Would the Spurs pursuing Zach LaVine in free agency be a mistake?

Gregg Popovich, Zach LaVine
Gregg Popovich, Zach LaVine / Ronald Cortes/GettyImages
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Zach LaVine / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

How would LaVine fit on the Spurs?

LaVine’s shooting ability would allow him to effectively play off-ball while Murray creates, but he is also more than capable of generating offense for himself. LaVine is terrific in transition and often creates fastbreak opportunities by running out ahead of teammates at the end of defensive possessions and finishing off half-court passes with dazzling dunks. Moreover, San Antonio was the 9th best fast-break team in the NBA, so he could help them supercharge their transition attack.

He’s also good at attacking in the halfcourt and is skilled at using ball screens to get into the paint to knock down pull-up jumpers or drive and finish at the basket. He can even beat his defenders one on one by using hesitation dribbles to put them off balance before accelerating by them. 

Plays like that were the reason he averaged an impressive 5.6 shot attempts within five feet of the rim and shot a blistering 66.8%. In contrast, Murray averaged 5.2 shots at the rim and hit 59.6% of them, meaning that LaVine is far more effective, but they could combine to form a dynamic slashing duo.

It seems clear that LaVine would be a floor-raising player on the Spurs, likely helping them become a playoff team once again but not necessarily compete for a championship. That's not a bad thing, and San Antonio can sign him outright without having to give up any of their picks or their best young players. 

San Antonio would have to let Lonnie Walker walk and waive Zach Collins, but they could still use all three of their first-round picks, keep Tre Jones, Keita Bates-Diop, and Jock Landale, and still be able to sign LaVine to a max contract.

That's important because teams usually have to gut their roster to sign an All-Star in free agency, but San Antonio could add him with limited changes to their team. Better still, the Spurs would have a strong, well-rounded rotation consisting of Murray, LaVine, Vassell, Johnson, Jakob Poeltl, Jones, Joshua Primo, Josh Richardson, Doug McDermott, and Landale.

That rotation could make for an explosive offense, particularly with several above-average shooters surrounding Murray and LaVine, while still having enough two-way players to build a good defense. All of that sounds good, and that hypothetical team could win at least ten more games next season, but signing LaVine may ultimately derail the rebuild rather than speed it up.

After all, had the Spurs brought DeRozan back, Murray might’ve not become an All-Star and Keldon Johnson might've not made the jump that he did, particularly in the second half of this season. With LaVine, they’d be adding another high usage player that could limit the growth of Johnson, Vassell, Primo, and whomever they select in the 2022 NBA draft.

Would LaVine's likely high cost be worth it in the end? Let's look further.