On ESPN program The Jump, ESPN NBA reporter Chris Haynes selected Zach LaVine as his player most likely to become a first time All-Star in the 2018-19 season. Haynes didn’t get to elaborate much, but his main reason was that LaVine would have “ample opportunities to succeed.” His point, while somewhat dismissed on the show, was an something that does give LaVine a leg up on the competition in terms of being a first time All-Star.
Among the other young players mentioned in the segment, LaVine leads in one very key indicator: usage percentage.
Ben Simmons, Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell are all players with immense amounts of star potential, who already had incredibly strong rookie seasons, including Simmons winning Rookie of the Year with the 76ers. But even with all their talent, only Mitchell was anywhere near LaVine’s rate of team plays/possessions used while on the floor.
Usage Percentages in 2017-18:
LaVine- 29.5 percent
Mitchell- 29.1 percent
Tatum- 19.5 percent
Simmons- 22.3 percent
The amount of trust the Bulls have in LaVine to be the lead dog was very apparent throughout the 24 games the high-flying guard played in. But despite having such a large share of the offense in his hands, he finished with the second-worst offensive rating of his career, mostly because of poor shooting percentages likely related to the fact he was coming off of a major injury.
LaVine did not attempt 3-pointers at the rate he did last season, but he succeeded in getting to the free throw line at a 30.1 percent rate, easily the highest of his career. And per 36 minutes he put 22 points, more per 36 minutes than Simmons and Tatum, and the pretty much the same as Mitchell (22.1 points per 36), who was the ROY runner up.
Even with scorer Jabari Parker added to the roster, a healthy LaVine should be able to easily eclipse his point total from last season. And with the Eastern Conference having an obvious talent drop-off with LeBron James’ departure, the All-Star spots will be wide open.
Goran Dragic made the team last year averaging 17.3 points and 4.8 assists per game, modest numbers, but more a reflection of the Miami Heat being a winning team last year. But if LaVine puts up eye-popping numbers, he could snag a spot even if the Bulls are losing at the rate they did last season. Kemba Walker is a great example of this, putting up 22.9 points per game for a Hornets team that finished as a 10-seed in the East, but it was still enough to sang Walker an All-Star spot. Injuries factored into this, but ‘17-18’ All-Stars like Kyle Lowry and Al Horford are reaching the twilight of their careers, and this is yet another factor that will provide the opportunity for a young player to make his first All-Star appearance in the East.
Ultimately, Haynes stating LaVine as a player likely to make his first All-Star team was probably more about wanting to keep things fresh, rather than regurgitating the same players as every other basketball pundit. But with LaVine inked to a long-term deal, this upcoming season has the potential to be a huge breakout year, which is truly impressive considering we are discussing a 23-year old player who has previously averaged 18.9 points per game with a 57.6 true shooting percentage. If he can get his true shooting over 50 percent while maintaining his high usage rate, then LaVine should have a legitimate chance 2019 NBA All-Star, defensive issues aside.