San Antonio Spurs Free Agency

Zach LaVine vs. Deandre Ayton: Is either worth a max contract from Spurs?

Phoenix Suns v Chicago Bulls
Phoenix Suns v Chicago Bulls / Stacy Revere/GettyImages
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Mikal Bridges, Deandre Ayton, Dejounte Murray
San Antonio Spurs v Phoenix Suns / Chris Coduto/GettyImages

Why Deandre Ayton Should Be the Spurs' Top FA Target

Getting Ayton to San Antonio will be more difficult than it would be to sign LaVine. Because Ayton's a restricted free agent, the Suns still have the option to match any offer he might get this summer.

Frankly, it's surprising that Ayton is even available this summer. First-round picks who meet or exceed expectations are typically extended by the teams that drafted them. For first overall picks, it's a near certainty that they'll be re-signed. Yet here we are, weeks away from free agency, and Ayton and his camp are making it abundantly clear that they're looking elsewhere.

Going hard after Ayton has to be the Spurs No. 1 priority this summer. He fits everything that they're looking for right now.

In his four seasons in the NBA, Ayton has firmly established himself as one of the best big men in the league. He's not in the Joel Embiid/Nikola Jokic tier yet, but there's reason to believe he might reach that level some day.

Ayton can score from anywhere on the floor with ease. He was one of the best pick and roll men in the league, ranking fourth in the league in pick and roll instances per game while also scoring 1.25 points per possession on those attempts, which is the highest figure of any player with four or more pick and roll possessions per game. And if the paint is blocked off, Ayton will just kill you from the midrange.

There might be some drop-off in pick and roll production after Ayton switches dance partners from Chris Paul to Dejounte Murray, but over time the Ayton-Murray combo is a star duo that the Spurs can make their north star. With those two forming the heart of the team, the Spurs would have a firm identity to align their numerous wings around.

There would be some hurdles to get over if the Spurs were to sign Ayton. For example, what does this mean for Jakob Poeltl? But those are all things that San Antonio can figure out after the fact. The simple truth is that this is the best chance the Spurs have had since 1997 to get a No. 1 overall pick, and they should do everything they can to lure Ayton away from Phoenix.

Either one of these star free agents would be a phenomenal addition to the Spurs core, but when San Antonio has to choose which one to go after it has to be Ayton. He's younger, fits a bigger area of need for San Antonio, and has more potential the Spurs can tap into than LaVine. He's the kind of player that San Antonio rarely gets a shot at, so when their opportunity comes they absolutely have to take it.

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