Lakers: This Thunder Free Agent Could Be An Excellent Fit In LA This Summer

…If the price is right.

Your Los Angeles Lakers may have an opening at backup center this summer. Former No. 6 lottery pick Mo Bamba was brought in to theoretically replace all-offense/no-defense primary reserve big Thomas Bryant, and has a non-guaranteed contract worth $10.3 million that LA can guarantee this summer for next year.

But Bamba has already apparently lost his place in line to Wenyen Gabriel, a solid defender who, unlike Bryant or Bamba, cannot shoot. Gabriel, nominally a 6’9″ power forward, has been playing at center all season. He’s on an expiring $1.9 million minimum deal.

The Lakers may very well be on the hunt for a new look at backup center.

In scouring the roster of today’s opponent, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the only impending 2023 free agent of note is recently-acquired backup power forward/center Dario Saric, an oft-injured sharpshooter who doesn’t give you much else. 

The 28-year-old is currently on the final season of an insanely generous three-year, $27 million, but he has one big attribute: he can knock down threes. The 6’8″ big man is a career 35.9% three-point shooter on 3.8 attempts a night. This year, he’s making more of his triples (38.6%) than usual on fewer attempts, in a more reduced role (2.0 tries).

Saric may well be worth a look at a veteran’s minimum deal, but if he tries to pry any more money from Los Angeles, LA can do better. When it comes to big men, I think prioritizing defense over offense is generally the way to roll, meaning Bamba or Gabriel would make more sense, even if Bamba at his current price is going to be a bit of an overpay.

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