Zach LaVine quietly put up terrific numbers last year, but most people didn't give him enough recognition. Here's why LaVine is this year's dark horse for MVP.
Zach LaVine joined an exclusive club
Last year, LaVine averaged 27.4 points on 50.7 shooting on the field, 41.9% in the 3-point area, and 63.4% true shooting percentage. Those are impressive numbers, and he joined an exclusive club with players who managed to average 27 points per game, 50% field goal percentage, 40% on the rainbow country, and 60 percent true shooting percentage for a season, according to StatMuse. The other players who managed to do it? Larry Bird, Kevin Durant, and Stephen Curry - all former MVP in the league.
LaVine is a more complete player now. He built his career as a show-stopping dunker, an artist who paints the canvass in every hang time. However, he added improved 3-point shooting skills and handles to his arsenal. Now, Zach keeps the defense honest because he can shoot from the three and attack the rim if the defender gets too close.
Why was LaVine underrated last yaer?
LaVine plays for the Chicago Bulls, a team struggling to break into the playoff picture in recent years. That could change this season, as the Bulls signed several pieces that could help them become relevant once again. The lineup boasts Nik Vucevic, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, DeMar DeRozan, and Coby White. They now have an exciting mix of youth, shooting, veteran experience, and athletic wing attackers. If LaVine puts up the same numbers again this year and with an improved win-loss record of his team, the former All-Star Dunk contest winner could finally receive the attention and hype his game deserves.
If he becomes the league MVP, he would follow Michael Jordan and Derrick Rose, who won the MVP playing in Windy City. Chicago needs Zach to lead the team, but LaVine needs his teammates to help him. With Vuc and DeRozan, there's someone to take some pressure off LaVine and carry the load when he's on the bench.
The 8-time veteran needs to be the vocal leader in the local room. Winning the MVP means sacrificing for the good of the team. As LaVine has learned, it's not enough to shine individually; what matters is helping the team win. He needs to find that extra gear to push his game to another level. Good players can get into that gear to become great players.
I'm calling it - Zach LaVine will be in the MVP discussion at the end of the regular season.