The Chicago Bulls now have a formidable young core to build around highlighted by Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter Jr. and Zach LaVine.
All three are capable of eclipsing a 20-point scoring average, but LaVine in particular has been scorching of late. He has averaged 26.4 points per game since February 1, which ranks Top 10 in the NBA.
His strong play has been instrumental in the recent success for the Bulls, who defeated the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday behind a 39-point outing from LaVine.
Take one look at LaVine’s shooting heat map for the season and it becomes clear that he has a certain area where he absolutely dominates.The following chart shows where his shot attempts have come from so far:
This season, the 23-year-old has finished nearly half of his field goal attempts at the rim, which is his career-high, according to Cleaning the Glass.
LaVine has connected on 4.9 field goals per game from the restricted area. That’s second-most in the league, trailing only Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons.
According to Synergy Sports, excluding post-ups, LaVine has scored 469 points on attempts near the basket. His 7.9 points per game in this zone ranks ahead of James Harden (7.2), Jrue Holiday (7.1) and Bradley Beal (6.5) for most among all guards.
The uber-athlete has found a signature move that has elevated his game to the next level. As the primary ball-handler in a pick-and-roll, LaVine has scored 193 points when he dribbling off the pick and taking it to the basket on single-coverage actions. LaVine has averaged an NBA-best 3.3 points per game on these opportunities.
While in a smaller sample size, he has also been remarkably effective on cutters so far this season. He is producing 1.31 points per possession when cutting to the basket, which ranks in the 81st percentile this season via Synergy.
Another way he attacks defenses is by baiting his defender into thinking he’s taking a spot-up shooting attempt and then ultimately driving to the lane. He hesitates just long enough to draw the defender close to him and then blows by his man.
LaVine currently ranks Top 10 among all guards with 46 total points scored on this play type, per Synergy Sports. The move, which often starts as a fake from the perimeter, works especially well because his three-point shot is now above league average (he’s making 1.9 threes per game on 36.8 percent from deep). Defenses have to respect his shot, which makes this deceptive move so effective.
Unsurprisingly, LaVine’s increased attempts near the rim have led to more trips to the free-throw line as well. He has been fouled on a career-high 13.2 percent of his total field goal attempts, which ranks in the 91st percentile among players at his position, according to Cleaning the Glass.
Harden (129) is the only player who has been fouled more times on drives than the Chicago guard has been (89) so far this season, via NBA.com.
Overall, LaVine has scored 555 points on drives this season, which ranks as the most in the Eastern Conference – even ahead of Kemba Walker (who has appeared in six more games). Harden remains the only player who has scored more points when driving to the basket from the left side, per Synergy.
LaVine can continue to provide extraordinary value for Chicago as a scorer, especially if he continues to connect at such a prolific rate near the rim.