LaVine Sets Playoff Standard For Bulls Next Season

"We have enough of a talent level," Zach LaVine says.

Cody Westerlund
April 06, 2019 - 8:46 pm
Bulls guard Zach LaVine

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- Zach LaVine didn't hesitate with his answer. He was direct and to the point.

If the Bulls are healthy next season, are they a playoff team?

"Yeah, automatically," LaVine said. "There’s no reason you shouldn’t think that. I think we have enough of a talent level. There’s a lot of things we have to do better, but just talent-wise on paper, I don’t see a lot of teams better than us in the East. I think we should be a playoff team."

LaVine's proclamation came before he missed his eighth straight game Saturday, when Chicago hosted Philadelphia, due to a right thigh contusion and right patellar tendonitis. While the Bulls have yet to officially shut down LaVine for the final two games, he all but confirmed it with his words.

So all LaVine could do prior to the game was talk of what's to come, and he remains bullish on the team's future despite Chicago entering play Saturday at 22-57 and having clinched the fourth-worst record in the NBA. The Bulls' second rebuilding season was rockier than they imagined it would be.

It started with franchise cornerstone Lauri Markkanen spraining his elbow in training camp and missing the first 23 games. Coach Fred Hoiberg was fired in early December, and the organization drew national notoriety when the players discussed boycotting a practice called by the newly promoted Jim Boylen after a back-to-back set of games.

Kris Dunn struggled to such an extent that the organization no longer views him as a core piece. Rookies Wendell Carter Jr. (thumb) and Chandler Hutchison (toe) suffered significant injuries in the latter half of January and never returned. LaVine and midseason acquisition Otto Porter Jr. were shut down early due to nagging injuries. 

LaVine, Markkanen and Porter played13 games together, posting a plus-2.7 net rating in their shared time. Those three never took the floor together with Carter, as Porter was acquired after Carter was sidelined.

Through it all, LaVine sees hope.

"I haven’t experienced it," LaVine said of the playoffs. "I’m looking forward to it. It’s definitely something that you want to start doing, especially when you get later in your career and you start maturing as a player. So I think we’re on the right path for that. I think we’ll be there."

And why is that?

"Because stuff has to eventually turn," LaVine said. "You can’t as a player continue to be on the lower end of the totem poll. I think it has to switch the mindset for you personally and for the team. I think next year we have to start off really early and have that be our main goal. It doesn’t matter about individual things. You have to put that first."

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