The Lakers might have made a mistake back in November when the team signed center Marc Gasol, a notion that was evident among some back when the move happened, but one that has grown as the season has gone on and Gasol’s limitations have become more obvious.
Gasol, at 36, is a contemporary of Lakers star LeBron James, but has a history of foot and ankle injuries and has looked his age, averaging only 4.8 points in 20.1 minutes. He offers little rim-protection and while his passing has been welcome, the Lakers don’t run much offense through him.
Gasol has not been the team’s biggest problem—the shooting has been—but certainly, the center pairing of Gasol and Montrezl Harrell has not been nearly as stable as the unflashy but reliable duo of JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard last season. The Lakers want to fix it.
They have some time to weigh their options and are patiently letting those options develop. This week another potential L.A. big guy—San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge—hit the market in earnest.
Currently, there are three players whom NBA executives see L.A. potentially chasing in the coming weeks. The Lakers don’t control their own fate in any of these situations because they can’t create trade packages for any of the three players and must rely on buyouts.
But these are the leading contenders to help L.A. fix the Gasol mistake, with the possibility remaining that the Lakers will get none of the three:
LaMarcus Aldridge, Spurs
Aldridge is the perfect fit because he not only addresses the Lakers’ need for another big guy, but he helps the shooting problem. Aldridge is not a knockdown marksman but he is a good midrange shooter who has stretched his range out to the arc (he is making 36.0% of his 3s this year).
But there are obstacles, first of which is the possibility that the Spurs find a trade for Aldridge, keeping him from getting to the open market. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will hold tight to the idea of making a trade rather than a buyout because, in part, Popovich has a long-held policy of ensuring he makes no moves that wind up helping glamour franchises like the Lakers.
“Pop is going to take whatever he can just to make sure there is a trade and that the trade is not to a team like the Lakers or Clippers or even the Nets,” one general manager told Heavy.com. “It might not work, but that is going to be the play with him. If he can keep LaMarcus off the Lakers, he will.”
Andre Drummond, Cavaliers
Drummond is also lingering on the trade market with the Nets ready to pounce, should he receive a buyout. Any team that adds Drummond is getting a game-changer, a guy who is a four-time rebounding champ and has averaged 1.5 blocked shots per game.
Still, Drummond is a dinosaur in the modern game, a big guy of limited versatility, which is why no one wants to trade for his current expiring contract (worth $28.7 million to start this season). Bringing in Drummond means not only benefiting from the good stats (17.5 points, 13.5 rebounds), but it also means suffering from the lack of perimeter defense and stomaching the woeful free-throw shooting (46.7% for his career) that makes him unplayable in important, late-game situations.
“He is not a player who fits a system really easily, that has been the problem with him all along throughout his career,” another league executive said. “You have to adjust the system to fit him and let him play to his strengths while minimizing his weaknesses. That is tough to do for a contender. I mean, it was tough for Cleveland to do and they were willing to give him a chance.”
JaVale McGee, Cavaliers
The Lakers had to deal away McGee (and a 2026 second-round pick) to get the flexibility to sign Gasol last November, which was the Original Sin that began the team’s struggles in the middle. It is not that McGee was a star at center for the Lakers last year—6.6 points and 5.7 rebounds in 16.6 minutes—it’s that he knew exactly what his role was with the team and filled it nicely.
The Lakers did have concerns about McGee’s physical decline at age 33, but his numbers have been good enough in Cleveland (7.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in 15.2 minutes) and, really, if they were that concerned, why pursue Gasol, who is older and more broken-down?
The problem is that the Lakers can’t trade for him, nor can they sign him if the Cavs waive him (which they might).
The only shot the Lakers have at bringing in McGee, under NBA rules, is if he is traded to another team first, then waived.
“If the circumstances were right, I think they would run to get him back,” the GM said. “But he’s got to be traded first, then get through waivers, then decide if he wants to go back to the team that dumped him in the first place. I think he would go, though, he obviously liked it with the Lakers, he liked being there. He’d swallow his pride and go back if it gave him another chance to win.”