Zach LaVine can get buckets just like Jimmy Butler
Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Jimmy Butler wasn't the only one who had Feb. 9 circled on his calendar.

The Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star wanted to put on a show in his first meeting with the Chicago Bulls since they traded him last summer, but Zach LaVine stole his thunder.

LaVine, 22, was part of the package the Timberwolves sent back to Chicago in the draft-day blockbuster, along with Kris Dunn and a draft pick that materialized into Lauri Markkanen.

Many initially scoffed at the return Chicago received for its bonafide two-way star, but LaVine is helping change that perception. A month into his Bulls tenure, the fourth-year shooting guard is starting to find his rhythm and could be just what the doctor ordered to inject some life into the 29th-ranked offense.

There were concerns the high-flying two-time dunk champ would lose some of his awe-inspiring athleticism and explosiveness after suffering a torn ACL last February that delayed his debut with his new club. However, that hasn't been an issue lately, and wasn't in Friday's contest either.

LaVine is so much more than just a dunker, though. He has the makings of a versatile and elite scorer. He's gotten much better at creating shots for himself thanks in large part to his improved handles and body control.

He's steadily becoming a more reliable shooter, too, with his accuracy increasing every year. Even though he's been rusty following the long layoff, LaVine is shooting a career-high 39.3 percent from long range.

Just as Butler has proven he possesses the clutch gene, his successor is beginning to show flashes of it. In his first opportunity as a team's No. 1 option, LaVine welcomed the challenge of putting the Bulls on his back in crunch time. He went toe to toe with their former franchise player down the stretch, and ultimately got the best of him.

The charismatic combo guard scored the final 11 points for Chicago, including the game-winning free throws he earned by baiting Butler into a foul beyond the arc. LaVine scored 15 of his 35 points in the final frame to lead the rebuilding Bulls to a 114-113 upset victory over the fourth-seeded visitors.

MIN FG 3PT FT REB AST STL TOV +/- PTS
LaVine 33 12-26 1-6 10-11 5 1 2 1 +7 35
Butler 41 11-26 3-9 13-15 7 5 4 1 +6 38

LaVine's averaging an impressive line of 26.5 points on 46.7 percent shooting and 45.8 percent from deep to go along with 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.5 steals over the past four games.

It's obviously a small sample size, but he's emerging as one of the few bright spots in a trying season for the Bulls. If he can build on that production - and ideally also make strides defensively - he has a chance to become the best thing that's happened to the franchise since Jimmy G. Buckets.

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Zach LaVine can get buckets just like Jimmy Butler
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