Lakers' Interest in Free-Agent Center is a Bad Idea

The Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly interested in a traditional big man in free agency. That would be a big mistake.
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers have turned their attention to the 2024 NBA Draft, free agency, and the trade market with the hopes of bolstering the roster for another deep postseason run in the dawn of LeBron James' career. With JJ Redick at the helm, they have a lot of work to do if they want to be competitive in the stacked Western Conference. Therefore, they can not afford to make any mistakes in roster construction.

However, the latest reporting by Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports suggests that the Lakers may be targeting the wrong free agents. According to Fischer, one of the names the Lakers are potentially considering is Jonas Valanciunas of the New Orleans Pelicans.

"Pelicans center Jonas Valančiūnas, who’s approaching unrestricted free agency, has been another big man often mentioned by NBA figures as a potential Lakers frontcourt addition this summer."

Jake Fischer, Yahoo Sports

Valanciunas is a solid offensive center. He can score on the interior, post up, and is a menace to deal with on the boards. He provides physicality in the paint. At the same time, he is one of the worst defensive bigs in the league. He is slow-footed and can't guard out on the perimeter. He also can't shoot threes. He is as traditional a center as they come.

That is not the ideal partner for LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Lakers need more modern wings and bigs, who can shoot and defend at a reasonable level. Putting a center like Valanciunas next to Davis creates all sorts of spacing issues on the offensive end while lowering your defensive ceiling.

The Lakers and AD both need to understand that he needs to play center for extended minutes for the team to succeed. At this stage of his career, Davis can't shoot well enough to play him at power forward. Plus, he needs to be as close to the basket as possible on the defensive end to be effective with his elite rim protection.

That is why targeting any traditional center unless they are going to be strictly a backup behind Davis is a bad idea. Let's hope Redick and Pelinka think the same way.

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