Zach LaVine’s rise up the NBA ranks can be summed up – in part – by his improvement behind the arc. After shooting just 34.1 percent over his 24 games post-ACL tear in 2017-18, LaVine has shown nothing but improvement as a three-level scorer, bumping his 3-point percentage all the way up to a career-high 42.0 percent this season.
Take a look at the progress:
2017-18: 34.1% (5.1 3PAs)
2018-19: 37.4% (5.1 3PAs)
2019-20: 38.0 (8.1 3PAs)
2020-21: 41.9% (8.2 3PAs)
2021-22: 42.0% (7.6 3PAs)
LaVine’s efficient clip this year ranks 2nd among players with at least 7.0 attempts per game. Only Nets sparkplug Patty Mills (42.5%) sits ahead of LaVine (and, fun enough, Lonzo Ball sits right behind LaVine at 41.0 percent).
If we look at LaVine’s shooting since the start of December (11 games), the All-Star’s 48.8 percent clip is the best out of any player who has averaged those 7.0 attempts per game, according to NBA Stats. The shooting guard has also made at least four 3-pointers in six of his last seven games, which is the first time he can say that in his career.
Simply put, this past month continues a long trend for the ever-improving LaVine, which comes as no surprise when we consider the new talent he has around him. A more distracted defense means more open shots, and LaVine is on pace to take the most open 3-pointers (defender within 4-6 feet) of his career. He is set to break the career-high 250 open shot attempts he took from downtown last season, already tossing up 140 open looks this season and converting at a 42.1 percent rate.
Relatedly, LaVine’s catch-and-shoot opportunities have gone up significantly, where he is thriving with an absurd 48.3 percent on 89 attempts through 35 games. LaVine tossed up just 148 looks in catch-and-shoot situations last season.
Note: We should remind you that the NBA played 10 fewer games last season, but the point remains that LaVine is seeing more high-percentage looks than ever before.
The presence of a secondary scorer like DeMar DeRozan and a true facilitator in Lonzo Ball has given an already-effecient shooter that much more room to work. Not to mention, a system built around ball movers and multiple playmakers has given LaVine a number of options to play off of. Ball, DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic, and Alex Caruso have assisted LaVine on 50 of his 105 made 3-pointers this season.
Take away the open opportunities and easy looks, however, and that’s where we see just how special LaVine’s 3-point shot has become. When an opponent is within 2-4 feet, which NBA Stats classifies as tight coverage, LaVine is still draining his downtown buckets at a 39.1 percent clip (18-46). As of now, that number has skyrocketed from his 33.0 percent showing in tight coverage situations last season (33-100).
LaVine might be known for his high-flying dunks and athletic finesse, but he has turned himself into one of the most efficient and deadly 3-point shooters in the league. And, when we take all of this into consideration, it only makes more sense that the Chicago Bulls have been the NBA’s top 3-point shooting squad this season.