LaVine Gets Some MIP Love, Kawhi Dreamin', Cameron Payne Went Off, and Other Bulls Bullets

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LaVine Gets Some MIP Love, Kawhi Dreamin’, Cameron Payne Went Off, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

Much like Thaddeus Young’s case for Sixth Man of the Year, we knew Zach LaVine would fall out of the Most Improved Player race.

•   His spike in scoring efficiency was nothing short of impressive this season, but we also always knew he was capable of such a high-level bucket-getting. Mix that expectation with the team’s success (or rather lack thereof), and it’s not shocking that Julius Randle, Jerian Grant, Michael Porter Jr., and Christian Wood easily landed ahead of the first-time All-Star. Each of those players was thrust into a new role this season, and each made the most of it with a breakout performance. LaVine’s rise to stardom, on the other hand, has been slow and steady. He has been the Bulls go-to guy for several seasons now, so while his career-highs in points, assists, rebounds, effective field goal percentage, and free-throw percentage is worth acknowledgment, I think it’s fair to say it became far more expected than what we saw out of those other names.

•   For more context on why Randle picked up a landslide victory, take a look at the numbers (and the Knicks record).

•   Nikola Vucevic also got a 2nd place vote for MIP, which is nice and cool. While the big man had a career year, I don’t think anyone really saw him as ever being in the conversation. He played a similarly impressive game in his first season as an All-Star in 2018-19, and his position as one of the league’s top big men has been pretty comfortable over the past couple of years. The most significant improvement we saw Vucevic make this season was behind the arc. He took a career-high 6.3 three-point attempts per game and converted at a 40.0 percent clip. Last season, Vucevic took only 4.7 attempts per game on a 33.9 percent clip. The fact he went from shooting one 3-pointer per game in 2016-17 to where he is now is damn impressive. With Year 11 on the horizon, I think it just goes to show how there is always room to add to your game.

•   Did you say the Clippers are down 0-2 to the Mavericks??

•   Do I think Kawhi Leonard will be a Bull next season? No. I’m not delusional (at least, I don’t think). But I am allowed to make the joke above because Leonard can his unrestricted free agency this offseason. The 5x All-Star has a player option he can (and most likely will) turn down for a longer contract. All signs point to that contract coming from the Clippers, but if the organization sees an early exit for the second year in a row, there will undoubtedly be some speculation about his comfort level in LA.

•   This came across my YouTube feed from 2019 and LOL. They briefly talk about turning the corner after Markkanen’s big February and the acquisition of Otto Porter. Oh, how things have changed.

•   Yes, you are reading the name Cameron Payne in all caps with a popcorn emoji nearby.

•   Bulls former Tank Commander finished with 19 points, 7 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 blocks off the bench in last night’s close loss to the Lakers. He single-handedly kept the Suns within striking distance in the fourth quarter in a kind of responsible fashion Bulls fans are not accustomed to seeing. I give the dude a ton of credit. From a lottery pick to playing in China to clocking huge playoff minutes against the defending champion, his career arc goes to show what endless hard work can do. Good for him.


•   Luka isn’t human.

•   I wonder what Coby White we will see next season.

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Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.