NBA Rumors: Lakers strike out on top offseason target before free agency

LeBron James #6 and Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LeBron James #6 and Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

Free agency hasn’t even started yet, but the Los Angeles Lakers have already lost out on a top offseason target. NBA free agency doesn’t officially begin until June 30th, but the Lakers were reportedly interested in acquiring Timberwolves backup center Naz Reid, but he is now off the market.

While the Lakers didn’t have a major need at center, Reid has emerged as one of the better backup big men in the league. Had he joined the Lakers, he would have formed a potentially potent frontcourt that included Lebron James and Anthony Davis, but he will be staying in Minnesota after agreeing to a team-friendly deal.

The Wolves weren’t expected to retain him due to having an expensive frontcourt that features Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, both of whom will make a combined $77 million next season. Fortunately for them and unfortunately for Los Angeles, Reid agreed to an affordable 3-year deal worth just $42 million, less than many expected him to get in free agency.

Why did Reid take less to be a backup in Minnesota over possibly starting for the Lakers?

One reason is that Reid might not be the backup center for long. With rumors that Towns will be traded, retaining Reid gives the Wolves a much cheaper replacement who, while not as talented, is still very good, not to mention three years younger. Another reason is that the free agency market for centers appears bleak.

Most teams already have a starting big man, and some of the teams that needed an upgrade (i.e., Boston, Dallas, and San Antonio) got one in trades or in free agency. Worse yet, the few teams that project to have cap space don’t have a big enough need to fork out $15 million a season to sign Reid, and if they did, some might pursue free-agent center Jakob Poeltl instead.

The Lakers might have been an option, but it wasn’t clear that they could offer him big money. After all, they could technically open up cap space, but they would basically have to renounce most of their free agents, i.e., D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley. That would open up other holes on their roster, particularly at guard. As a result, Reid took the $42 million option, and who can blame him after he was undrafted to start his career?

With Reid off the market and Kyrie Irving seeming likely to re-sign in Dallas, the Lakers may be better suited to bring back most of their free agents. That might not seem all that exciting, but they did go 17-9 post-trade deadline last season, which would be the equivalent of a 54-win team.

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That doesn’t mean that they will win 63% of their games next season, but it does suggest that this team is good enough to get a high seed, not to mention that they did beat a 51-win Memphis team in the playoffs. Ultimately, while the Lakers did miss out on signing a free-agent target, they have a good plan B for next season.