Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, and Zach Lavine? Could Zach join those three players as the only Bulls this side of the Jordan years to make an All-NBA Team? Lavine is having himself a career year for the Bulls – setting career highs across the board and ranking top-10 and 20 in some important statistical categories. His play has helped the franchise move up the NBA Futures to win the Eastern Conference and the Finals (although it is still a longshot), and if he keeps producing over the next two months, there are some solid arguments for voting Zach Lavine as an All-NBA guard.
It is still an uphill climb for Lavine – with the guard play in the league as high-quality and deep as ever. But Lavine’s numbers for Chicago this season had him making his first NBA All-Star appearance – and if he keeps it up, he can make a case for All-NBA.
Top-Ten True Shooting Percentage
Where Lavine has the strongest argument for All-NBA is his shooting this season. True shooting percentage – an advanced statistic that measures a player’s efficiency at shooting the ball – puts Zach Lavine ninth in the league (sandwiched between Rudy Gobert and Nikola Jokic), shooting 65.3%. Lavine’s improvements as a shooter – from every part of the floor – have helped him evolve from a dunker into an elite scorer. His gains from three especially (ranking 11th in the league 42 games into the season) have raised his stock around the Association
You could probably make the argument for Lavine based solely on his scoring this season – as he averages over 28.0 points per game – but with scoring up across the board (twice as many players are scoring 20+ points per game now than ten years ago), you need to be an efficient and effective scorer.
The Bulls in the Postseason
The numbers mean more this season since the Bulls have in playoff contention this season. Lavine production this season has the Bulls in the mix in the Eastern Conference – helping the Lavine argument over other guards like Bradley Beal (who is ahead of Lavine in scoring but on a worse Washington team). If the Bulls stay in the seven to ten range or climb a bit if the Charlotte Hornets or Atlanta Hawks falter down the stretch – we could see even more arguing for his spot on the 2021 All-NBA team.
Becoming a Better Passer
Lavine is hovering around averaging 5.0 assists this season – which for most shooting guards is enough to rank top-ten for the position. If you include James Harden (who technically is a shooting guard but plays more of the point guard role on the Nets) and Fred VanVleet – Lavine ranks sixth for shooting guards in assists (based on Basketball-Reference). A nice 28.0-5.0-5.0 stat line this year passes the eye test for some voters (at least in my opinion).
Final Thoughts on Lavine so Far in 2021
As much as we would love to see Lavine’s name come up when they announce All-NBA, it is hard seeing him beating out some of the guys on the shortlist. Steph Curry, Dame Lillard, Luka Doncic, James Harden, and Donovan Mitchell (as long as the Utah Jazz finish with the NBA's best record) seem like no-brainers for All-NBA. That leaves one spot left for a guard.
Does Lavine deserve the final spot more than Trae Young, Bradley Beal, Kyrie Irving, or Ben Simmons – you can make an argument for and against all those guys the same way you can for Lavine.
I think it will come down to if anyone misses time over the final two months and whose team is in the best seed once the dust of the 2021 Regular Season settles.
For now, though, we should just enjoy Lavine making the leap this season – the highest-scoring season in Bulls history since MJ – and worry about the team and not Lavine’s individual success.