Zach LaVine is the clear-cut star on the Chicago Bulls. He's the number one option, he made his first All-Star team in 2021, and he's seventh in the NBA in scoring. LaVine is putting up 28.3 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game, and 4.9 assists per game. Still, there are critics who say his stats are inflated. He's more often compared to a 2010 Monta Ellis as Stephen Curry just entered the NBA than to true number one scoring options. However, if you break it down, not only is LaVine playing like a true number one option, he's close to putting himself into a class that currently only Larry Bird, Kevin Durant, and Curry are in.
LaVine is Close to the 50-40-90 Club
Not only is LaVine averaging over 28 points per game, he's doing so with incredible efficiency. Check it out for yourself.
Points Per Game
Field Goal Percentage
Free Throw Percentage
LaVine shooting 43.8 percent from three while attempting eight per game is incredible. Combine that with the fact that defenses can focus almost entirely on LaVine because most of the other Bulls players will miss open lay-ups, and you have to give LaVine credit. You can poke holes in LaVine's game overall, sure. He's still averaging 3.8 turnovers per game, which is fifth-most in the NBA, but you can't knock his scoring.
The Bird, Durant, and Curry Club
Here's where things get interesting: the only players who have averaged 28 or more points per game while shooting 50-40-90? Larry Bird in 1987 and 1988, Kevin Durant in 2013, and Stephen Curry in 2016. If LaVine gets on a roll with his free throws and keeps up his shooting from the field and from deep, he would become just the fourth player to put up such numbers.
Remember the Monta Ellis comparison? When Ellis was putting up big numbers on a bad team, he got to 25.5 PPG on 44.9% shooting, a 33.8% clip from three, and 75.3% from the line. Oh, and he played 41.4 minutes per game. LaVine is averaging 35.4. Yes, 25.5 points per game is nothing to scoff at, but comparing Ellis to LaVine's season? That's not quite justified.
Just because I'm impressed with LaVine this season doesn't mean I'm delusional. There are two aspects that need to be addressed when claiming that LaVine is having a near-historic season. First, his free throw percentage needs to increase. LaVine is currently shooting 86.6% from the line. He's made 187 of his 216 attempts. For him to get to 90%? The quickest way would be to make 74 free throws in a row. In other words? It's going to be hard to reach 90% in the remaining 31 games of the NBA season. Not impossible, but close to it, especially for a career 82.5% free throw shooter.
The other aspect? Well, take a look at the other pretty important stat for Bird, Durant, and Curry.
*Through 41 games
Bird, Durant, and Curry led their teams to first-place finishes in their respective conferences during their historic seasons. LaVine's Bulls are currently in tenth place in the Eastern Conference. There is the fact that Bird, Durant, and Curry all had All-Stars supporting them. Bird had Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. Durant had Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. Curry had Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Yes, LaVine has Cristiano Felício, but the truth of the matter is Billy Donovan refuses to play the legend (I kid). The bottom line is LaVine does not have the same caliber of a supporting cast that past members of the 50-40-90 club enjoyed.
The Frustration of Almost
As previously alluded to, LaVine would need to go on a tear with his free throws to actually make the 50-40-90 club, but he's almost there. Just like the Bulls are almost a playoff team and they've almost won several games they ended up losing. Just like... we could go on and on with the almosts, but the truth of the matter is the Bulls are currently strictly an almost competitive team, and the only reason they're even close is Zach LaVine. Make sure to appreciate him.