Lakers trade targets at center
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The Lakers are 15-14 this season, which has them in 10th place in the Western Conference. LA is among the title contenders despite their recent losing streak, and they could be active with trade season now here.
The Lakers have been linked to many players, including star guard Zach LaVine. However, their roster is deep, and the biggest need is at backup center.
Star center Anthony Davis missed a game against the San Antonio Spurs, who were on an 18-game losing streak. Davis’s absence showed how many holes on the team he is covering up as they lost to San Antonio without him.
Christian Wood has played solid as a backup center but has been inconsistent. He is more of an offensive-minded center. Jaxson Hayes, as the traditional backup center, has struggled this season. Hayes is averaging 3/2/0 and has a plus-minus of -46. He has not been effective this season.
When Hayes signed, the Lakers were hoping he would be an athletic two-way big. They envisioned the 23-year-old as a defensive big and rebounder while being a lob threat on offense. He has not met those expectations, and as a championship contender, the front office needs to seek an upgrade at backup center.
With that said, here are the top trade targets for the Lakers to fill that backup center role.
The Chicago Bulls are selling this season, as Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Alex Caruso are major trade candidates. Andre Drummond is a quality backup center, averaging 6/7/1 shooting 51.4% from the field. Drummond is putting up these numbers in only 13 minutes per game.
The Lakers have struggled rebounding this season when Davis is off the floor. Drummond would be a great fit as a backup center to crash the glass. Drummond has experience with James and Davis, as he played for LA for part of the 2020-21 campaign.
The 30-year-old center is on a cheap contract and is a player the Lakers should pursue.
The Washington Wizards have struggled as one of the worst teams in the league. Ahead of the trade deadline, Daniel Gafford is an intriguing candidate.
The 25-year-old center is averaging 11/8/2 with 2.3 blocks per game. He is shooting an efficient 69.2% from the field. His fit as a rebounder, rim protector, and lob threat makes him an ideal center for the Lakers.
Gafford is on a three-year $40 million deal and could be a starter for LA if they move to Davis to power forward, or he could be an elite backup. Washington may consider Gafford as one of the few players who are part of their core, but if he’s available, Rob Pelinka should make a trade offer.
Wizards center Daniel Gafford tonight vs. Phoenix:— Will Whitson (@will_whitson2) December 18, 2023
• 26 PTS
• 17 REB (7 OREB)
• 3 AST
• 2 BLK
• 10/13 FG
• 6/7 FT pic.twitter.com/HrhPGzJu36
The New Orleans Pelicans are 7th in the West at 18-12 and a competitive team. Although New Orleans has played at a solid level, they are a team to monitor ahead of the deadline.
The Pelicans have remained a team that barely makes or misses the playoffs. That means big changes could be on the horizon.
Valanciunas would be an intriguing center who would fit in the starting lineup next to Davis or off the bench. The 31-year-old is averaging 15/10/3 with 1.3 blocks, shooting 57.7% from the floor and 37.9% from downtown.
His rebounding, floor spacing, and ability to block shots would help LA on the offense and defensive ends. Valanciunas is on a reasonable $15.4 million deal and should be an option the LakeShow considers.
The Atlanta Hawks have had a tough start to the season at 12-15. Atlanta has been inconsistent for a second straight season, and they could make some changes.
Clint Capela would fit well as a strong rebounder, efficient lob threat, and rim protector. He is a traditional big, averaging 12/11/1 with 1.7 blocks.
The 29-year-old is on a big deal, which could deter the Lakers from trading for him, but they could look into it.
Nikola Vucevic tonight:— BullsMuse (@BullsMuse_) December 15, 2023
Elite performance. pic.twitter.com/AgXviQKlZR
As mentioned, the Bulls are a selling team this season. Nikola Vucevic is another strong rebounder and shooter who could fit well next to Davis.
Vucevic is averaging 17/10/3 and playing well as an all-around big man. If the front office wants to make a splash trade at center, Vucevic could be an available piece.
The Utah Jazz are off to a slow 12-18 start and are active in the trade market. The veteran center Kelly Olynyk is one of the pieces that will likely availability.
The 32-year-old stretch big is averaging 8/6/4, shooting 54.7% from the field and 42.3% from behind the arc.
He would be a reliable rebounder and shooter off the bench on a $12.1 million contract. Olynyk is an all-around offensive player who could be an impactful backup big.
The Memphis Grizzlies are one of the worst teams in the league, but Ja Morant returned on Tuesday. However, at 9-19, it’s an uphill climb for Memphis, and they could be sellers.
Bismack Biyombo would be a cheap backup big to bring in, averaging 6/6/2 with 1.1 blocks.
The 31-year-old center would serve as a traditional backup big and impact the game as a rebounder and defender.
The Charlotte Hornets are another one of the worst teams in the league. Nick Richards is a backup center who could draw interest from LA.
The 26-year-old is averaging 8/7/1 with 1.2 blocks. He’s a traditional big man on a three-year $15 million deal.
Because of his cheap deal for multiple seasons, Richards is an attainable option and could be valuable for the Lakers.
While LA has been inconsistent this season, they are among the title contenders. Adding a more consistent backup center to help in minutes when Davis is off the floor could help them tremendously as the season progresses.