Boylen, Bulls Stump For LaVine To Be An All-Star

"It would mean a lot," Zach LaVine says of a potential All-Star bid.

Cody Westerlund
January 15, 2020 - 11:30 pm
Bulls guard Zach LaVine dunks against the Wizards.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- Ahead of the Bulls’ 115-106 win against the Wizards at the United Center on Wednesday evening, Washington coach Scott Brooks engaged in a mid-January ritual across the NBA.

He fielded questions debating the merits of All-Star candidates.

As you’d expect, Brooks was firm in his belief that Wizards guard Bradley Beal deserves to be selected even as their team struggles.

“If you’re one of the 12 best players in the conference, you should be voted in as one of the All-Stars,” Brooks said in describing why team wins shouldn’t be a deciding factor.

Just down the hall were the likewise struggling Bulls (15-27), who also sport a dynamic shooting guard who has been tasked with carrying a heavy burden on an underachieving team. Zach LaVine entered the day averaging a career-best 24.5 points, which ranked 14th in the NBA and fifth in the Eastern Conference.

LaVine then stated his case with his play in leading the Bulls to victory, scoring 30 points on 12-of-21 shooting while adding seven rebounds and seven assists. It was LaVine’s fifth straight 25-point game, the first time he has achieved such a streak in his six-year NBA career.

Afterward, Bulls coach Jim Boylen stated LaVine’s case with his words.

“He should be in the game,” Boylen said. “He’s an All-Star-caliber player. He’s an All-Star-caliber person. He’s worked very hard. It’s an unbelievable story too – wins the dunk contest twice, tears the ACL (in 2017), comes back, becoming a two-way player. He’s leading more. He’s communicating more. He’s developing.

“And then you look at his crunch-time numbers and the big shots that he makes in winning time, I think it’s all right there for him. He’s done a great job.”

Seeking his first All-Star honor, LaVine owns a case with an uncertain fate. The counting stats are in his favor, but he doesn’t affect a game at the defensive end like many of the other All-Star candidates do. LaVine is also No. 25 in the Eastern Conference in Player Efficiency Rating, per ESPN, reflective of how the advanced numbers often don't reflect kindly on him.

Helping his case is that the game will be in Chicago on Feb. 16. In such an exhibition, basketball politics and hometown fan sentiment do play a factor. Beyond that, LaVine is shooting a strong 40.0% from 3-point range. He carries a great deal of responsibility for Chicago, with a 30.6 usage rate that ranks 12th in the NBA.

LaVine’s has two plausible paths to being named an All-Star, given that he trails a distant fifth in the Eastern Conference guard voting in the latest ballot returns. He could be selected as a reserve by the coaches or – in a last-ditch scenario – NBA commissioner Adam Silver could name him as an injury replacement should someone else in the East be sidelined.

Earning the honor on merit rather than health is obviously LaVine’s goal.

“It would mean a lot,” LaVine said. “It’s one of my goals.”

As LaVine eyes one of the 12 All-Star spots in the East, a host of others will be in consideration. The Hawks’ Trae Young and the Nets’ Kyrie Irving currently lead the fan voting among East guards. If that holds, the Celtics’ Kemba Walker is a lock as well. (Fan voting accounts for 50% in naming the starters, while player and media voting account for 25% apiece.)

In the frontcourt, the 76ers’ Joel Embiid, the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Raptors’ Pascal Siakam and the Heat’s Jimmy Butler are locks. The Heat’s Bam Adebayo and the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum also have strong cases, and the Bucks' Khris Middleton and the Pacers'  Domantas Sabonis are in the mix as well.

LaVine figures to be competing for one of the final two spots on the roster. The Raptors’ Kyle Lowry, the Raptors’ Fred VanVleet, the Pacers’ Malcolm Brogdon, the Celtics’ Jaylen Brown, the Pistons’ Derrick Rose, the Nets' Spencer Dinwiddie and Beal are among the guards that he’ll compete with.

The competition could extend beyond that, as the final spots are wild-card slots with no consideration for position. That could bring other frontcourt players into the equation for LaVine as well.

For their part, LaVine’s teammates believe he’s deserving.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Bulls guard Tomas Satoransky said of LaVine’s consistency. “We don’t talk about it that much because we’ve been losing a lot and some frustration was there, not being able to beat better teams. But he’s very consistent with his numbers. His percentage is great, especially from three. He’s been playing the right way, so I know he will keep it going.”

As for LaVine? He’s playing it cool.

“It would be great for the city, having one of their own guys there,” LaVine said. “I don’t feel like I need verification of it. I think I know where I am as a player and how I’ve been playing. Even last year, compared to other people, I know how good I am. But I think it’s always good to have that solidified. Especially when it’s in your home building, I think it’d be good for the city.”

Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.