When is Zach LaVine Going to Start Looking Like Zach LaVine?

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When is Zach LaVine Going to Start Looking Like Zach LaVine?

Chicago Bulls

Zach LaVine is making my jaw drop again this season … but for a vastly different reason.

The Chicago Bulls’ max player has more rust on him than a tin can in a rainforest. He’s averaging his fewest points per game since the 2017-18 season, and he also hasn’t shot this poorly from the field since that same first season in Chicago (where he played just 24 games).

While one would hope the two-time All-Star would have found his groove roughly a quarter of the way through the NBA season, he’s only continued to trend in the wrong direction. LaVine is in the thick of his worst-looking stretch in the NBA since becoming an All-Star. He’s finished only one game shooting above 50.0 percent from the field in his past eight tries, and he hasn’t even come close in the others.

vs. NOP (L)239-22 (40.9)44
vs. DEN (L)218-15 (53.3)45
@ NOP (L)259-22 (40.9)53
vs. ORL (L)41-14 (0.71)25
vs. BOS (W)228-20 (40.0)55
@ MIL (W)186-17 (35.3)55
@ OKC (L)279-23 (39.1)55
@ UTA (W)207-20 (35.)56

LaVine is now shooting a combined 37.3 percent over the past eight games and an even worse 29.2 percent from behind the arc, where he’s taking nearly 9.0 attempts per game. That’s dropped his season-wide field goal percentage to just 40.4 percent – a dumbfounding figure when we consider the player the Bulls have gotten the past two years.

Indeed, over the past two seasons, LaVine has played like one of the NBA’s most elite three-level scorers. Two years ago, for example, he finished with a 60.2 effective field goal percentage that ranked in the NBA’s 91st percentile. He then saw a little bit of a drop as he tried to play through a knee injury last season, averaging a 55.6 EFG% (72nd percentile), but he still killed opponents at the rim (69%) and behind the 3-point line (39%, which included an absurd 51 percent on corner 3s).

Given his age, and with all that in mind, handing him a max deal wasn’t exactly controversial.

And, again, that’s why his start this year is so freakin’ confusing. The dude was a high-percentage shot-making machine! Now, he’s clanking 3’s off the rim, botching layups like never before, and shooting to the tune of a disgusting 49.1 EFG% (40th percentile).

The most staggering thing about LaVine’s game has been his lack of touch around the rim.

According to NBA Stats, LaVine hit 66.8 percent of his shots that came within 5ft of the rim last season. This was the single-best field goal percentage among guards who took at least 5.0 attempts per game. Fast forward to today, and LaVine is sinking just 56.0 percent of his attempts within 5ft of the basket, which ranks 5th-worst among those averaging 5.0 attempts.

While we should have expected LaVine to need at least some time to get back into a rhythm this season, I don’t think anyone envisioned it looking this ugly. How much longer will he need to regain his feel? More importantly, what about his signature explosiveness around the rim? He’ll have the occasional high-rising dunk or acrobatic layup, but his lift this season clearly isn’t what we’re accustomed to seeing, and there is little doubt it’s playing a role in these frustrating stats.

The good news is that he’s only played 16 games this season. So as unsettling as it is to see him struggling to score at his usual pace/efficiency, there is a lot of time left for him to find his groove. The Bulls (9-11, 11th in the East) would love for that to be sooner than later, though.

Author: Elias Schuster

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