Bulls' Billy Donovan wants Zach LaVine in more catch-and-shoot situations originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
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For the last four seasons, Zach LaVine has averaged at least 7.1 3-pointers per game, notching a career-high 8.2 attempts per game in 2021-22.
Last season, coach Billy Donovan casually dropped that he wanted LaVine to average 10 attempts per game. Given that only four players in the league surpassed this number, the ask reflected the dearth of offensive options for the league’s lowest-volume 3-point shooting team.
In adding Javon Carter and Torrey Craig, the Bulls and Donovan possess more long-range options this season. But while Donovan isn’t placing a number on LaVine’s 3-point attempts, he does still have a desire for the gifted, three-level scorer.
“We have to put Zach in more catch-and-shoot opportunities,” Donovan said recently.
This is music to LaVine’s ears.
While LaVine has carved out a reputation as a difficult shotmaker, bail-out mode isn’t his preferred method of scoring. Particularly as he enters Year 10.
“With really good teams, especially in late games, it’s how can you get easy shots? You’re going to get your touches down the stretch. And as effective as I’ve been over the past four or five years, I’ve taken a lot of difficult shots. I just make them. And that’s part of who I am. But you don’t want to live that way the whole game,” LaVine said Monday. “So if I can get catch-and-shoots throughout the game or easy shots---backcut layups, whatever it might be---I’ll be more happy than anybody. And I still can play my game and get to the rim when I need to. I’ll take as many catch-and-shoots as I can.”
Indeed, LaVine is striving to strike a balance between perimeter and at-the-rim scoring. Though he only appeared in three of the five preseason games, he looked springy and explosive in those appearances. He shot 13-for-17 at the rim and an uncharacteristic 31 percent from 3-point range in the games that didn’t count.
LaVine is a career 38.4 percent 3-point shooter in the games that do count, all 555 of them. After sinking 204 last season, LaVine needs 115 3-pointers to surpass Kirk Hinrich as the franchise leader.
But winning, not personal achievements, is dominating LaVine’s mindset as the Bulls prepare for Wednesday’s regular-season opener versus the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“When you play on a bunch of bad teams, you learn obviously what not to do. We’ve also seen where I’ve been in my career where I’ve won a lot of games. We really good two years ago,” LaVine said. “We’ve been a very competitive team the last (couple) years. It just takes a complete winning mindset.”
And a commitment to getting LaVine in more catch-and-shoot situations. It’s all part of the Bulls’ commitment to try to diversify their offense, attack the paint more and spray out to shooters rather than rely so much on isolation or bail-out mode scoring.
“Any time you put something new in, it’s going to take time to figure it out. And I think we did a good job through the preseason good and bad of trying to work on it,” LaVine said. “We’re getting up more shots. We’re trying to play faster and still allow guys like me and DeMar to get to our spots and play to our advantages within the team concept.”