NBA free agency officially begins on Thursday on Thursday at 3 p.m. PT, but the Lakers rumors are already flying in the hours leading up to the league’s legal opening bell. Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel reported earlier in the day that Los Angeles — in addition to the Toronto Raptors, New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves — were expected to show interest in Mo Bamba after the Orlando Magic didn’t tender him a qualifying offer and allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent, and he’s not the only one linking the Lakers to the four-year veteran big man.
According to Jovan Buha of The Athletic — as plugged into all things Lakers as anyone on the beat — Bamba is one of several free-agent targets the Lakers would be willing to give their full mid-level exception of approximately $6.5 million to:
Players the Lakers will target with their full taxpayer midlevel exception include Otto Porter Jr., Nicolas Batum, Gary Harris, T.J. Warren, Caleb Martin, Cody Martin, Mo Bamba and Danuel House Jr., according to multiple league sources.
Notable on this list is that nearly all of the names are wings, which makes sense considering that was the biggest positional weakness the Lakers had last season. All of them would be totally defensible signings for that money, too (although Batum seems destined to return to the Clippers). But Bamba might provide enough valuable skills to be worth using the Lakers’ biggest contract on another big man.
Our own Alex Regla had Bamba on his list of three centers the Lakers should try to sign in free agency, writing that he’s exactly the type of floor-spacing, defensively skilled traditional center that could fit perfectly alongside Anthony Davis on both ends:
More consistent reps may have factored in helping Bamba find his shooting touch as well. Not only did Bamba let it fly from deep often — 44% of his shot profile came from downtown — but he was wildly efficient when he did so.
Bamba drilled 38% of his 3-point attempts overall, and 40% of his above-the-break chances according to Cleaning the Glass this past season. His 39.3% hit rate on catch and shoot threes was second only to Karl-Anthony Towns among centers with at least 200 attempts.
Beyond the welcome floor-spacing Bamba would provide the Lakers at the center spot, he also would help shore up their interior defense. With his still otherworldly 7’10” wingspan, Bamba has ranked in at least the 91st percentile at his position in block percentage in every year he’s played thus far.
And Bamba, Batum, Otto Porter Jr. and the rest of the names there aren’t the only ones the Lakers have their eyes on, according to Buha, who outlined several players the team may shop in the free agency bargain bin for as well:
Players the Lakers will be interested in for the partial midlevel exception or minimum contracts include Nemanja Bjelica, Jeremy Lamb, Jevon Carter and Juan Toscano-Anderson, according to league sources.
Juan Toscano-Anderson seems like exactly the type of bouncy, young and active athlete the team was sorely lacking last season, and could provide some solid wing depth if he’s really available for that little money. Given how quickly the Lakers moved in last year’s free-agent frenzy last year, we’ll likely know the answer on just how attainable he and the rest of the names on this list are soon. Stay tuned to Silver Screen and Roll for every update.