Report: Lakers to “aggressively pursue” Hassan Whiteside in free agency

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Hassan Whiteside made $981,348 last season for the Miami Heat.

Next season he is going to make $22 million — the max salary he can get — playing somewhere. Maybe Miami, Pat Riley has said bringing Whiteside and his elite shot blocking plus efficient 14.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game back is the team’s highest priority. But Golden State also is interested in Whiteside. So is Dallas. So is Portland. And that’s just the start of a long line of teams.

You can add the Los Angeles Lakers to the list, reports Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein of ESPN.

With rim protection and perimeter shooting ranking as the Lakers’ foremost areas of concern heading into the open market, sources told ESPN.com that Whiteside has emerged a priority target for L.A.

This is about as surprising as Hamilton winning a wheelbarrow full of Tony Awards.

The Lakers are likely refocusing their free agent targets after it appears they have not been able to get a meeting with Kevin Durant (and even if they do they are long shots to land him).

The Lakers certainly need rim protection inside. They like their young forwards Julius Randle and the just drafted Brandon Ingram, but in Luke Walton’s more Warriorsesque system someone has to protect the paint on defense and that is not those guys strength. Whiteside would do that, he could score a little, and he would fit the young, up-and-coming profile of the Lakers.

Whiteside will have options. While teams (including Miami) would like to get Whiteside for a little less than the max, with so many teams in the mix that seems unlikely. Simple supply and demand. In an NBA trending toward space bigs who are athletic and can protect the rim and cover in space are highly sought after and there are only a few of them. The Lakers want him.

Miami likely keeps Whiteside with a max offer, but as they are in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes they may want to stall a move on Whiteside (the Heat only have early Bird Rights on Whiteside, they need to use cap space to re-sign him, they can’t do that and max out Durant). Maybe that cracks the door open for another team. The Lakers will try to get their foot in that door.