Bulls guard Zach LaVine has been on a scoring tear since the Patrick Beverley arrival in February. Coincidence? Not really.
LOS ANGELES – There was a time early on in his Timberwolves days when Zach LaVine was considered a point guard, free to play-make with the ball in his hands.
Frankly, a position he quickly outgrew, emerging as an elite scorer first and foremost.
That’s why there were so many games in the first half of this 2022-23 campaign that became very clunky, especially in the fourth quarter.
Without Lonzo Ball [left knee] available, and Ayo Dosunmu not used most nights in closing situations, coach Billy Donovan went with a point guard-by-committee approach with LaVine and DeMar DeRozan. The results weren’t very good, evident by all the late-game losses.
Yet another reason why the addition of Patrick Beverley has been so important for this roster.
Not only is Beverley a disruptor on defense, but runs the point late in games, knowing how to get his teammates into the right sets, as well as getting the ball into the right hands.
The numbers don’t lie.
In the 55 games without Beverley, LaVine was averaging 24 points per game, while shooting 46.5% from the field and 36.9% from three-point range. He also had 2.6 turnovers per game in that span. Was LaVine dealing with a different entry into this season because of the knee surgery he had? Absolutely, so time to heal has helped.
But his numbers with Beverley entering the Clippers game on Monday? Ridiculous.
In 15 games, LaVine was averaging 29.3 points per game, shooting 54.9% from the field and 45.5% from three, with the turnovers down to 2.4 per game.
LaVine has also been better late in games from an efficiency standpoint, no longer having to carry the weight of also bringing the ball up and getting the Bulls into the right offensive set.
“Give credit to Pat for coming here and giving us a jump of life, vocal leader, energy, and give us credit for understanding the situation and going out there and playing desperate,’’ LaVine said of the Beverley addition, as well as his own offensive explosion. “I feel like I’m supposed to be doing this. You put the work in, trust the work, understand what you put into the game, and the game rewards you. It helps us get wins. Keeps us on the attack.’’
What Beverley has also done is take some of the leadership responsibility off LaVine. It’s not a knock on the two-time All-Star, but his leadership volume is usually set at five.
“It’s at 10 all the time with [Beverley], and it’s not negativity,’’ Donovan said. “It’s 10 in terms of, ‘Let’s go!’ and I think it galvanizes our team.’’
It’s definitely helped out LaVine, who had some play-making responsibility taken off his plate, allowing him to do what he does best.
“His shot attempts are always going to go up when he’s aggressive,’’ Donovan said of LaVine’s recent hot streak. “If he can start out of the gate just being aggressive or getting downhill and making those quick decisions for shots, what ends up happening is it gets him more shot attempts and it opens up everything for everybody else.’’
Beverley likes the idea of one former Chicago kid helping out another, but that’s not the only reason he has grabbed Ayo Dosunmu and placed him firmly underneath his wing.
“Get him confidence, man,’’ Beverley said of their relationship. “It’s a long season, it wears on you. With the change in the roles, for young guys, older guys, my position is it’s not competition. ‘You’re the future point guard. My job is to help you get there faster.’ ‘’
That’s why Beverley can be found after every practice and shootaround running Dosunmu through a series of extra drills and work.