Lakers’ Free-Agent Center Targets: Ranking From First-to-Worst

Lakers Center Targets

Getty Dwight Howard of the Houston Rockets looks to pass against Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls.

With the hunt for a replacement big man in full swing, reports surfaced today that they would be bringing in Dwight Howard, Joakim Noah, and Marreese Speights for workouts. The team also has some interest in Marcin Gortat, though he is not among the three big men being brought in for a closer look.

With that said, let’s take a deeper look and rank the options among the three players the Lakers have brought in so far.

Ranking the Lakers’ Replacement Big Man Options

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1. Dwight Howard

Howard seems to be the best option on paper for the Lakers at this time despite his interesting history with the team. The extremely public breakup of the Lakers and Howard left some ill will on both sides, though it seems both Howard and the Lakers are willing to set aside their differences when discussing a possible reunion.

While he is aging and coming off an injury-shortened season, Howard is typically a durable player who hits the boards hard and can still play some quality defense in the low post. The modern NBA’s emphasis on perimeter shooting has handicapped Howard’s usefulness, though he should still be able to provide high-quality minutes in a more limited role off the bench. From the bench, Howard can be deployed in a bit more of a tactical manner and potentially avoid those small-ball lineups that give him trouble altogether.

While the reunion would be awkward from a personal standpoint, Howard could be a huge benefit to the Lakers assuming he is willing to accept a more limited role.

2. Joakim Noah

Noah has dealt with his fair share of injuries over the past few seasons before having a renaissance year off the bench for the Grizzlies last season. In a little over 15 minutes per game, Noah offered some quality rebounding and rim protection while giving the offense an easy and reliable option down around the basket.

Noah likely wouldn’t be capable of playing extended starting minutes should something happen to JaVale McGee which makes this option a little risky for the Lakers – especially since McGee has some injury history of his own. However, if the health holds, a big man duo of McGee and Noah would be far from the Lakers’ worst option given the circumstances.

3. Maurice Speights

One interesting option whose name hadn’t been thrown around much is Marreese Speights. Speights dominated in China last season and showed he still has the shooting touch that makes him a possible strong fit in the Lakers offensive system. Speights is comfortable playing either the power forward or center position, though he would almost certainly see the bulk – if not all – his minutes at the five with the Lakers.

Despite Speights having arguably the best overall fit, the fact that he spent the past year overseas bumps him to the bottom of the list. Speights also isn’t the best interior defender, though he should be passable if the Lakers can find a way to stagger the bulk of his minutes alongside Anthony Davis. Whereas Noah and Howard offer a bit more consistency, Speights is more of a wildcard – though his upside and fit are arguably a bit higher than the other options.

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