Despite the fact that the Los Angeles Lakers won a championship not even a month ago, they’ll go into the offseason with holes at nearly every position because more than half of their roster will be free agents or will have the ability to become free agents, the latter of which only applies to Avery Bradley, Anthony Davis and JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo; all of whom have player options in their contracts.
The position that has arguably the most potential for change is the center position. While the Lakers reportedly have interest in bringing Dwight Howard back, it has also been reported the Golden State Warriors plan to pursue Howard in free agency. If Howard leaves for the Warriors or another team, the general expectation is that they’ll give DeMarcus Cousins another look on a minimum contract.
However, according to Evan Dammarell of Forbes, the Lakers are also keeping tabs on Tristan Thompson, who will be an unrestricted free agent this fall:
Thompson does have interested suitors on the market - mainly the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Toronto Raptors, according to league sources. But, those same sources also shared that Thompson would like to try and finish his career with the Cavaliers and continue helping the team’s young core develop.
The connections between Thompson and the Lakers could not be more obvious. For starters, he was teammates with James on the Cleveland Cavaliers from 2014 to 2018. During that time, they made the Finals four times and won it all once. James and Thompson also share the same agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports.
Add that to the fact that Thompson recently got back together with Khloe Kardashian, who he has a child with, and it becomes harder to make a case for why Thompson won’t be in a Lakers uniform next season. If you were to make that case, though, it would probably start with money.
Last season, Thompson made $18.5 million, which made him the third-highest paid player on the Cavaliers’ roster behind Kevin Love ($28.9 million) and Andre Drummond ($27.9 million). While it’s unlikely that Thompson will get $18 million from anyone in free agency, he can almost definitely get $10 million in the open market.
The Lakers can get close to that number by offering Thompson their mid-level exception, which is projected to be worth approximately $9.5 million, but they’re probably better off splitting that money up to sign more than one player. That’s especially true because Thompson is a center.
During the regular season, the Lakers prided themselves on being able to play a traditional center alongside Anthony Davis, and Thompson would allow them to do that an even higher level. But while Thompson might be better than Howard and McGee, he’s still not better than the Lakers’ best center, which is Davis, as we saw in the postseason.
That’s not say to the Lakers shouldn’t try and find an upgrade at the center position in free agency, but they’d be wise to look at other holes on their roster first, and cheaper options than Thompson.