Most of the news around the Los Angeles Lakers in recent days has concerned their coaching search in the wake of their decision to part ways with Byron Scott on Sunday night. The front office is preparing to evaluate a "long list" of names, but general manager Mitch Kupchak says they also hope to have finished the search by the start of free agency.
With Lakers president Jeanie Buss reiterating that her brother, Lakers vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss, has until his self-imposed deadline of next summer to return the Lakers to the Western Conference Finals, this free agency period promises to be a pivotal one for the franchise.
Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant is the biggest name on the market this summer, and nearly every team will attempt to lure him, the Lakers included. Should they miss on Durant, however, Sean Deveney of Sporting News reports that the team has two members of the Golden State Warriors on their list of backup plans:
The Warriors have two key free agents this summer, forward Harrison Barnes and center Festus Ezeli, and either or both could come available if Golden State makes a big push to sign Durant. The Lakers would have them as targets should Durant pass.
How highly the Lakers would have Barnes and Ezeli on their list is still unknown, and because of the phrasing we also can't be certain whether Deveney is reporting they are on the front office's list or just assuming they would be. If the Lakers are targeting them, both fit the profile of the types of younger players that could grow alongside the Lakers' younger core, while still boasting enough veteran experience from a winning environment to be helpful presences in the locker room.
Barnes will be seeking a maximum contract, and while that might be a slight overpay, there is still hope at age 23 that he could further develop in a larger role. Ezeli is a bit older at age 26, but will be considerably cheaper than Barnes and averaged 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes. It's unlikely he will approximate that production as a full-time starter, but as a shot-blocker who snatched 18.5 percent of available rebounds this season and boasted the top defensive rating (96.6) on the defending champions, he is worth a look for a talent-starved Lakers team that has arguably its biggest hole at center.
The Lakers can and should take a shot at Durant, but if they don't get a yes from him right away, they should look to move on to options like Barnes and Ezeli quickly rather than wait around and get left at the altar like they have in the last couple of summers.
All stats per NBA.com. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.