With the NBA trade deadline rapidly approaching and the Los Angeles Lakers continuing their troubling skid since the In-Season Tournament, rumors have been percolating regarding the team's thirst for a third star to support the superstars.
Zooming in a bit further on those speculations evidences two primary names being linked to the Lake Show: Dejounte Murray and Zach LaVine. Each of these guys brings a lot to the table from an individual perspective, but neither has contributed to true contenders. Regardless, the team could certainly stand to benefit from the addition of either one of Murray or LaVine. The question is, which of the two would be the better all-around fit?
When analyzing their physical characteristics, the two are fairly similar. Murray measures out at approximately 6'5", 180 pounds with a 6'10" wingspan, while LaVine comes in at roughly 6'5", 200 pounds with a 6'8" wingspan.
Although Murray is about a year and a half younger than his counterpart (he turned 27 in September while LaVine will turn 29 in March), the Chicago Bulls wing has his Atlanta adversary topped in terms of athleticism. LaVine is among the bounciest players in the league.
Branching off into the analysis of their respective games is where the differences between the two start to show. While Murray has shared the backcourt with mega ball-dominant Trae Young in his two seasons in Atlanta, he is more of a true floor general than off guard as evidenced by the 9.2 assists he averaged during his final season piloting Gregg Popovich's offense in San Antonio.
Regardless, he has adapted and shown a willingness and ability to effectively play off of a superstar playmaker. He has been hitting his outside shots at the highest rate of his career so far this season, and his defensive prowess is his bread and butter. He uses his length to harass ball-handlers while combining it with his overall basketball IQ to make plays in the passing lane. He is an extremely versatile player who has the ability to lock up an opponent's best perimeter-scoring threat while simultaneously dropping a triple-double.
LaVine's reputation is much more affiliated with his ability to score the basketball, although he can make an impact in other areas. While his shooting efficiency has been down this year and he has dealt with injuries, he remains one of the NBA's most dangerous perimeter threats. With the ability to get hot from downtown without notice, defenses have to honor his shooting stroke first and foremost.
The problem is, LaVine has the craftiness to easily get to his spots in the mid-range and/or attack a closeout all the way to the bucket at which point his athleticism makes him a nightly candidate for Sportscenter's top play of the night by way of poster delivery. He is a semi-solid source of secondary playmaking and rebounding as well, but his lapses on the defensive end cannot be overlooked.
From a financial perspective, Murray is locked into a 4-year, $120 million extension which will kick in this summer and expire following the 2027-2028 season (his age-31 season). LaVine is currently in the first year of the 5-year, $215 million max extension he signed with Chicago back in the 2022 offseason.
That contract has a player option in the final year (2026-2027). While LaVine is paid a considerable amount more than Murray, the two are right in the same territory when it comes to tiers of NBA stardom. Neither is a superstar-level player, but both are fringe (if not outright) All-Stars each and every season.
When you factor everything in, Dejounte Murray is the better fit from an overall perspective. He is slightly younger, more versatile, better defensively, and considerably cheaper than LaVine. Murray could rationally be looked upon as AD's sidekick in leading the post-LeBron Lakers. So, he would feasibly be a better fit for this organization going forward, right?
Zach LaVine would be a better on-court fit for the Lakers than Dejounte Murray
In what may be an unpopular opinion, LaVine would realistically be a better fit if we are simply looking at it from an on-court perspective. He is not an overly ball-dominant player whose scoring ability could really be a weapon with so much attention on LeBron and AD.
Shoot, he already has experience playing next to a "poor man's" LeBron and AD pairing in the form of DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic. If he can go off for seemingly out-of-nowhere 51-point games like he did at the start of this season playing next to those two, there is no telling what he could do with the gravity that James and Davis demand.
Whether the team lands either of these two guys remains to be seen, but there is no denying the intrigue of seeing either of them in a Laker uniform. Both guys could definitely inject some serious spunk into a team that has been in a season-long wave of funk.
Dejounte Murray seems like the favorite of the two to actually become a Laker, but the front office should think long and hard about how both he and LaVine would gel on the floor with Bron and AD before taking any pens to paper.