The Los Angeles Lakers have found their next head coach and are moving forward with their young core of talented players. The offseason has officially begun for the Lakers and it is set up to be a big one.
The Lakers will look to the draft lottery on May 17th to see whether they will have a top three pick this summer. Additionally, rumors are abound, whether they are legitimate or not, about the team’s desire to trade for a superstar.
Outside of the draft and potential trade scenarios, the Lakers’ offseason will hinge on free agency. While the free agency market is not as talented as usual, there are still many great players that could be targets for the Lakers to fill holes around their present core. With plenty of cap space to spare, free agency will be a major storyline for LAL come July.
One such player is Festus Ezeli. The Golden State Warriors center has shown a penchant for good play in his few seasons in the league. As the backup to Andrew Bogut in Golden State, Ezeli has averaged 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes. He has shown an ability to be an elite defender and possesses some valuable skills, albeit raw ones, on the offensive end of the floor as he shout just shy of 55% from the field this year.
According to Sporting News, the Lakers are indeed interested in signing Ezeli to an offer sheet this summer. The big man is a restricted free agent so the Dubs can match any offer for his services. However, at the right price, he could be stolen off of the defending champs’ roster.
Ezeli is obviously connected to Luke Walton and played especially well while the latter took over for Steve Kerr in the early stages of the season. He would also clearly help fill a massive hole on the Lakers’ roster. There are no starting centers under contract with the Lakers and Roy Hibbert’s poor play last season emphasized the need to find someone to plug in at that spot.
At the very least, Ezeli’s size and athleticism will add rebounding and most importantly rim protection for a team devoid of it.
The question with Ezeli will always be his health. After playing 78 games in his rookie season, Ezeli missed the entirety of his second year in the league while playing 46 games in each of the following two years (including this season). The injury concern is enough to think twice about signing him to a massive deal and it will almost certainly devalue him this summer, despite the huge increase in salary cap.
Sporting News reports that several league executives believe a three year, $50 million deal is enough to get Ezeli away from the Warriors.
Should the Lakers bite the bullet on such a deal? It’s a difficult question to answer. It certainly depends on what they think their chances of signing the likes of Al Horford and Hassan Whiteside are. But while those two centers require max money to move to LA, Ezeli could come relatively cheap.
If the Lakers move quickly and offer Ezeli an offer sheet, they may be able to force the Warriors’ hands and steal away a very talented player. At three years, the injury risk is somewhat cost-controlled and LAL could bit the bullet even if Ezeli does not shake off the injury history.
It will certainly be an interesting case and there are layers to consider. Personally, I would be all in favor of adding Ezeli at that price, but I do recognize the reservations against doing that.
Additionally, who knows if Ezeli would be interested in joining the Lakers after Larry Nance, Jr. murdered him on the basketball court.