Zach LaVine fans, I want you to know that I understand what he’s meant to the Chicago Bulls throughout his career here in the Windy City.
I have been what some may call a “LaVine Stan” throughout his tenure with the Bulls. Time after time, I have defended his value to our organization and placed blame at the feet of others for our failures.
The last thing I ever wanted as a Chicago Bulls fan was to be rid of Zach LaVine. However, I cannot ignore any longer the events of this season or the effect those events have seemingly had on the court.
The Chicago Bulls seem to have a major problem on their hands, and his name is Zach LaVine.
I’ve previously talked about the probable necessity that the Chicago Bulls currently have to trade Zach LaVine. The Bulls are going nowhere fast, and they would benefit from moving on from the largest contract on their roster to acquire assets and flexibility for the future while focusing on players who will be here for that future.
Yet, this scenario requires someone to be willing to trade assets for LaVine in the first place. Adrian Wojnarowski (known commonly as Woj), one of the most respected insiders in any North American sport, threw a gigantic wet blanket on top of these hopes on December 1st.
Now, it is important to realize that someone leaked this to Woj with intent. Whether that’s the Chicago Bulls or someone else, someone wanted Woj to know that LaVine is going to be difficult to move.
Still, this report is not encouraging. For a team looking to focus on its younger players, the Chicago Bulls don’t need to be stuck with someone who has no desire to be there.
That leads me to the next part of the Zach LaVine problem: his effect on the team when he plays.
I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself after just two games, but we still must analyze what we see. What I see with Zach LaVine on the court is FAR different than what I see with Zach LaVine off of it when it comes to this particular season.
Not only are the Chicago Bulls 2-0 over their last two games despite facing opponents who are above .500, they are playing like an actual team. All of a sudden, players seem to be buying into whatever Billy Donovan is coaching. They’re moving the ball, getting open shots, and hustling on defense.
Perhaps most damning is the production of our young players, Coby White and Patrick Williams, with LaVine off the court. This has been a trend for years now. Whether it’s the departure from isolation ball or something different, White and Williams seem to play much better when LaVine isn’t.
I’ve been very blunt in my criticism of Patrick Williams, but that doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to change course with my opinion. Obviously to all, the best-case scenario for the Chicago Bulls is for Patrick Williams to continue developing into the player we all believed he could be.
Furthermore, if the slow progression of Patrick Williams is due to players like Zach LaVine preventing that progression from being quicker because of his playing style and attitude, then I’m fully on board with doing whatever it takes to focus on Williams’ progression.
All of this leads me to ask, what is the point of this season? What are the Chicago Bulls trying to accomplish?
If they have some grand delusions of contending with this roster, then sure, I can see a world where LaVine needs to stay. But if the point of this season is to develop the players on our roster, I don’t think you can argue that we can accomplish that much better without Zach LaVine.
But can we trade him? Is Woj correct? Is it that difficult to trade a multiple-time All-Star who seemingly has no desire to keep playing here due to his contract and his image throughout the National Basketball Association?
These are questions that the Chicago Bulls must answer, and they must answer them soon. The fate and feeling of this season ride completely on those answers.