The Bulls are having their best season since Zach LaVine arrived in Chicago.
LaVine didn’t experience much more success with the Timberwolves, either. He missed the playoffs all three seasons in Minnesota and will almost certainly miss the postseason for the third straight season with the Bulls.
Lavine, via Sam Smith of Bulls.com:
“To be blunt, I’m upset,” LaVine admitted. “We had high expectations coming into the season and it didn’t go our way anyway we could have thought of. We played through some adversity, but we didn’t go out there and do what we were supposed to do as a team.
“I’ve been in the NBA six years now and it just gets frustrating,” LaVine said. “I want to be in the playoffs. We really (believed). I haven’t played in a playoff game and it wears on you. That’s what you work so hard for and continue to play for.”
LaVine has averaged 17.7 points per game. That’s incredibly high for someone who has gone so long without making the playoffs.
Here’s everyone to average 15 points per game through their first six seasons without playing a playoff game in that span:
T.J. Warren has a career scoring average of 15.2 points per game. But the sixth-year forward is on track to make the playoffs this season with the Pacers. So, he wasn’t included.
Furthering LaVine’s woe, he hasn’t even made an All-Star game. With the exception of Jim Jackson, everyone else above him on that chart – Geoff Petrie, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, DeMarcus Cousins, Elton Brand, Kevin Love and Bob Rule – at least made an All-Star team during their first six seasons. LaVine hasn’t even gotten that recognition.
The big question: How will LaVine channel his frustration?
Will he be even more driven to win? Or will he become a malcontent? Will he use his growing professional experience to lead? Or will he focus on individual achievements?
LaVine is a notoriously poor defender, often unfocused on that end. He’s a very good scorer, but he hasn’t shown he can propel a quality team offense with optimal balance of ball dominance and distribution.
The offensive problems aren’t all LaVine’s fault. His teammates are underwhelming. His coach is deficient. But Lavine could be better offensively, and he could be WAY better defensively.
Ideally, these hardships will push LaVine to address his own flaws and do even more to lift the Bulls to the playoffs. We’ve seen these types of situations go the other way, though.
LaVine clearly isn’t good enough to singlehandedly carry a team into the postseason. He might never reach that high level. If he doesn’t, he’ll need more help from the Bulls.
But he at least controls how he handles this predicament.