Last year, the Los Angeles Lakers invested at the center position with JaVale McGee and DeMarcus Cousins. When Cousins suffered a torn ACL in the weeks leading up to training camp, they replaced him with another big man in Dwight Howard.
This year, they went a little smaller at the center position with Montrezl Harrell, who the Lakers will reportedly sign to a two-year deal for the non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to stay big up front.
In fact, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times, they’re in the market for another big man even after signing the reigning Sixth Man of the Year:
The Lakers also seek one more big man, league sources say, but they face much tougher financial constraints in the chase for Gasol after signing Montrezl Harrell away from the Clippers and re-signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) November 22, 2020
The Lakers have already been linked to Marc Gasol, but as Stein notes, they’re limited in what they can offer him or another starting-caliber center like Serge Ibaka or Aron Baynes. The same can’t be said of the Clippers, who are also pursuing Gasol, per Stein. The Raptors also have their non-taxpayer mid-level exception worth $5.7 million. In other words, he’ll have more lucrative options than the Lakers.
If the Lakers are outbid for Gasol’s services, they’re going to have a hard time finding a valuable center for the veteran’s minimum. Players like Harry Giles III and Dewayne Dedmon are intriguing options, for sure, but neither of them provide the same muscle that Dwight Howard did last season, especially against burly centers like Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid. Post defense might not be as valuable as it once was, but it’s still valuable.
For that reason, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Lakers give DeMarcus Cousins another look next season. He’s a big body and, best of all, he’s probably going to come cheap. There are obviously concerns as to whether he can still play, but those concerns could be mitigated by him having an extremely limited role behind Harrell, JaVale McGee — who opted in to his player option to return — and Anthony Davis.
It’s not the best-case scenario, but it’s a realistic one given where the Lakers are relative to the tax apron unless Rob Pelinka has something up his sleeve, which is always a possibility. We’ll find out one way or another over the hours and days to come.