For the last week or so, it’s been clear that the Los Angeles Lakers are mostly done in NBA free agency. With 13 roster spots filled, the team has given every indication that they plan to fill the 14th spot with a veteran center, and leave the 15th open for a potential midseason trade or the buyout market (and also so significant cash savings, it must be noted, given that the team is in the repeater tax).
Today, we got the first reputable report on who that veteran center might be. Jovan Buha of The Athletic writes that the team is considering adding either Christian Wood or Bismack Biyombo with that spot, while also providing a bit of extra context from general manager Rob Pelinka:
Centers Christian Wood and Bismack Biyombo are in consideration for that 14th roster spot, according to team sources not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. The Lakers had interest in Dario Saric before he signed with the Golden State Warriors earlier this week, those sources said. Pelinka clarified that Los Angeles is hoping to find a player that is different than Hayes from a skill-set perspective.
“I think dimensionalizing the skills at that position would be important,” Pelinka said. “So we don’t want to sign someone who replicates the skills that Jaxson Hayes has. So if we can diversify the big position and have different looks, that would be good.”
Wood (and Saric, had he not headed to Golden State) would provide the differing skills element Pelinka is mentioning, while Biyombo would be fairly similar to Hayes in terms of being an athletic, but mostly rim-bound center, albeit one who has been much better defensively over the course of his career.
Biyombo will pretty clearly be available for a minimum contract, however, as he’s made the minimum the last two seasons. For Wood, who is coming off a contract that earned him $13 to $14 million per year the last three seasons, that would represent a sizeable paycut.
Now, Wood’s market has clearly fallen out from under him, so it’s possible he would be the latest player with a checkered on-and-off-court reputation to try and rehabilitate his league-wide value with the Lakers, but it’s also feasible that the Utah Jazz (who just lost out on their offer sheet for Sixers center Paul Reed) or San Antonio Spurs come in with a bigger offer.
The merits of both players can be debated. Wood would be the much stronger offensive fit, but leaves a lot to be desired defensively and has yet to really prove he can impact winning or happily accept the type of smaller role he’d have in Los Angeles, something Biyombo has long since done. Most notable, however, is that they are both pretty clearly the best two centers still available on the free agent market. And if the Lakers are actually going to follow through with Pelinka’s hints that Anthony Davis will play alongside a center some this season, the team desperately needs another center who can actually play with that 14th roster spot (sorry, Tristan Thompson).
Through that prism, either Wood or Biyombo are, on paper, much better than the other options on the market (seriously, the list of available centers beyond them is deeply depressing). Given that the team could probably have Biyombo at the minimum already if they wanted, it seems fairly obvious they are waiting to see if Wood’s market has completely collapsed to that level and if he’d join them before making a decision.
For more on Wood and Biyombo’s games and theoretical fits with the Lakers, you can check out this story naming them as two good candidates from our own Alex Regla, but in brief, they’d both be solid additions on paper. We’ll see if the Lakers can lure either over the weeks and months to come before training camp, which Pelinka indicated on Sunday he’d like to have a third center signed before.
Do you have a preference between these two options? Let us know in the comments below.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.