LaVine looks like a keeper


Zach LaVine has shown that he can play in the NBA and, at times, at a very high level.

He had another breakout game last night against the Utah Jazz, and the question, “Will Ricky Rubio be traded during the offseason?” should definitely be being asked in Minnesota’s front office.

LaVine and Rubio are having the same problem, but Rubio is five years older.

The problem is consistency.

Rubio is hardly healthy, that’s half of his issue. The other half is, when he is healthy, he can’t shoot so Minnesota is stuck playing four-on-five on offense.

LaVine’s consistency issues stem from a lack of experience in the NBA.

While LaVine isn’t a “true” point guard like Rubio, he has played the position 92 percent of the time he has been on the floor, according to BasketballReference.com.

He commits too many turnovers, 76 courtesy of bad passes and 150 in all, but his athleticism and quickness make him a potential nightmare to guard in the near future. His strength isn’t there yet, either, but he is so explosive and has added muscle since he joined the Timberwolves.

He is shooting 42.1 percent from the field this season. That’s not bad either, considering he is shooting 33.3 percent from three. It’s too early to compare him to Russell Westbrook, but Westbrook is shooting just 42.7 percent from the field and 30 percent from three.

I view Westbrook as a volume scorer and I think LaVine will prove to be a more consistent shooter. The biggest thing that separates the two players is Westbrook is absolutely dynamic on defense, something that Lavine definitely isn’t right now and may never be.

Of LaVine’s 463 field goal attempts, only 139 have come at the rim. That’s 30 percent. Grant it, he is converting those attempts at a 60.4 percent clip, but in comparison, Westbrook has 403 attempts at the rim. Thirty-four percent of Westbrook’s shots come at the rim and he is converting 58.8 percent of those attempts.

When you figure out the math, if Westbrook had attempted LaVine’s total number of shots, Westbrook would have attempted 158 shots at the rim compared to LaVine’s 139. That’s potentially 38-57 more points. That’s a huge gap.

The stat shows that LaVine doesn’t settle for jumpers as much as some people think, but his poor jump shooting numbers probably deceive people. Where he really struggles is from 10-16 feet. He is shooting just eight-of-29 from that range and he also takes a lot of long two’s. He is 51-of-147 from 16 feet to the three-point line.

Unless the mid-range game is your game, no player should be shooting that many long two’s, especially someone with LaVine’s athletic ability.

Another big issue with LaVine is his inability to finish layups. He is just 52-of-109 on attempted layups. In general, most guards should be shooting around 55-60 percent on layups.

Besides some of the negatives I pointed out, LaVine has been one of the best rookies this season. Amongst rookies, LaVine is third in points (542), seventh in rebounds (150), second in assists (203) and fifth in minutes played (1,414).

He has five games of 20-plus points, including a career-high 28 points against the Los Angeles Lakers on Nov. 28. Lavine went 11-of-14 from the floor and dished out five assists in 25 minutes of action in a Wolves victory.

On Dec. 6, LaVine had his first double-double (22 points and 10 assists) against the San Antonio Spurs.

And last night, LaVine hit back-to-back three-pointers to send the game into overtime in Utah. He finished the game with 27 points and four assists.

At times, he has shown great ability to score the ball and pump up the home crowd with his high-flying, rim-attacking dunks.

He seems to only be getting better, too.

Don’t sell this kid short. I think the Flip Saunders and Minnesota got a keeper in LaVine.

I haven’t even mentioned the best thing about him, yet.

He is only 19.

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