While the Los Angeles Lakers remain one of the NBA’s elite teams — despite recent struggles — their roster is imperfect. They’ve changed their identity from a hard-nosed, rim-protecting force to a younger, quicker perimeter-focused defense, and it has left them vulnerable on the interior.
After Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee helped Defensive Player of the Year candidate Anthony Davis shut down the paint, the Lakers of today are towards the bottom of defenses in that area. They rank 17th heading into the All-Star Break.
They’ve tried to remedy this with the 10-day experiment of Damian Jones, but rival executives reportedly believe that they’ll look for a more permanent option on the buyout market. Some of these options include Andre Drummond, Hassan Whiteside and even McGee, according to Dan Woike of The L.A. Times:
Rival scouts and executives believe the Lakers are looking for upgrades in their frontcourt. Obviously, Cleveland’s Andre Drummond would be high on their wish list if bought out.
Rival executives have wondered if the Lakers could either try to add Sacramento’s Hassan Whiteside or maybe even reunite with JaVale McGee if the former Laker gets bought out by Cleveland and becomes a free agent.
If the Lakers truly are considering these changes, it means that Jones will likely not be brought back for the remainder of the season after his contract expires during the All-Star break.
Whiteside has been one of the most talked-about Lakers targets all season long. Making just $2.3 million with the Sacramento Kings, a buyout would not be difficult to come by. He also could be a bargain similar to that of Howard in 2020 as a talented but troubled big man.
As for McGee, acquiring him would be significantly more difficult due to NBA rules. Since McGee was traded from the Lakers to the Cavaliers at the beginning of the year, he cannot re-join L.A. during the 2020-21 season via trade or buyout unless he is traded to another team first.
If the Cavaliers buy McGee out, the Lakers would not legally be able to sign him at that point. The workaround to this would be involving a third team that would take McGee on in a trade, only to immediately release him.
Regardless, it appears that people around the league believe that the Lakers will be active in filling out their final two roster spots ahead of the postseason, especially when it comes to insurance big men. Drummond is the best option of the bunch, but also is unlikely to be bought out.
Kyle Kuzma thinks Jones has a chance to stick around long-term
While it’s unlikely, the Lakers very easily could re-sign Jones for the remainder of the season after the expiration of his 10-day deal. If they do, it would remove any rumors about a potential reunion with McGee or the addition of Whiteside.
Kyle Kuzma believes Jones could get this opportunity. “Man, I think he’s got a shot to be here if he can just do what he did out there,” Kuzma said.
“Be a lob threat, got a big-time block. I don’t know how many minutes he played — might’ve been seven or eight — but had three rebounds in that time, and that’s a good rebounding rate. If he can do those things in small stints he’s got a chance to be here.”
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