Last summer, the Los Angeles Lakers made a handful of interesting — for lack of a better word — signings in free agency after getting a verbal commitment from LeBron James on July 1. Of those signings, JaVale McGee is arguably the only one that panned out.
McGee left the reigning champion Golden State Warriors to sign a one-year contract with the Lakers for the veteran’s minimum. Within his first handful of games with the team, it was clear he was going to outplay his contract.
Through 68 games with Los Angeles, McGee has averaged 11.7 points on 62.3 percent shooting from the field, 7.3 rebounds and two blocks per game in just 22 minutes per game. The only other players that have matched those averages this season are Anthony Davis, Myles Turner and Rudy Gobert. None of the aforementioned players average less than 25 minutes per game, nor do they make as little as McGee makes.
It’s for that reason McGee, at 31 years old, will be a hot commodity in free agency this summer for teams looking for an inexpensive and productive option at the center position, especially now that he’s returned to his earlier level of play as he finishes recovering from pneumonia.
If the Lakers land an All-Star player in free agency, they could end up being one of those teams. The question is: would McGee be interested in returning?
In the latest installment of “The Point with Kevin Ding,” McGee answered that question:
With a playoff berth out of reach and so many injuries to their young core, the Lakers have to evaluate what available current combinations might make sense for their future.
“Of course I wouldn’t mind coming back to the L.A. Lakers, one of the most historic franchises in the league. That’s a given,” McGee said. “But you know how the offseason goes and how free agency goes and how teams go when they feel a necessity. If they feel they need me, then they’ll bring me back.”
So, from what it sounds like, McGee will be back if the Lakers want him back, and with the options they’ll have at center going into the offseason, there’s no reason for them not to keep him in mind.
The Lakers will have roughly $37 million in cap space to spend in free agency. With the exception of maybe Nikola Vucevic, there’s not one impeding free agent center that is expected to get near-max money this summer.
That means if the Lakers are going to spend big this summer, it likely won’t be at the center position, so they’ll have to find cost-effective big man in free agency. With that knowledge, why not retain McGee, who is already familiar with the personnel on the roster and has developed a good chemistry with James?
There are a few directions the Lakers can go in free agency this summer, but there are few — and I mean very few — scenarios that would justify them letting McGee walk.