Under normal circumstances, you’d expect the Lakers to just sign the biggest name available and be done with it. But besides Kevin Durant, there isn’t a name big enough to be worth their time, and besides, they hired Luke Walton, they’re going young. The Lakers seem like they actually have a sensible plan and are going to stick to it.
Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell in the backcourt, Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram at forward. What are we missing? A center, one who plays defense and gets out of the way, and one who’s young enough to grow with this core.
The first choice is obviously going to be Hassan Whiteside, but Portland and Miami are just more alluring situations for a variety of reasons. It’s a possibility, just don’t bet on it.
Bismack makes perfect sense as a backup plan. He does exactly what the Lakers need out of their center. He’s an excellent defender and rebounder. His hands are improving enough offensively that they might be able to start throwing him in pick-and-rolls. And he’s only 23! Ok, he’s listed at 23 and could be a few years older, but he’s still on the younger end of free agents.
Bismack isn’t going to do any better than the Lakers either. Few teams have the young offensive firepower to hide his deficiencies on that end, and even fewer are in a position to overpay him as drastically as the Lakers are. They’re have the cap space to chase two max players but have nobody else to spend that money on.
This is the smart move. Just sign a player that fits your roster and your timeline. It seems like what Luke Walton would want to do.
But that being said, these are still the Lakers. They are still going to sit down with DeMar DeRozan and make him a stupid offer. They’re going to have a seat at the Kevin Durant table and probably make themselves look bad. I’m not even ready to rule out a Dwight Howard reunion because hey, the Lakers do dumb stuff like that all of the damn time.
So we’ll know relatively quickly what version of the Lakers we’re getting. If they reach out to Biyombo early in free agency, they’re thinking long term and making the smart play. If they hold everything to wait to hear from Durant, or aggressively pursue DeRozan, then these are just the same old Lakers. I’m betting on the former. I’m terrified of the latter.