No One is Driving to the Basket Better Than Zach LaVine Right Now
Guarding an actual bull might be easier than guarding Zach LaVine right now.
The Chicago Bulls All-Star is playing easily his best basketball of the season during this month of March. And, honestly, this might be some of the best basketball of his career. Over the past 13 games, LaVine is averaging 29.8 points on 53.7 percent shooting from the field and 44.2 percent shooting from downtown. While we can’t declare the Bulls’ 10-6 record since the All-Star break entirely LaVine’s doing, there is no question his knack for scoring has been pivotal in the organization’s late-season surge.
To be even more specific, it is LaVine’s downhill aggressiveness that has primarily led to this stellar production. Ahead of Monday night’s game against LA, LaVine led the NBA with a 60.8 field goal percentage on drives to the rim dating back to Feb. 1 (minimum 6.0 drives per game), per NBA Stats. This means he’s been finishing around the rim better than Luka Doncic, Devin Booker, Kyrie Irving, Ja Morant, Damian Lillard, and Donovan Mitchell. In other words, some of the league’s biggest superstars and most well-respected bucket-getters.
Along with this uptick in efficiency has also come an uptick in his sheer volume of shots. Since March 1, 41.0 percent of LaVine’s field goal attempts have come at the rim, per Cleaning the Glass. To put that further into context, LaVine came into the month averaging 34.0 percent of his FGAs at the rim. The fact we’ve seen both production and volume trend upward is beyond impressive.
If we expand things out a bit to include all shots within 8ft of the basket, LaVine is shooting 68.5 percent on 8.3 attempts per game in March, per NBA Stats. I can’t even begin to describe how outrageous that is in relation to the position he plays. The only names to average a higher field goal percentage on the same or more attempts this month are Anthony Davis (77.0), Nikola Jokic (73.0), and Giannis Antetokounmpo (71.5 percent). All big men.
LaVine is just relentlessly attacking the basket and refusing to settle for jumpers. And while we should expect at least some dip in his efficiency, I’m not sure it will be all that drastic.
As long as LaVine is healthy, he’s demonstrated the kind of elite agility to repeatedly fly past any team’s first line of defense. We’ve also watched him display some tremendous body control and touch. And, heck, even if teams begin to get a bit more physical with him to keep the ball from going in, he’s gotten calls at a great rate since before this hot month of March.
Cleaning the Glass tracks the percentage of a player’s shots he is fouled on. Since Feb. 1, LaVine has had a 16.6 percent SFLD% (Shooting Fouled Percentage), which ranks in the NBA’s 90th percentile. This number now sits at 13.8 percent for the whole season, which is a career-high for LaVine.
I know this year has felt grim, but the Bulls can truly hang their hat on this production from LaVine. They paid him max money to be one of the NBA’s premier scorers. Not only is he doing that to close out the year, but he’s making it look easy.