The Los Angeles Lakers’ selection of Brandon Ingram with the second overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft did wonders for their sorely lacking wing depth. However, with Kobe Bryant’s retirement and Nick Young all but a certainty to be shipped out or waived using the stretch provision, the team still needs more contributors at small forward.
The Lakers seem like an incredible longshot to even get a meeting with Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (who would obviously start over Ingram and certainly qualify as “wing depth”), much less sign him. Looking past Durant, the top small forward option is probably Nicolas Batum of the Charlotte Hornets, who will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1st.
Initial reports suggested that Batum was unlikely to consider leaving Charlotte after having a career year in teal, averaging 14.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game while knocking down 34.8 percent of his three-pointers. However it appears Batum may be more open to being recruited than was initially thought:
Free agent small forward Nicolas Batum mulling over options, including talking with Lakers, source. He's flying from Paris to US tomorrow.— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) June 29, 2016
If the Lakers were able to nab Batum, it would be one of the best signings they could make this offseason. The wing position may not be as critical of a need as center anymore with Ingram on board, but the Batum can also slide up or down a position in most lineups to play either power forward or shooting guard alongside Ingram.
Such positional versatility will be a huge boon for Luke Walton’s Golden State Warriors-inspired offense, but as of right now it's impossible to know how realistic of a possibility the Lakers signing Batum actually is. The 27-year old Frenchman still seems more likely to re-sign with the Hornets or head to a contender, but he would be the ideal type of younger, talented veteran the Lakers sorely need in their young locker room.
It's best not to get too far ahead of ourselves, and there is always a chance a leak like this is a ploy for leverage in negotiations by Batum and his agent. That being said, if Los Angeles could entice both Batum and one of the top centers on the market to sign into their copious cap space, then if would be another huge positive during an already great offseason for the purple and gold.
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