One thing that has been made clear in the aftermath of the Lakers adding Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan this summer is that the team wanted to get back to the longer, more athletic and lob-happy identity they had at the 5 position when they won the 2020 championship than they did during the 2020-21 season, when they started the year with Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell as their two centers.
But the signs that the Lakers were missing that element actually started even earlier, when the team brought in Damian Jones on a pair of 10-day contracts, and later signed Andre Drummond and attempted to get him to play that role at midseason.
And while it doesn’t really appear that the Lakers had interest in bringing the latter back, the former was someone they wanted before they ultimately added Jordan, according to NBA insider Marc Stein (via his Substack, which is always chock-full of scoops and notes like this):
The recent report from my Bleacher Report colleague Jake Fischer that the Lakers will have interest in DeAndre Jordan when the former All-Star center secures his expected buyout from the Nets was the latest signal that Los Angeles and Marc Gasol could be headed for a separation even though Gasol still has one season left on his contract with L.A. League sources say that the Lakers had strong interest earlier in the summer in trying to reacquire Damian Jones, but Sacramento elected to retain Jones and make his contract guaranteed for the coming season even though the Kings already have Richaun Holmes, Tristan Thompson, Alex Len and (yes, still) Marvin Bagley III.
First of all, the Kings guaranteeing a player they may not need in an apparent desire just to keep him from going back to the Lakers (if that was indeed even a small factor) is just hilariously petty. Honestly, you have to respect it.
But as far Jones goes, it’s easy to see why the Lakers may have wanted him back. He’s not a perfect player, but Jones is exactly the type of lob threat the team appears to be looking for, and is also second of all-time in field-goal percentage as a Laker (16-17, 94.1%, just behind the immortal Normie Glick, who was 1-1 all-time). The fact that they had interest in bringing him back is yet another sign that they simply seem to want athleticism and dunks with little else from their centers, skills Jones certainly is capable of bringing in spades.
Jordan can also bring those things. The all-time leader in field-goal percentage in NBA history (67.3%), Jordan shot a career-high 76.3% from the field last season (albeit on only 4.4 shots per game). That efficiency is because he does little else other than dunk — the career-average distance of his field goals from the basket is 1.7 feet, per Basketball-Reference — but still, if the Lakers want someone who can do literally just slam the ball home and end possessions, Jordan can fit the bill, even if he’s not what he once was in basically any other aspect of basketball.
This is also the latest whisper that Gasol is likely a goner, with his exit from Los Angeles after one season seemingly more a matter of “when” and “how” than “if.” We’ll see what ultimately happens, but all that’s clear right now is that between Jones, Howard and Jordan, the Lakers have a type of center they want. More versatile skillsets need not apply, because anything other than dunking is more than the team wants from its seven-footers.