The Lakers are reportedly looking to add a center for their 14th roster spot in NBA free agency, and on Saturday night, Jovan Buha of The Athletic reported that said big man could be a familiar face: Either Tristan Thompson, or Mo Bamba.
According to Buha, both are options for the team as free agency continues, but the Lakers also might opt to see if better options become available before training camp:
L.A. is targeting another big man with its 14th roster spot, according to team sources. They are likely to carry 14 guaranteed contracts into the season, leaving one roster spot open. Mo Bamba, whom the Lakers waived on Thursday, and Tristan Thompson, who joined the team right before their playoff run, remain options to fill that 14th spot, according to league sources. The big man market has been dry so far during this free-agency period, so the Lakers could also wait to see if better options present themselves.
Thompson, a 12-year veteran, was signed on the final day of the regular season and used sparingly in the postseason until he played a playoff-high 10 minutes of surprisingly effective and physical defense against two-time MVP Nikola Jokic in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. He said he wanted to come back during his exit interview, and the amount of respect and focus he brought to the locker room — and his presumed willingness to sit behind Anthony Davis and Jaxson Hayes unless absolutely needed — could make him an ideal 14th man to mentor the team’s rookies.
Bamba would be a different type of addition, boasting much more theoretical upside than the 32-year-old Thompson. But Bamba never seemed to earn the trust of the Lakers coaching staff, despite how (in theory, at least) a center with a willingness to shoot from deep and the ability to protect the rim should have fit like a glove next to Davis.
Bamba has expressed an interest in potentially returning, despite the Lakers cutting him the day before free agency and costing him (likely) almost eight figures, but would a 25-year-old battling for minutes (and an NBA future) with another young project big in Hayes, 23, really be the most cohesive thing for the team’s locker room? The Lakers would know better than I would, but it’s worth wondering.
How one feels about this likely depends on their team-building philosophy, as well as their faith in Davis to stay upright. Do you value having a center who could theoretically play big minutes if Davis gets hurt? Then Bamba is probably the answer. Or would you rather have a veteran who will be a great locker room leader and can hold Davis and LeBron James accountable, and won’t care if he’s a DNP-CD most nights? In that case, Thompson is likely your guy.
We’ll see if the front office ultimately opts to sign either of these guys, but word that they’re considering them is notable enough on its own. Do you have a preference between the two as a third big man? Let us know in the comments below.
For all the latest on NBA free agency, check out our Silver Screen and Roll Lakers free agency rumors tracker. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.