Update: Luc Mbah a Moute will not sign with the Lakers, and is instead taking a deal with the LA Clippers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Original story follows.
The Los Angeles Lakers have one roster spot left to fill, and given that they currently have JaVale McGee and Ivica Zubac as the only full-time centers on their roster, most assume that final opening will go to a starting big man.
But with Brook Lopez absconding to the Milwaukee Bucks in free agency on Sunday, it seems the Lakers could be looking at a more undersized option to allow them to play small a bit more. According to Kelly Iko of Rockets Wire, one option for the team could be Rockets forward Luc Mbah a Moute.
According to a person close to the situation and with knowledge of negotiations, Houston isn’t giving Mbah a Moute the money and long-term security he desires, instead offering him near the same amount as the $2.1 million veteran’s minimum deal he signed for with Houston in the 2017-18 season. The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to comment about Mbah a Moute.
According to the person, the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Washington Wizards and Philadelphia 76ers have expressed interest, and at least two of these teams have presented offers to Mbah a Moute.
Mbah a Moute was an effective part of the Rockets’ rotation last season, and while he is by no means a full-time center, the Rockets were fairly effective in a small sample size of minutes with him at that position last season, per 82games.com.
Far more often, though, was Mbah a Moute playing the four in small-ball lineups for the Rockets (six of the Rockets’ 20-most frequent lineups), which would lend credence to the idea that he could at least give the Lakers more frontcourt options in spot minutes, and help keep the team from having to play LeBron James too many minutes at center, or McGee and Zubac too many minutes, period.
The Lakers are not going to be able to compete with small-ball-heavy teams like the Rockets or Golden State Warriors with only traditional seven-footers at center, so there is something to be said for the way they might be trying to find as many players that can play small as possible. Plus, stealing a key contributor to Houston — who already lost Trevor Ariza — could help the Lakers further bridge the gap between the two teams.
That said, the Lakers likely need one more actual center just to keep them from relying on McGee and Zubac too heavily, so it will be interesting to see if they actually make good on this interest in Mbah a Moute or go a more traditional route as free agency continues.