Lakers Rumors: Latest Buzz on Kevin Durant, Nicolas Batum and Other Targets

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistJune 30, 2016

Los Angeles sounds ready for the market to open Friday.
Los Angeles sounds ready for the market to open Friday.Greg Beacham/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers want Kevin Durant and other free agents to believe in the plan. 

But the problem isn't hard to figure out. Between the Lakers and New York Knicks, it's clear that players aren't buying into organizations based on locale or prestigious history anymore.

So while the Lakers boast historical accolades and a Hollywood setting heading into Friday's free-agency opening, a paltry 38 wins over the past two seasons has taken its toll. As a result, not all the rumblings on the rumors market surrounding the team slot into the positive category.

It's not all bad, but we cannot overlook the negative for a team that is seemingly close to putting it all together. The good news? Some players do have an interest, and general manager Mitch Kupchak and the front office seem to have a strong plan in place. Here's the latest.

 

Kevin Durant Update

Bad news first.

The Lakers seem stuck on the outside looking in when it comes to Durant. This wasn't a hard conclusion to come to based on the team's performance over the years. Durant probably does not want to help a rebuild or deal with comparisons to Kobe Bryant

Still, ESPN's Chris Broussard seemed to provide something along the lines of a confirmation:

According to NBA.com's David Aldridge, Durant has six meetings lined up. One glance at the list indicates why the Lakers didn't make the cut:

Each of those teams listed is already a playoff contender. Some might ask Durant to take a pay cut (Los Angeles Clippers), and others might have plenty of question marks (Miami Heat), but all are proven organizations with proven players.

History and locale aside, the Lakers just don't have the ammo to compete right now. At best, they will have to hope Durant signs a short deal and hits the market again in 2017. By then, provided all goes well with the strong young core on the roster, the Lakers might stand a better chance.

 

The Wish List

It's not like the Lakers will just sit on their hands and suspend everything until Durant makes a decision. 

No, Kupchak understands the value of upgrading the center position, if not grabbing a small forward to join Brandon Ingram—preferably a veteran who can mix and match within the lineup and help the team win.

Broussard revealed the larger plan:

It's easiest to break this down into pieces.

Center: The Lakers wouldn't mind stealing Hassan Whiteside from the Heat. He's a bit of a risk after a breakout season at the age of 27 years old, but he's a risk worth spending the cash on after he averaged a double-double last year and a whopping 3.7 blocks per game.

Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks is more of a conservative idea, but there's nothing wrong with such an approach. Horford is one of the most widely respected veterans in the league; he's a rock down low who doubles as a mentor and quality producer after averaging 15.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per game last season.

Small forward: This is more interesting. Harrison Barnes of the Golden State Warriors offers upside at the age of 24, but he averaged only 11.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game last year. It'd be odd to see the team gamble on upside there at a steep price with Ingram already on board.

Ryan Anderson and Nicolas Batum seem more in line with what the Lakers need. The former is coming off a season in which he averaged 17 points and six boards but more importantly is nearly a 38 percent career shooter from deep. The latter offers similar production but gets his own section below because it sounds like he wants to join the Lakers—a rare quality in a free agent these days.

The lessons here aren't hard to discern. In the perfect world, Kupchak nails down a Roy Hibbert replacement and secures a veteran shooter; both adds can help mentor a young core.

 

Nicolas Batum Interest?

Nicolas Batum has everything the Lakers want in free agency.
Nicolas Batum has everything the Lakers want in free agency.Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

It took a while, but the rumors market has finally offered up a player who might have an interest in joining the Lakers.

According to Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times, said player is Batum:

It's a big deal, folks. Batum is an eight-year veteran who last season helped propel the young Charlotte Hornets to a playoff berth while averaging 14.9 points, 5.8 assists and 6.1 rebounds per game. On the way, he shot 42.6 percent from the field and 34.8 percent from long range.

Batum figures to want a long-term deal, which the Lakers would be more than happy to give him. He spent every year of his career until last season with the Portland Trail Blazers, so he might be with his next team for the long haul.

Los Angeles would be foolish to scoff at what Batum wants. There's a reason why the Hornets want him back, per the Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell, and the Warriors view him as a secondary option behind Durant, per the Bay Area News Group's Marcus Thompson II.

If Batum has an interest, the Lakers should cave to almost any demand. He is a shooter, a fit and a veteran who can help boost a developing roster. He represents a culture-changing add who might even leave room for the front office to still upgrade center.

See? It's not all bad news around the Lakers. It's just a different type of news, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

 

All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.

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