The Chicago Bulls could face unlikely competition for star guard Zach LaVine this offseason in the San Antonio Spurs writes Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz. LaVine has already acknowledged he will be “open-eyed” entering unrestricted free agency for the first time.
This was a running joke just days ago when a since-deleted tweet from fellow Washington native Dejounte Murray depicted LaVine in a Spurs jersey.
Perhaps the tweet was deleted so as not to get the organization in trouble for tampering.
Unfortunately for Bulls fans hoping that would be the last they heard of that, the connections to San Antonio don’t stop there. That has Swartz thinking LaVine could spurn the Bulls and other suitors for small-market San Antonio and Gregg Popovich.
Coach Pop can Make a Strong Pitch
If only it was as simple as Murray. Popovich’s connection might be even stronger in basketball terms. Not only has he won five championships, but his system has also influenced the styles of numerous head coaches including Golden State Warrior coach and former Bulls guard, Steve Kerr.
He also helped LaVine reach another level last summer.
LaVine’s already experienced success under head coach Gregg Popovich, helping the U.S. men’s national team to Olympic gold last summer while also playing next to Keldon Johnson.
A gold medal and another connection to a Spurs player. LaVine’s ability to do the little things and lock in on defense drew praise after the Olympics and during the Bulls’ first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks.
He missed Game 5 with a knee injury that will require surgery.
LaVine’s Non-Commitment Left Room for Doubt
Swartz starts from what has become a familiar point for Bulls fans with LaVine’s comments during his exit interview. He did not say definitively that he was coming back to the Bulls and was even reflective on his time in Chicago.
Those remarks have led some to formulate doomsday scenarios and led Swartz to make the case for San Antonio as a “sneaky landing spot”.
Already with an All-Star at point guard in Dejounte Murray and a ton of other young talent on the roster, adding LaVine to a team that reached the play-in tournament this year could make the Spurs a rising force in the West next season.
This sounds a lot like the Bulls when fully healthy. Lonzo Ball’s injury hurt a lot of things for the Bulls. But the positive effect on LaVine was on the defensive end. LaVine’s defensive rating was 9.7 points better with Ball, per Cleaning the Glass.
His offensive rating was 7.1 points better without Ball.
Pre-Injury LaVine was Cooking
Swartz wraps with why LaVine would consider leaving the Bulls in general for what might be greener pastures in free agency.
Indeed, LaVine is down 3.0 points per game this season while his true shooting has dropped from 63.4% to 60.5%.
There is also the matter of DeRozan coming over from San Antonio where he struggled to win, making the postseason just once in three seasons. Those players are older and better now, though, having just made the Play-In Tournament each of the past two seasons.
It would be nice to have more assurance but this is the situation the Bulls find themselves in. Hopefully, LaVine’s decision comes quickly either way.