3 Los Angeles Lakers free agent targets with ties to Russell Westbrook

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - MARCH 13 (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - MARCH 13 (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images) /
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Los Angeles Lakers, Russell Westbrook
ATLANTA, GA – NOVEMBER 30: Russell Westbrook #0 and Serge Ibaka #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder react in the final seconds of their 106-100 loss to the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on November 30, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement, 3 Los Angeles Lakers free agent targets with ties to Russell Westbrook. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

With all signs currently pointing to Russell Westbrook returning to the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2022-23 NBA season, the front office must do what it takes to help him fit in. Perhaps that could entail targeting players that have previously played alongside the former MVP to bring in some familiarity and simultaneously strengthen the roster.

There will be no shortage of recognizable names with ties to Westbrook to pursue via free agency this coming offseason, given that he has teammates from stops with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Washington Wizards, and Los Angeles Lakers that will be on the market. With that being said, let us look at three targets for LA to pursue that have previously played alongside Westbrook.

3 Los Angeles Lakers free agent targets with ties to Russell Westbrook: Serge Ibaka

Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka spent a significant portion of their respective careers playing alongside one another with the OKC Thunder in the early 2010s. The pair were a quality tandem, and reuniting them all these years later would be a justifiable move for the Los Angles Lakers, as Ibaka could help patch up several gaping holes currently looming over their roster.

First and foremost, adding Ibaka would immediately help bolster LA’s subpar defense, especially close to the hoop. Due to his phenomenal interior defense, Ibaka has earned three All-Defensive selections and has been the NBA’s Block Champion twice throughout his 13-year playing career.

Although Ibaka may not be the player he once was, he could certainly still help LA. The Lakers gave up 51.5 points in the paint per game during the regular season in 2021-22, which was tied for the second-most in the entire league. Bringing in Ibaka to the roster would help lessen that concern heading into next season, given that he has made a living in the league protecting the rim. Even at 32 years old and coming off some injuries, Ibaka certainly still has some gas left in the tank to help a contender out.

It will be interesting to see how things play out for Ibaka in free agency. Though he is a household name, Ibaka’s financial value is rather clouded at this point after he spent the latter portion of this past season glued to the bench of the Milwaukee Bucks, having scarcely played.

The big man will have suitors looking to fortify their center position, but he will likely be looking for a destination where he will play a legitimate role, unlike he did in Milwaukee, which could make Los Angeles one franchise worth considering.

Whether it be as the starting center or potentially a backup, Ibaka would see reasonable playing time for the Lakers due to his strong defense, and although they will not be able to blow him away with any financial offer, LA should have their eyes on him.