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Lakers free agency rumors: Heat reportedly want to sign Hassan Whiteside to less than the max

Could that make him a gettable target for Los Angeles?

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers will have the most cap space in the NBA this summer, a whopping $64.1 according to the latest projections. That is a ton of money, but it's still unknown who the team will be able to use it on.

One target for the team could be unrestricted free agent center Hassan Whiteside of the Miami Heat. The Lakers worked out Whiteside last year and decided not to sign him, which the Heat did a short time later. That proved to be a good move for Pat Riley and company, as the minimum salaried center has played his way into a huge payday this summer.

It was reported earlier this year that the Lakers have everything the All-Defensive second team member wants in a free agency suitor. If one of those factors is the largest contract possible, the Lakers could potentially get Whiteside if they offer something Barry Jackson of thee Miami Herald reports the Heat would prefer not to: a max contract (h/t Honi Ahmadian of Lakers Outsiders):

My understanding, reiterated in recent days, is if all things are equal financially, Whiteside wants to re-sign with Miami. He likes living here and likes the organization.

But we've repeatedly heard the Heat's preference is persuading him to sign under the max (projected to be $21.6 million next season) by selling him on the lack of state income tax, his comfort level here, the roster flexibility created by him taking a bit less; and that Miami can offer 7.5 percent annual raises off the first year salary (compared with 4.5 percent elsewhere). That means a four-year deal starting at $20.7 million with Miami would equal a four-year deal starting at $21.6 million elsewhere.

But if Miami offers, say, $2 million less per year than max offers elsewhere, what would Whiteside do? That decision hasn't been made and it won't be an easy one.

The Heat are in a difficult situation with Whiteside this summer. Miami only has his so-called "Early Bird" rights, which means that if the Heat want to sign their star center to a contract anywhere north of around $7 million per year, they will need to sign him into cap space.

That won't be easy with franchise centerpiece Dwyane Wade also a free agent and likely to want a long-term deal after taking a two-year deal with a one-year opt out last summer following a protracted negotiation. Even if Whiteside is willing to take less than the max, it will be extremely difficult for the Heat to sign both to the contracts they desire unless one of the two takes an unforeseen pay cut.

So despite Whiteside's reported desire to stay in Miami if all things are equal, the fact they may not be could make him a target for Los Angeles. The seven-footer would be a perfect fit for the Lakers wide hole at the center position, with his length, athleticism, and activity defensively giving him the ability to cover up for his young teammates' mistakes on that end.

Those aforementioned qualities would also instantly make Whiteside the best pick-and-roll partner that D'Angelo Russell has ever played with, a fact made even more important by how much of a centerpiece that set will serve us in incoming head coach Luke Walton's Warriors-inspired offense.

It would be understandable if Whiteside decided Florida's lack of an income tax and the Heat's ability to offer him the most money if they part ways with Wade, as well as his comfort level in the organization, led him to re-sign there. But if the resplendent rim protector decides to look for his big payday elsewhere and wants to remain near the beach, the Lakers could be a perfect match.

You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.

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