Zach LaVine has officially played his last game of the season for the Chicago Bulls, and he'll be one of the biggest unrestricted names on the market. If the San Antonio Spurs are smart, they'll at least test the waters with the talented 26-year-old.
Although injuries played a big part in why, it's safe to say the Chicago Bulls underperformed at the end of this season considering how hot they started out. After leading the Eastern Conference for much of the first half of the season, they won just seven of their final 22 games to limp into the playoffs as the 6th seed.
In his first year playing bonus basketball, he's now out of the playoffs in five games and had to sit under health and safety protocols in Milwaukee's series-clinching win. It's unclear whether or not the Bulls can do enough to prevent that again next season even if they stay healthy. Although he's previously stated he wants to remain with the Bulls, his $78 million contract is now a thing of the past, and now he has the option to sign with someone else if he changes his mind.
While courting LaVine to San Antonio is unlikely, he does have strong ties with Dejounte Murray as a Washington native who grew up near his fellow All-Star. He also has talked glowingly about playing for Team USA under Coach Gregg Popovich last summer. There are at least a couple of entry points to work with.
With that said, let's take a look at what it would take financially to get LaVine in a Spurs uniform.
The Max amount Zach LaVine can be paid
According to Project Spurs' Paul Garcia, the maximum amount LaVine could be paid next season is $36.6 million. That figure represents how much San Antonio would have to create if they decide to send a max offer to LaVine.
In laying out different cap space scenarios on his podcast, Spurscast, Garcia outlines how the Spurs could theoretically get to $37 million in available space by letting all free agents walk and only keeping their guaranteed players plus three draft picks. That is very unlikely, however, as it would involve letting go of Zach Collins, Tre Jones, and Lonnie Walker, among others.
Still, San Antonio could make other moves to free up that amount. "The way you get to that is either trading some players, opening up as much cap space as you can, or maybe trading some of those picks," said Garcia. "There's different avenues to offer a player like LaVine a max contract."
According to ESPN's Bobby Marks, here's the cap charge (subscription required) for each of the Spurs' upcoming NBA Draft picks as currently projected:
Own 1st round pick: $6.44 million
1st round pick from Toronto: $3.12 million
1st round pick from Boston: $2.98 million
The amount for the Spurs' own pick could change depending on where they fall in the NBA Draft Lottery, so that will be something to monitor. Beyond that, the Draft itself should reveal a lot about what San Antonio plans to do to improve this offseason.
If the Spurs start creating more cap space in the next few months, it could be a sign that they're looking to acquire a top-end talent like LaVine or set themselves up for a similarly big move in the near future. Keep your eyes peeled, Spurs fans.