When Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that the Lakers and Carmelo Anthony had mutually decided to pass on a union as the team falls further from playoff contention, that nugget (justifiably) drew most of the headlines.
But tucked away in that report was another little tidbit that deserves some diving into (via ESPN):
The Lakers have also considered signing a center to bolster its frontcourt, league sources said. The Lakers are one roster spot below the league’s maximum of 15.
Better late than never, I guess? Given that JaVale McGee and Tyson Chandler have completely cratered, and that the coaching staff doesn’t appear to trust Mike Muscala or Moe Wagner much — and because their small-ball alternative isn’t working well enough offensively to justify the defensive and rebounding drawbacks — this is probably long overdue.
And while it’s unlikely the Lakers make the playoffs, and thus the deadline to waive players to be playoff eligible theoretically doesn’t matter, that deadline did pass last week, so we do have a clear view of what the post-buyout market looks like at center.
As we’ve covered before, it is... not pretty. Like late-arriving Wal-Mart shoppers after a severe weather warning, the Lakers will be picking through scraps (via Real GM, if you want a closer look):
If the Lakers want to sign a center, their options (as you would expect) are fairly depressing pic.twitter.com/Z4QGm75HMd— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) March 4, 2019
Of those names, the most popular ones in the Silver Screen and Roll Slack and my mentions were Marcin Gortat, Greg Monroe, Al Jefferson and Lonzo Ball’s former college teammate Ike Anigbogu, among others. A murderer’s row of candidates, this is not.
What this list really illustrates is how poorly the Lakers managed the Zubac situation at the trade deadline. They moved him to the Clippers, and now potentially their top option to replace him — over the guy they dealt him for — is the player the Clippers waived to make room for Zubac (Gortat).
No matter how you slice it, that’s not ideal asset management. Even Zubac knows it.
But the Lakers can’t undo the past, all they can do now is attempt to address their issues, starting with their lack of a reliable seven-footer to man the center position.
Without McGee and Chandler to rely on, the Lakers have been getting slaughtered on the glass, only grabbing 70.7 percent of their available defensive rebounds. That might sound like a decent amount, but it’s the fifth-worst rate in the league over that stretch and would also be fifth-worst if prorated over the whole season, according to NBA.com.
The Lakers are also allowing the third-most points in the paint (58.4) in the NBA over their last five games, something owed in large part to their Lilliputian lineups with LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma at “center” lacking in rim protection:
All that is to say that having one of these guys as a fresh, bigger body might give the Lakers the exact jolt of energy they need for the stretch run. While none of these guys are huge names or would seem to be an obvious fix, Tyson Chandler didn’t seem to be such an incredible answer right before the Lakers signed him, and he was huge for the team for his first few months before running out of gas.
Maybe the Lakers may just need some fresh legs (and attitude) in the locker room to make them start caring and trying hard again, or maybe this is more akin to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic and wouldn’t fix anything. But for as long as the Lakers are mathematically alive they should at least try, and we’ll see if adding a center is their attempt at a solution to their recent woes.
For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.