Zach LaVine‘s game was always rooted in his freakish athleticism. He had to work at the craft of the game, but his raw skills made him an NBA player with a lot of potential, and the craft was starting to come along.
Then he tore his ACL.
He came back for 24 games last season with the Bulls (after having been traded from Minnesota as a central part of the Jimmy Butler deal), but LaVine was not the same. The explosion wasn’t there yet, and with it his shooting percentages — notably scoring around the rim — and overall efficiency dropped.
LaVine, entering his fifth season, told Alex Squadron of SLAM he is back to his old self.
“I got my speed back, my jumping back,” he says. “Once you get off an ACL injury, you’re lifting and eating. So I got up to, like, 210 pounds. I’ve never been that heavy before. I’m not a post-up player. I’m fast, a more athletic guy. I got back down to the weight I need to be at [185 pounds], but still I feel strong. I feel really good, man. I’m excited for the season….
“Over the last couple years, I’ve been trying to get better and better and I feel like I’m at the stage now where I should be trying to reach accolades like an All-Star and things like that,” he says.
For his sake, I hope LaVine is fully healthy again, the league would be more entertaining if he is.
LaVine is part of a Bulls team that is not going to win a lot of games this season but will be interesting to watch develop. They have Lauri Markannen and Wendal Carter Jr. up front which has a lot of potential, LaVine on the wing, and Kris Dunn showed promise at the point last season. Maybe Jabari Parker can fit into that mix (although I have my doubts). There are some nice pieces of a rebuild there, but just how good are they? Can Fred Hoiberg coach them up? Will management find a way to screw it up or let it develop? There are a lot of questions around the Bulls, but more interesting ones than there have been for a couple of seasons now.