LaVine enters the 2022-23 NBA season as an unrestricted free agent.
Expect many teams to swoop in on him, a 6-foot-5 swingman who can score from just about anywhere on the court.
Could the Pacers be one of them?
Let’s weigh the pros and cons of LaVine in a Pacers uniform.
Pro: Zach LaVine Is A Scoring Machine
All he has done is produce four consecutive seasons of scoring at least 23.7 points per game with the Chicago Bulls.
Consequently, LaVine earned two All-Star berths during that stretch.
He adds instant offense to a Pacers squad that ranked 14th in the NBA in 2021-22.
A Zach LaVine-Tyrese Haliburton backcourt tandem will produce plenty of highlight reels next season.
Haliburton lobbing passes to LaVine on the break for ferocious alley-oop dunks is going to be a sight to behold.
Teams need to be $30m+ below the salary cap to just sign Zach Lavine. The only teams that can realistically do that if they trade and dump contracts are the Spurs/Pistons/Pacers/Blazers/Magic.
Rest of the teams have no realistic chance to get Zach outside of a S&T with Bulls.
— Chicago Bulls Talk (@BullsSource) April 29, 2022
Signing LaVine, who earned $19.5 million with the Bulls in 2021-22, won’t come cheap for the Pacers.
Indiana currently has $23.1 million in salary cap space.
The Pacers can free up more cap room if they decide to trade injury-prone point guard Malcolm Brogdon ($22.6 million in 2022-23), defensive stopper Myles Turner ($18 million in 2022-23), or three-point gunner Buddy Hield ($21.18 million in 2022-23).
Alternatively, they can also look into a sign-and-trade with the Bulls should LaVine decide to leave The Windy City.
With LaVine around, expect Duarte to come off the bench and become a solid sixth man for Indiana.
Con: He Has Been Injury-Prone Throughout His 8-Year NBA Career
The only time LaVine completed an 82-game NBA season was his second pro campaign with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2015-16.
His knees haven’t been the same since he tore his ACL in February 2017.
Ever since he first donned a Bulls uniform in 2017-18, he has averaged just 54 appearances per season.
He sat out 15 games for Chicago in 2021-22 due to knee issues.
Having LaVine and Brodgon on the same roster doesn’t bode well for the Pacers’ long-term aspirations.
For his part, Brodgon has never completed an entire 82-game season since he turned pro in 2016.
I asked Zach LaVine, who was traded from Minnesota to Chicago early in his career, what he thinks of Tyrese Haliburton’s opportunity with the #Pacers:
— James Boyd (@RomeovilleKid) February 20, 2022
If the Pacers roll the dice on LaVine, it’s best if they trade Brogdon to free up cap space and focus the point guard spotlight on Haliburton, who’s one of the team’s cornerstones.
Verdict: The Pacers Should Pursue Him
LaVine may have an extensive injury history, but he is an otherworldly talent who should help the Pacers reach the next level.
Acquiring him remains a bit of a long shot considering he is just coming off his first playoff appearance with the Bulls.
Signing with the Pacers means he becomes one of the key veterans of a rebuilding squad.
The 27-year-old LaVine will enter his ninth NBA season in 2022-23 – it’s about time he builds on his playoff resume.
Realistically, it will take a few years before the Pacers reclaim playoff contender status.
If there’s one solid building block they should build around, it’s LaVine.