Bulls guard Zach LaVine

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Bernstein: Two Moments Show How LaVine Can Grow

A rapidly developing scorer, Zach LaVine can polish his game in several ways.

Dan Bernstein
November 27, 2018 - 2:22 pm

(670 The Score) Bulls guard Zach LaVine is an elite athlete and a rapidly developing offensive force, but two moments in his team's 108-107 loss to the Spurs on Monday night illustrate how he can still grow into a top-level scorer and finisher.

First was his last-possession decision to wave away a high ball screen from Wendell Carter Jr., only to end up taking a contested step-back 3-pointer that he missed. The point of eschewing the pick is to demonstrate that you can take your own defender off the dribble and don't need the added obstacle of the screener's defender for any help getting to the basket. Down one, LaVine's best bet was to attack the rim and at the very least draw a foul. One hopes it's a mistake he won't make twice.

More subtle was what happened at the 1:20 mark, with the Bulls trailing 108-104. LaVine successfully faked Spurs big man Davis Bertans into the air and then slithered under him -- avoiding any contact whatsoever -- to get the chance to miss the ensuing off-balance shot badly off the back of the rim. There are three other things he could have done, with each evincing a more artful and aware opportunity to get points as efficiently as possible.

First is the collegiate move, which is to just attempt the shot and let Bertans land on him. This stops the clock and gets him to the line. Take what's given.

Better still is to absorb contact while still throwing something up with enough of a chance to go in. Leave no doubt as to the existence of a shooting foul and still have a good enough shot at the and-one.

The ideal is to plan even more specifically: pick a spot of the body of the helpless, airborne Bertans and attack through it for the whistle and obvious continuation for a higher-percentage shot attempt. That's the maximization of the opportunity, earning two free throws at worst and the and-one at best. You know this move from the myriad angry and disappointed expressions seen and heard from the likes of James Harden, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan when the shot they set up didn't fall. The successful fake for any of them is the win already, with only the total value left to be determined.

That's what LaVine can aim for as he grows, and he has all the physical ability to do it consistently. He'll have plenty of chances at his current rate of usage, refining himself from mere live wire into something closer to a polished, first-tier scorer.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.​​