Bulls Insider Warns of Potential Issue With Zach LaVine Amid Trade Rumors

Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls

Getty Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls have won four of their last five games.

That stretch is more significant than their previous 10-7 stretch for many reasons. Not the least of which is the reintegration of Zach LaVine into an offense. They found their stride without him for several weeks.

“If LaVine is relegated to merely being a ‘3-and-D’ player, his frustration could grow,” NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson wrote on January 14.

LaVine is averaging 16.8 points on 11.4 attempts per game since returning.

That is a far cry from the 21.0 points on 16.6 attempts per game he was averaging in his 18 appearances before his foot injury that sidelined him for those 17 games. The Bulls’ net rating went from minus-7.1 with LaVine to plus-1.2 during his injury absence, per NBA.com.

The good news is they have a plus-1.0 net rating since he returned to the court. That number has dropped to plus-0.6 since he returned to the starting lineup, though.

Billy Donovan Using Zach LaVine Differently in Bulls’ Offense

“[Head Coach Billy] Donovan has pointed to the need for LaVine to get more offense in transition, which would entail him sprinting the floor,” Johnson wrote. “The coach has pushed back on questioning that LaVine is being placed more in catch-and-shoot than pick-and-roll situations, where LaVIne’s inconsistent decision-making can come into play.”

LaVine’s pick-and-roll frequency is down from 35.5% from last season to 32.8% this season.

His transition opportunities are up from 19.8% to 21.6%. But LaVine’s catch-and-shoot efficiency has betrayed him. The two-time All-Star shooting 32.7% on catch-and-shoot threes after connecting on 41.6% of those looks last season.

This also plays into a larger theme of a disconnect between LaVine and Donovan over the star’s role that dates back at least to last season.

The two also clashed over Donovan pulling LaVine amid a poor performance last season that stuck in the guard’s craw long after the fact.

“LaVine has pointed to the Bulls winning whenever asked about his individual play since his return,” Johnson wrote. “But his future will be the main storyline to the start of the Bulls’ second half of their season.”

The Bulls signed LaVine to a five-year, $215 million contract ahead of the 2022-23 season.

He has been mired in trade rumors ever since. And, while both he and the Bulls remain open to finding him a new home, nothing has come to fruition for myriad reasons.

Zach LaVine’s Trade Market ‘Rough’

Playing LaVine in this role could be best for the Bulls’ grander vision. They still want to trade LaVine ahead of the deadline, something that Johnson notes has proven challenging.

In addition to a high asking price, LaVine also comes with a hefty contract and injury concerns.

“The trade market for him around the league, sources say, is so rough that the thought is Chicago should have to add stuff in a LaVine trade to get off the contract,” LA Times’ writer Dan Wokie wrote on January 13.

Johnson previously presented a similarly dire scenario in which Alex Caruso could be a casualty of the Bulls’ desire to move LaVine.