If you are not ready to open your heart and acknowledge that 10-day contract recipient Damian Jones is one of the greatest centers in Lakers history already, I can’t help you. After all, he is already the most efficient player to ever don the purple and gold. But if you for some reason think the Lakers still have a hole in the middle between Jones, Montrezl Harrell, and Marc Gasol, don’t worry, you’re not alone: Multiple anonymous NBA executives do too.
According to Dan Woike of the L.A. Times, the league is not exactly as sold on Jones as most Lakers fans seem to be, and executives think that the purple and gold could look to add another center at some point in the next month or so, either via a trade or a buyout. The Lakers currently have one open roster spot, and will have a second if they let Jones go when his 10-day contract expires.
One of the names they think the Lakers will target is a familiar one:
Rival scouts and executives believe the Lakers are looking for upgrades in their frontcourt. Obviously, Cleveland’s Andre Drummond would be high on their wish list if bought out.
Rival executives have wondered if the Lakers could either try to add Sacramento’s Hassan Whiteside or maybe even reunite with JaVale McGee if the former Laker gets bought out and becomes a free agent.
Drummond feels like an unlikely get, mainly because he’s a) likely to be traded, and the Lakers don’t have the salaries to make that work and b) because if he does get bought out, it feels more likely that he’d go to the Brooklyn Nets for a bigger role and opportunity than he’d receive in L.A.
As for McGee, the Lakers are actually prohibited from signing or trading for him because they traded him less than a year ago, according to CBA expert and former NBA executive Bobby Marks of ESPN. Anonymous NBA execs: They’re just as confused by the CBA as we are!
Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report says that the only way McGee could be reacquired by the team he spent the last two seasons with is if the Cavaliers trade him again, and then that new team buys him out. Given that the latter scenario feels at least a little outlandish, albeit not impossible, these NBA executives are probably a bit off-base here.
Whiteside feels like the most realistic buyout candidate of these three. He has been a DNP or inactive in the last four games for the Kings, and with averages of 8.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game, the 31-year-old has shown he can at least still contribute counting stats — if not actual good defense — at an NBA level.
However, the Kings may at least try to get a second round pick or some other token asset for Whiteside rather than paying him to go away. The problem is, the Lakers already owe their 2021 second-rounder to Sacramento (via Detroit and Houston), and owe their 2022 second-rounder to Washington or Chicago. Would Sacramento really trade Whiteside for a 2023 second round pick (at best) that — given normal Kings front office turnover trends — their front office may not even be around for? It feels unlikely.
Everyone wants the Lakers to get another athletic center, but the reality is that it’s just going to be tough for them to get guys you’ve heard of that are good enough to play over Marc Gasol or Montrezl Harrell with any consistency. Maybe general manager Rob Pelinka has an ace up his sleeve, like getting involved in a three-team trade involving McGee or Whiteside with the understanding they’d get bought out and come to Los Angeles. But whether it’s through some chicanery like that or another creative avenue, it’s going to take some serious mental and legal gymnastics for them add another center who might not actually play any meaningful minutes in the playoffs when Anthony Davis goes to the five more anyway.
Will that be worth the trouble? We’ll find out as the March 25 trade deadline approaches, and the April 9 deadline for teams to buy out a player and still leave them playoff eligible comes after that.