The Lakers will be handing out rings and hoisting a banner at Staples Center on Dec. 22, but don’t expect them just to run it back and expect to win again. They have their own free agents to deal with — Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis (although he will re-sign and stay in LA) — and they want to make some additions as well.
“From a personnel standpoint, he is exactly the kind of combo big guy that team (the Lakers) needs,” one NBA general manager told Heavy.com. “They have had interest in him before and they will again. When he is healthy he is an excellent spot starter at the 5 (center) and the 4 (power forward). He is as good a bench big guy as there is in the league. He was a really credible 3-point threat last year. If he is willing to accept what the Lakers can afford to give him, I know they would want him.”
That last part — the money — is the key. The Lakers will only have their mid-level exception of $9.3 million to spend on a player of this caliber, and that’s what several teams are expected to offer Ibaka. The Lakers, ideally, want to split their mid-level between a couple of veterans to add more depth that can help them win now. Would Ibaka take $5.5 million or $6 million to come to the Lakers and chase another ring (he has one from Toronto) instead of a few million more to play somewhere else?
The fit with Los Angeles is unquestioned. Ibaka averaged 15.4 points and 8.2 rebounds a game for the Raptors last season, shot 38.5% from three, is a fierce shot blocker and rim protector, and is a veteran who knows how to fit with stars. He has played as a starter and off the bench, and it’s easy to see him backing up or playing next to Davis.
Most likely Toronto will retain Ibaka. However, this is exactly the kind of veteran to expect the Lakers to chase in free agency — and the twin draws of LeBron James and Los Angeles are going to land some quality players.