Can the Pacers shove their way into the Zach LaVine sweepstakes?

Zach LaVine, Indiana Pacers - Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Zach LaVine, Indiana Pacers - Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /

The Indiana Pacers have considerable wiggle room to make some bold moves in free agency, being one of only a handful of clubs with ample money to spend in the offseason and upgrade the roster outside the NBA Draft.

With a tad more than $25 million projected practical cap space to spend, the Pacers could automatically be in the running for some top-tier free agents. While it’s still a matter of two-way desire, money talks in free agency — and Indiana has a lot of it this time.

One player atop the 2022 free agency list is All-Star guard Zach LaVine. Having spent the last five seasons with the Chicago Bulls, he is reportedly keeping his options open in free agency, casting a legitimate cloud on his time with the Bulls, which are fresh off a playoff appearance after lying at the bottom of the league in previous years.

The Indiana Pacers have the tools to make a run for Zach LaVine, but will they?

Surmising from all the noise around Zach LaVine’s impending and eventful free agency, the two-time All-Star is likely to prioritize getting the bag this time. And given that he could command a max salary, the Bulls may have some reservations on that front.

Teams like San Antonio, Portland, Orlando, and Detroit could all pursue him outright with their cap room and present more sensible fits for the 27-year-old, but Indiana should not shy away from the opportunity to at least shove their way into the conversation and attempt to cudgel a compelling case of their own.

To open up even more cap space, the Pacers could look into trading one of their multiple seven-figure players like Malcolm Brogdon, Buddy Hield, and Myles Turner, a route that could pique the interest of many teams looking for upgrades without cap space to spend. They could even look into executing a sign-and-trade with the Bulls, which could give the latter some fallback should they be spurned by LaVine.

On the court, LaVine should be a wonderful fit for the Pacers, especially next to Tyrese Haliburton and whoever the team ends up taking in the upcoming draft. His incredible athleticism, improved playmaking, and uncanny shooting ability seem tailor-made for Indiana’s new identity as an up-tempo club under Rick Carlisle.

There is little to no traction right now from the Indiana Pacers on the Zach LaVine train, but as one of the few teams with an actual chance to nab him in free agency, the front office should capitalize on the relatively bigger odds at a jackpot and at least try to set the engine up for a potential pursuit.

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