Zach LaVine in health and safety protocols, dousing Bulls’ playoff hopes

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The Chicago Bulls have already been in a tailspin and the loss of Zach LaVine could push their postseason hopes to the brink.

The deadline trade for Nikola Vucevic was supposed to push the Chicago Bulls into the playoffs but things haven’t worked out as expected. Vucevic has been incredibly productive but the team has yet to find a collective rhythm and the defense has been struggling mightily. The Bulls have dropped eight of the 11 games they’ve played since the trade and now things have gotten worse.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that leading scorer Zach LaVine has entered the league’s health and safety protocols and is expected to miss the next few games. It’s not clear if this is because LaVine has tested positive for COVID-19 or if he was a close contact for someone else who tested positive and will need to quarantine until it’s confirmed that he’s negative. In either case, it’s a big blow for the Bulls.

The Bulls could struggle mightily without Zach LaVine

Even before the LaVine news was announced, 538’s NBA prediction model had the Bulls with just a six percent chance of making the playoffs. They have just 18 games remaining, 13 of which are against teams who are currently ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings.

LaVine has been their offensive centerpiece all season long, averaging 27.5 points per game with a 31.0 usage rate and a 63.3 true shooting percentage. The Bulls have been outscored by an average of 2.6 points per 100 possessions without LaVine on the floor this season. In theory, the offensive skills of Vucevic should help soften the blow but, again, it hasn’t worked that so far. If the Bulls want to secure a postseason berth every game is essential right now and playing without their All-Star guard just raises the level of difficulty. Here’s hoping LaVine is back on the floor healthy as soon as possible, but it may be too late for the Bulls.

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