The Los Angeles Lakers are poised to have a league-leading $68.3 million in cap space this summer and a big whole on their roster at center. Those two facts are why it makes sensethat Sean Deveney of Sporting News is reporting that the team "will have interest in [Festus] Ezeli, seeing his size and rim-protecting defense as an ideal complement to forward Julius Randle."
Deveney previously reported that Ezeli, and his teammate Harrison Barnes, would be players the Lakers looked at in the event that Kevin Durant passed on them, but from the sound of this report, it appears that they could be interested in Ezeli regardless. The fit makes sense, because in addition to cleaning up for Randle on defense, Ezeli could work as a lob threat out of pick-and-rolls with D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson.
L.A., of course, just hired Warriors assistant Luke Walton to be its coach. Ezeli had the best months of his career in November and December, with Walton filling in while Kerr recovered from back surgery, and before Ezeli's knee injury.
Putting two and two together, this report fits well with Walton's reveal that the Lakers told him which free agents they plan to go after. If Ezeli is on that list, the reason's above make it easy to see why. He will likely be fairly pricey for a center who is currently a back-up, but it's important to remember the situation Ezeli is coming from in Golden State.
Andrew Bogut starts games, and Draymond Green closes them at center in the Warriors' "lineup of death." This would make it hard for anyone to get minutes, but Ezeli has produced when given the opportunity, averaging 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes. Ezeli's defensive rating of 96.6 is additionally impressive, meaning Warriors opponents only score 96.6 points per 100 possessions while Ezeli is on the floor, meaning every team scores like the league-worst 76ers' offense during his minutes.
Does that mean Ezeli is some hidden defensive player of the year candidate? No, the majority of his minutes have come against opposing benches and with better defensive players around him than the Lakers currently boast. Still, at age 26 and a rare free agent with upside who (most likely) won't command the max this summer, Ezeli is easily worth a gamble for the talent-starved Lakers if the Warriors' pursuit of bigger fish makes him gettable in restricted free agency.
All stats per NBA.com. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.