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Lakers reportedly interested in forward Nicolas Batum in free agency

While the Clippers are the favorites to retain Nicolas Batum in free agency, the Lakers are reportedly interested in signing the wing.

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NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Los Angeles Lakers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Of the many weaknesses the Lakers had last season, perhaps paramount among them was a complete lack of depth on the wing. Outside of LeBron James, the Lakers wing depth was limited to Trevor Ariza and Kent Bazemore wholly unable to get playing time, an underperforming Talen Horton-Tucker, and Stanley Johnson who, while good, was also a free agent to start the season.

It would make sense, then, that the team is targeting that area to upgrade this offseason, with one familiar name popping up on Wednesday. Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported that the Lakers are expected to have some interest in Clippers wingman Nicolas Batum, though the expectation is that he would remain across the hall.

It is anticipated that the Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz will have strong interest in trying to pry away the 14-year veteran from Clipper Land, sources said.

But the Clippers are in the driver’s seat, sources said.

Earlier this week, Batum opted out of his contract with the Clippers where he was set to potentially earn $3.3 million next season. Why, then, are the Clippers still the frontrunners? Allow Justin Russo from our sister site ClipsNation explain:

For the Clippers, this news was expected. With all things considered, Batum opting out most likely will aid the Clippers in securing his services for the perceived future as they can now offer him more money than the player option he declined. It paves the way for the two sides to potentially agree on a multi-year deal using Batum’s Early Bird rights.

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Because of the stretch provision that was used on him by Charlotte, Batum is slated to make $8.9 million next season from the Hornets. Should Batum opt to re-sign with the Clippers using his Early Bird rights, the first year of Batum’s new deal would check in at roughly $10.9 million which means the Frenchman could be making roughly $20 million overall next season thanks to both the Hornets and Clippers.

The Lakers, meanwhile, could only offer Batum their taxpayer mid-level exception that would come in at just north of $6 million, a far cry from what the Clippers can offer him.

While the money he’s set to make from Charlotte could help paper over the gap between what the Lakers and Clippers can offer him, Batum has found a second wind late in his career with the Clippers. He’s gone as far as to say Clippers head coach Tyron Lue was someone who saved his life.

It’s hard to see him, then, turning down an opportunity to return to his Clippers, just to take less money to come to the Lakers. While adding Batum to the Lakers for the mid-level or below would be a dream come true, it’ll likely remain just that for the purple and gold.

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