Tokyo Olympics where Team USA took home the gold medal. Now, even more is expected of him as the Bulls retooled the roster around him.
LaVine is now the centerpiece of a Big 4 with Nikola Vucevic, Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan. With the Bulls’ star power and payroll, anything besides a Top-5 finish in the Eastern Conference will be seen as a major disappointment. While many are still a little hesitant to call the Bulls contenders, it’s not hard to find people who are excited about LaVine’s upcoming season.
LaVine is Expected to Be a Top-15 NBA Player, Says NBA Analyst
Jason Patt of Forbes and the Cash Considerations podcast believes LaVine will rank among the 15-best players in the NBA. During a recent episode of the podcast he said:
I think LaVine, in this system, he’s going to be one of the 15 best players in the world this year, and probably one of the 10 best offensive players in the world. If you put LaVine next to Trae Young, Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker, Bradley Beal, I think honestly he’s primed to be the best out of all of those guys this year because he’s probably in the best situation for his talents.
Depending on who you ask, some might make the argument LaVine is already a better player than at least 2 of the guys mentioned in Patt’s quote. However, all of them have something that LaVine doesn’t, and it’s a trip to the postseason under their belts.
It’s Playoffs or Bust For the Bulls
Last season, the Bulls missed qualifying for the play-in tournament. That was quite the blow to absorb considering the trade deadline deal to acquire Vucevic was supposed to be the move that put the team over the top.
COVID-19 and a rash of injuries kept the Bulls from gaining any chemistry. Aside from adding Ball and DeRozan to improve offensive efficiency, the Bulls also signed Alex Caruso to help with the on-ball defense. Now, high-scoring guard Coby White should be able to operate as a sixth-man, which is his best possible role with the Bulls.
There’s also the expected maturation of Patrick Williams as well as the underrated signing of rebounding and defensively charged Alize Johnson. The Bulls’ second unit looks as strong as it has since the old Bench Mob helped push Chicago into the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011.
While Chicago may not have a perfect roster, they are vastly improved over last year’s team. Barring a rash of injuries to LaVine, DeRozan or Ball, there is no reason Chicago shouldn’t be shooting for 50 wins.
If they fall woefully short of that goal, it might be time to subtract some key pieces. Also, if that happens, LaVine will have no problems reaching the heights Patt predicted.
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