Zach LaVine

Bulls 2023-24 season player profiles: Zach LaVine

Former All-Star guard determined to bounce back from subpar, injury-plagued season--wherever he is

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Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

Over the coming days, NBC Sports Chicago will publish player profiles on the main rotational players for the Chicago Bulls, both reviewing their 2023-24 season and assessing what’s ahead.

Next up: Zach LaVine

Previous profiles: DeMar DeRozan

2023-24 statistics

25 games, 34.9 minutes per game. 19.5 points per game, 3.9 assists per game, 5.2 rebounds per game. 45.2% FG, 34.9% 3PT on 6.8 attempts per game, 57.8% True Shooting.

Contract status

Zach LaVine has three years and roughly $139 million remaining on his five-year, maximum contract signed before the 2022-23 season.

Season review

After an impressive preseason in which LaVine scored seemingly effortlessly, a difficult campaign followed. LaVine struggled out of the gate, both in terms of his shooting and finishing, which previously had been elite. LaVine shot just 64 percent near the rim, well down from his 70 percent just two seasons prior. He played like a below-the-rim player at times, missing layups and not powering much through contact. His 4.1 free-throw attempts per game marked his lowest average since 2016-17.

Perhaps these struggles stemmed in part from the foot issues that ultimately ended his season. But those were unknown when LaVine’s season took a dramatic turn for off-the-court reasons in mid-Novemeber. Frustrated by losing and by the Bulls gauging his trade market at various times in the past, LaVine’s representation made clear to management that LaVine---for the first time---would be open to a change of address should the losing ways continue. To be clear, LaVine never specifically asked for a trade.

Nevertheless, LaVine, who has represented the organization well throughout his tenure, landed in the spotlight as he tried to fix his on-court woes. LaVine missed his first game specifically to his ailing right foot situation on Nov. 22. Shut down for the first time on Dec. 8 for a 14-game absence, LaVine returned and played well, only to sprain his right ankle after a 5-2 stretch.

LaVine never returned, opting for foot surgery in February after he sought a second opinion that revealed he essentially had been playing with a floating bone in his right foot---an aggravation of a youth injury.

A look ahead

Multiple outlets, including NBC Sports Chicago, have reported that management’s main offseason priority is trading LaVine. At first, a prevailing line of thinking emerged that LaVine, especially with so much money remaining on his deal, would have to show teams that he’s healthy in order to be traded. In other words, that his trade market might not develop until closer to the February 2025 trade deadline.

Multiple rival executives no longer believe this is the case. Playoffs, and playoff failures, can change rival franchises’ thinking. Would the Philadelphia 76ers be motivated to use their salary cap space to add another elite scorer in LaVine? Is Orlando willing to add a veteran scorer to its young promising mix? Does Donovan Mitchell’s uncertain future in Cleveland lead to, if not a direct match, some three-team possibilities? What about Golden State not making the playoffs?

These questions, plus the Bulls’ motivation to find a trade partner, will at least create activity this offseason. Whether the Bulls can find a trade partner won’t be for lack of trying.

The good news is LaVine is well ahead of the four- to six-month timeline the Bulls placed on his recovery from what LaVine called a “non-union Jones fracture.” Sources said his goal was to be doing on-court work at the three-month mark in order to have a relatively normal offseason. That’s because he isn’t letting a bone heal; the surgery removed a piece of bone that chipped off. He essentially is healing soft tissue around a tendon.

And then hoping to recover from his first down season in awhile. And if the Bulls can’t trade him?

“It’s not hard to fit back in, especially with the way I play the game and want to go out there and help,” he said in March.

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