Lakers Big Man Looking to Bolt for Eastern Conference Squad

Rob Pelinka and Darvin Ham of the Lakers

Getty Head coach Darvin Ham and general manager Rob Pelinka of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Los Angeles Lakers have yet to make a decision on the future of Mo Bamba but if the big man had his choice, he’d like to play for the Chicago Bulls, per a new report.

Bamba was acquired by the Lakers at a trade deadline last season but he wasn’t able to make much of an impact due to an ankle injury. He played in nine games with the Lakers and was on the court for just 11 minutes in the postseason.

But there’s a reason the Lakers were interested in the former No. 6 overall pick. He’s a solid rim protector and can also shoot, hitting his 3-pointers at a 35.9% clip for his career.

Bamba is on a $10.3 million non-guaranteed deal for next season and the Lakers will have to make a decision on his future before June 29, when his deal becomes fully guaranteed.

If he’s let loose, the Bulls would be the team he wants to land with, per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

The Lakers could also look to trade Bamba, although it’s uncertain what they’d get in return. Alex Caruso would work salary-wise in a swap, although it’s unlikely that the Bulls would bite on that trade without some draft capital attached. Caruso played 23.5 minutes per game last season with the Bulls and earned an NBA All-Defensive First Team nod.

Lakers Decided Against Draft-Day Trade

There was rampant speculation that the Lakers could decide to make a move during the draft, packaging their first-round pick (No. 17 overall) with a combination of Bamba and potentially Malik Beasley to land a key piece. Beasley — another trade deadline acquisition — has a team option for next season worth a little more than $16.5 million.

But ultimately, the Lakers decided to draft Jalen Hood-Schifino out of Indiana and didn’t make any notable trades. However, it was under consideration, per team insider Mark Medina who spoke to GIVEMESPORT.

“The Lakers considered trading their No. 17 pick and the expiring contracts for Mo Bamba and Malik Beasley, but those assets aren’t necessarily that attractive,” Medina said. “The Lakers became impressed with Hood-Schifino with his pre-draft workout and his interview. During that time, they became encouraged with his competitiveness and disciplined routine.”

Hood-Schifino played one year at Indiana, averaging 13.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.7 assists. General manager Rob Pelinka is excited about the prospect of pairing him with someone like Austin Reaves, who exploded last season with LA.

“You think about the opportunity to pair two young guards together like Austin Reaves and Jalen Hood-Schifino,” Pelinka said. “People would say, ‘Is Austin a point guard? A 2-guard?’ Well, he’s an on-the-ball guard. He can make plays with the ball in his hand. And I would say the same thing about Jalen Hood-Schifino.”

Lakers Still Looking to Build ‘Championship-Level’ Product

The future of Bamba and Beasley with the Lakers feel they can do in free agency, which opens on June 30. The salary cap that could be opened up by parting ways with both is interesting but it would come down to what they could do with it.

“The end goal is for us to put a championship-level product on the court,” Pelinka said. “Sometimes you can’t make all of your moves in one fell swoop but we’re really excited about how the draft panned out”

The Lakers have some key decisions to make in the coming days but Pelinka and Co. appear set on making some moves that will maximize their title chances with LeBron James and Anthony Davis still in the fold.

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