Zach LaVine

Zach LaVine is back for the Chicago Bulls

One of the most prolific dunkers in the NBA is back this weekend as Zach LaVine returns from an ACL tear. The 6-foot-5 189-pound wingman has been rehabbing his knee since the summer and has not played a game yet this year. LaVine is expected back on Saturday, making his Bulls debut against the Detroit Pistons. In a twist, LaVine tore his ACL against the Pistons almost a year ago while playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

[su_quote cite=”John Paxson” url=”http://www.nba.com/article/2018/01/09/chicago-bulls-zach-lavine-season-debut#/”]Zach will play 20 minutes a game to start and not play back-to-backs until after the All-Star Break. [/su_quote]

The Bulls staff introduces Markkanen, LaVine and Dunn at the Advocate Center in Chicago. (James Foster/for the Sun-Times)

LaVine came to Chicago in the Jimmy Butler trade during the 2017 NBA Draft. He was sent to the Bulls along with guard Kris Dunn and the 7th pick in the draft, in return for Jimmy Butler and the 16th pick. With the 7th pick in the draft, the Bulls chose Lauri Markkanen from Arizona, and he has turned out to be one of the best rookies out of the draft so far.

Zach LaVine is considered the centerpiece of the trade and Bulls fans have been waiting all season to see him take the court. With Kris Dunn looking more and more like the point guard of the future and Lauri Markkanen continuing to develop, the Bulls have a nice core to build around. If LaVine can show he is fully recovered from the injury and showcase the athleticism and scoring we saw from him pre-injury, the Bulls will be in a great spot in their rebuild with lots of cap-space and a likely top-5 pick in the upcoming 2018 NBA Draft.

What He Brings to the Table

Zach LaVine is known to even the most casual fans for his outrageous athleticism shown in winning back-to-back NBA Slam Dunk Contests in 2015 and 2016.

Many people forget that Zach LaVine is a scorer, plain and simple. After averaging 10.1 and 14 ppg his first two years in the league, LaVine bumped his scoring average up to 18.9 ppg last season before his injury. He increased his scoring averages by bumping up his three-point percentage to 39 percent on 6.5 attempts per game. LaVine also played over 37 minutes a game, up from 28 minutes the year before. The increased minutes lead to more scoring opportunities, and LaVine took advantage of them. He improved his overall field goal percentage to 46 percent while increasing his shot attempts to over 15 a game. This shows that LaVine is fully capable of being a high-octane scorer while still be efficient in his attempts.

Zach LaVine

Zach LaVine dunks over Alex Len of the Suns.(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

LaVine was able to improve his efficiency by cutting down his contested mid-range attempts and by taking and making more three’s. He uses his quick first step to blow by defenders and attack the rim, which is bad news for the defense. When LaVine goes up to slam it home, the defender is more likely to end up on a poster in kids bedroom that block the dunk.

It also allows him to break down the defense and kick it out to the open man because the defense is scrambling to help out the beaten man. He will add scoring, athleticism and 3-point shooting to a young, rebuilding Bulls team that needs it. The Bulls are currently 29th in the league in Field Goal percentage and 25th in scoring. LaVine can help in both of those categories while developing chemistry with the other young guys such as Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen, Bobby Portis and David Nwaba.

How LaVine’s Return Impacts the Rotation

Currently, the Chicago Bulls starting lineup is Kris Dunn, Justin Holiday, Denzel Valentine, Lauri Markkanen and Robin Lopez. With LaVine coming back and sliding into the starting lineup, Fred Holberg will have two options.

The first option is having LaVine play shooting guard, sliding Justin Holiday to Small Forward and moving Denzel Valentine to the bench. This would allow for the lineup to not sacrifice defense will adding offense and shooting. This is the option that I believe Hoiberg and the Bulls will go with.

The second option is have LaVine start at shooting guard and Valentine stay at his small forward position. This option Justin Holiday would be moved to the bench. In this case the starting lineup still has a ton of shooting, but less defense as LaVine and Valentine are not plus wing defenders.

In any of the above scenarios, Paul Zipser would cease getting minutes off the bench because of LaVine coming back and Valentine, Nwaba and Holiday’s minutes would be reduced. This makes the Bulls bench deeper and allows them to more opportunities mix and match lineups based on the opponent.

LaVine is on the last year of his rookie deal so he is not only playing for a new team but playing for the future. If he shows that he can be the offensive playmaker that we saw last year before he got hurt, then he could be in for a huge payday from the Bulls or another team in Restricted Free Agency this summer.

I will leave you with some Zach LaVine’s best dunks, least you forget after a year off what a freak athlete he is.

Video by:

NBA2KShow TV

Featured image by Terrance James-Chicago Tribune

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Chicago Bulls 2017 NBA Draft

Chicago Bulls 2017 NBA Draft Profile

The Game Haus brings you day 15 of NBA draftmas to focus on the Chicago Bulls 2017 NBA Draft profile.

Summary

Chicago Bulls 2017 NBA Draft Profile

(Photo Credit: http://www.nba.com)

Fans in Chicago have been protesting John Paxson and Gar Forman for years due to the moves they have made within the front office. There is a common conception that as long as these two men are leading the Bulls, there will be no chance at winning the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Chicago had one of the most up and down seasons in the NBA. The signings of Dwayne Wade and Rajon Rondo during the offseason had created high expectations.

The Bulls never got on a roll and played .500 basketball all season long. There was a trade around late February that sent fan-favorite Taj Gibson, role player Doug McDermott and 2018 second-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder. In return, the Bulls received Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow. This trade left the fanbase, and the rest of the NBA, confused on the direction of the Bulls.

Head coach Fred Hoiberg spent most of the season trying to find a lineup he liked. This left Rajon Rondo in limbo as his role changed from starter to bench player to not seeing the court and back to the starter in April.

Even with all the drama in the Windy City, the Bulls finished the season 41-41 to earn the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

In the playoffs, the Bulls put the Celtics on the ropes winning both road games to take a 2-0 series lead. Rajon Rondo had been magnificent in the first two games averaging 11.5 points, 10 assists and 8.5 rebounds per game. The Bulls looked efficient and effective as Rondo led the team.

During Game 2, Rondo broke his thumb and it was clear in Game 3 that the Bulls could not win without him. Boston went on to win four straight to take the series and eliminate the Bulls from the playoffs.

Chicago needs to improve its offense by adding some shooting. The Bulls ranked 23rd in scoring (102.9 points per game), 25th in field-goal percentage (44.4 percent) and 24th in three-point percentage (34 percent).

Defensively, the Bulls ranked sixth in points allowed per game giving up just 102.4 points per game. Chicago was in the middle of the pack in field-goal percentage ranking 14th shooting 45.6 percent.

Chicago can become a really dangerous team if they add some more efficient shooters.

Picks & Needs

First Round: No. 16

Second Round: No. 38

Chicago has been searching for a starting small forward ever since Luol Deng left. The Bulls can try and find that player in this draft. Jimmy Butler can play small forward but is really a shooting guard. Denzel Valentine may be able to take on this role as he develops but it is not a certainty he becomes a starter.

The Bulls also need a backup point guard. Rajon Rondo’s injury highlighted that in the playoffs.

What the Bulls need more than anything is outside shooting. As mentioned earlier, Chicago struggled shooting the ball both from the field and from behind the arc. If they can find an efficient scorer at pick 16 then the Bulls need to jump on him quickly.

Robin Lopez is also a decent center but the Bulls could improve there as well. Depending on how the draft plays out, the Bulls may look to take a young center with a lot of promise.

One thing is for certain, Chicago will have many options available to them at pick 16 and depending on what they do, it will show the fans the direction the Bulls are truly heading.

Targets & Thoughts

Chicago Bulls 2017 NBA Draft Profile

(Photo Credit:Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports)

Pick #16: Justin Patton C Creighton

Most of the players the Bulls truly want will likely be gone by the time they are on the clock. This will give Chicago a chance to make a minor splash. Justin Patton doesn’t fit their need of improved outside shooting but it does give them a young center capable of becoming a star.

Patton has the potential to be a dominant NBA center. He is listed at seven foot and 230 pounds. In his one season at Creighton, Patton averaged 12.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game while shooting 67.6 percent. He also added 1.9 blocks per game while only averaging 25 minutes per game.

Patton had a player efficiency rating of 25.3 and win shares of 4.3. He could come in and be a solid bench player as a rookie before he eventually becomes a starter. Patton is just 20 years old and still needs time to develop but the potential is there.

Pick # 38: Dwayne Bacon SF Florida State

Dwayne Bacon is all over the place in mock drafts. Most have him going late-first or early-second round and if he falls to the Bulls, they won’t hesitate to take him. There won’t be a good enough shooter remaining to help the Bulls biggest need.

Bacon has good size and length to impact both ends of the floor. At Florida State, in his sophomore season, Bacon displayed aggression on offense and was most comfortable in transition. He could give the Bulls much needed athletism and explosion.

Conclusion

Chicago is in the worst spot to be in the NBA, which is being mediocre. The front office needs to commit to either trying to win a title or rebuilding the team. They seem content with simply making the playoffs. Gar Forman and John Paxson have publicly stated they will be building around Jimmy Butler.

The Bulls play solid defense and need to improve offensively if they want to become contenders. Drafting Justin Patton would give the Bulls a good, young center with the potential to become a star. Selecting Dwayne Bacon would give the Bulls much-needed athletism.

Thanks for checking out the Chicago Bulls 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day 15 of NBA Draftmas to see what the Milwaukee Bucks are going to do.

Day 14 Draftmas: Portland Trailblazers

Day 13 Draftmas: Miami Heat

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Top 5 Upcoming NBA Games (Week of 3/14-3/20)

(Photo: Derick E. Hingle, Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports)

(Photo: Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports)

The playoff races in both the Western and Eastern Conference are heating up. The last day of regular season games is April 13th, which is only a month away. Four weeks from now 16 teams will be battling it out to claim the Larry O’Brien trophy. The Warriors are the favorite but can still miss out on the number one seed in the west. The last month of the season is going to be great, so fasten your seat belts and get ready for a wild ride and here are the five best games with playoff implications for the upcoming week.

#5- Chicago Bulls @ Toronto Raptors (Monday 3/14): The Bulls have been bitten by the injury bug this season. One of their starting five is always hurt and many of the bench players have been in and out as well. It will be interesting to see how good they would be under first year head coach, Fred Hoiberg, as a healthy team but the fact of the matter is they are currently the ninth seed and one game behind Detroit for the eighth seed. If they find a way into the playoffs and become healthy they could be a dangerous team with a lot of postseason experience.

The Raptors on the other hand are having one of the best seasons in franchise history and are currently the second seed in the east. The Raptors are not seen as big threat to win the title but are quietly waiting for the playoffs in order to prove themselves among the elite.

Another aspect that makes this game interesting is the Bulls are 3-0 against the Raptors this year. Can the Raptors avoid being swept in the season series? I don’t think so.

PredictionBulls 106-101

#4- Portland Trailblazers @ Oklahoma City Thunder (Monday 3/14): The surprising Trailblazers are going into Oklahoma City with something to prove. These two teams would be opponents if the playoffs started today as the Thunder are the three seed and the Trailblazers are the six seed. Portland would gain a lot of confidence by going on the road and winning this game. Oklahoma City has much to prove as well because they can’t beat the Warriors or Spurs and they seem like an after thought on contending for a title because of it. Each win could give them a boost of confidence but they must learn how to close out games which is their kryptonite this season. The Trailblazers will give them another opportunity because this will be a tight game. Not to mention the fun match-up of Lillard versus Westbrook. I believe Oklahoma City gets some much needed confidence and closes out this game in a thriller.

Prediction: Thunder 112-110

#3- Boston Celtics @ Toronto Raptors (Friday 3/18) : Most thought the Celtics would make the playoffs but few saw them as high as the third seed in the east. They are in this position because Brad Stevens can flat out coach. It also helps that Isaiah Thomas loves silencing the people who thought he was too small to play in the NBA. The Celtics sit just six games back of Toronto and with a strong closeout to the season they may even catch the Raptors and take over that two seed. The Raptors look to make a statement and prove they are the team that can dethrone LeBron in the east. This game will be a tone setter for the final month and even may be the game that decides who gets the second seed. I think Boston is getting better and more confident as the season goes on and may be a threat to the Cavaliers.

Prediction: Celtics 98-94

#2- Los Angeles Clippers @ San Antonio Spurs (Tuesday 3/15): Chris Paul hit the game winning shot to eliminate the Spurs in the playoffs last season. The Spurs have not forgotten that and have made sure that if they meet the Clippers in the playoffs this year, and there is a game seven, it will take place in San Antonio. San Antonio is doing what they do every year and is impossible to beat at home. The Spurs are 32-0 at home this season and have a 41 game winning streak dating back to last year. The Clippers are trying to get over the hump in the playoffs and beating the Spurs at home would give them the confidence they would need to make it to the finals in a complete surprise. I know they have very slim chances but anything can happen on any night. It won’t happen on Tuesday and the Spurs will stay undefeated at home and extend the home winning streak to 42.

Prediction: Spurs 108-100

#1- Golden State Warriors @ San Antonio Spurs (Saturday 3/19): The two best teams in the NBA with a combined 16 losses between the them will play on Saturday, with it being a possible preview of the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors beat the Spurs by 30 on January 25th, but this time the Spurs are at home and are undefeated with a 41 game winning streak that could be up to 43. Is it Saturday yet? There aren’t many words needed to hype this game up. The Saturday Night Showcase has become the equivalent to Monday Night Football in value of entertainment and exciting match-ups and they are going to outdo themselves with this game. There is a lot that can happen in this game but I think the Spurs pull this one out at home because the Warriors will be on the second game of a back to back without Iguodala.

Prediction: Spurs 114-113