The Uncomfortable Truth About Zach LaVine’s Return

Getty Zach LaVine

The Chicago Bulls‘ Zach LaVine has left the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols and could be cleared to return to the court soon, but why even bother?

The Bulls put together another woeful performance in a 108-97 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night, and their playoff hopes–even the ones that might have included a spot in the Play-In tournament–are limited.

The most recent loss dropped the Bulls to 26-38 on the season, which puts them three games behind the Washington Wizards for the 10th spot in the Eastern Conference.

Hey Bulls fans, there are only eight games left in the season.

So, I’ll ask again, why bother bringing LaVine back for six or seven relatively meaningless games?

I’m not suggesting the Bulls should go out and give minimal effort. They’re all still professionals. However, it’s also still a business, and the organization has to make decisions based on the franchise’s long-term success.

Now is the time for guys like Patrick Williams and Troy Brown Jr. to get more opportunities on the offensive end, and Coby White should be doing his best to prove he has what it takes to be, at the very least, a good backup point guard option in Chicago next season.

As for LaVine, and even Nikola Vucevic, who missed Saturday’s game with an abductor injury, it’s time to call it a season.

The Bulls are 7-14 since they made the trade to add Vucevic and 4-6 since LaVine went into the league’s protocol system. That means they were 3-8 with both LaVine and Vucevic on the floor.

Even if LaVine comes back and plays well, we’re still looking at a somewhat hampered Vucevic finishing out the season–and the team hasn’t had a ton of time to practice together.

Is anyone expecting anything positive from this group in the last eight contests under those circumstances? If so, that is an asinine expectation.

Looking at the Lottery

Some are calling the Bulls’ trade for Vucevic a lousy deal. I’m not ready to go that far, but it’s clear the team still needs a lot of help. That’s especially the case on the defensive end. You cannot have Vucevic as your starting center without an elite defensive point guard.

I’m talking DeJounte-Murray-like presence on the ball. If you don’t have a guy like that at point with Vucevic, you’re asking to get eaten alive on pick-and-rolls as the Bulls are on a nightly basis.

Chicago’s best chance to get that kind of a lead guard, outside of signing someone like Lonzo Ball or Denis Schroeder in the offseason, is through the draft.

Unfortunately, they’re not going to have a first-round pick if their selection lands anywhere lower than fifth overall. The deal for Vucevic saw Chicago giving up a Top-4 protected pick to acquire the defensively challenged double-double machine.

Even though Chicago wasn’t very good with LaVine and Vucevic, the worst thing that could happen to the Bulls for the rest of this season is to finish 4-4 in the final eight games, miss the play-in tournament, all the while limiting the chances they sneak into the Top 4 in the lottery.

I hate to say it, Chicago, but the Bulls need to suck out loud the rest of the way.

Keep LaVine and Vucevic Healthy for 2021-22

Injuries are always a possibility.

Call it post-traumatic stress disorder from watching Derrick Rose tear his ACL in a 2012 playoff game when the team was up 20 points in the fourth quarter, but I have major issues with stars playing meaningless minutes.

Imagine the horror of seeing LaVine or Vucevic, who have both dealt with late-season injuries, writhing in pain during a game when Chicago is all but mathematically eliminated from the postseason–and hurting their chances of landing Jalen Suggs or Cade Cunningham all at the same time.

That’s not a pretty vision. You gotta know when to fold them.


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