The Los Angeles Lakers are back.
Of course, it takes faith in a few offerings from the rumor mill to believe so. Still, it sounds like free agents once again view the Lakers as an ideal destination—especially with Julius Randle and this year's No. 2 overall pick D'Angelo Russell on board.
With the free-agency gates set to open on July 10, it only makes sense that more and more comes out about the Lakers, a team sure to focus on big men given the construction of the roster.
Below, let's take a look at the latest offerings and what they mean for the organization.
The Greg Monroe Sweepstakes
The biggest order of business in Los Angeles these days is securing a veteran underneath the basket next to Randle, but not just any veteran—a full-blown star deserving of a max contract.
Greg Monroe might just be what the Lakers covet. According to Darrell Williams of the Advocate, Los Angeles is one of five teams in the running: "Five teams have shown serious interest—the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers. Monroe said he’ll meet with those teams this week."
It's interesting Monroe and the Lakers are already coming up in discussions together involving the word meeting.
Make no mistake, Monroe's worth the cash. He's just 25 years old and coming off a season in which he averaged 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds per game with a player efficiency rating of 21.26 despite a so-so team around him.
Monroe fits what general manager Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers would want in a big man, especially if they miss out on bigger names. He can act as a defensive enforcer and the offense can run through him but doesn't have to, leaving room for everyone to get involved.
As what seems like a backup plan should other moves not work out, Monroe looks like a great fit.
The DeAndre Jordan Sweepstakes
If the Lakers want to go more purebred center and defensive enforcer, all they have to do is look close to home.
There, former Los Angeles Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan continues to make the rounds on the rumor mill after Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times passed along a note detailing the big man's desire to be more involved in an offense.
While it's impossible to know if the Lakers will give him such leeway, the two sides do appear linked, per USA Today's Sam Amick. "Three people with knowledge of his situation said he is expected to meet with at least four teams—the Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks—in the first few days of free agency," he wrote.
Few better options when it comes to defensive powerhouses in the paint exist for the Lakers this offseason. Jordan just averaged 11.5 points, 15 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game, numbers perhaps ripe to increase with a less potent team such as the Lakers.
With Russell, Randle and Kobe Bryant on board, it might not be an easy sell.
Regardless, the fit makes sense provided the two parties like the situation enough.
The Biggest Name of All
Then again, all of the above may represent moot points.
Simple, really—it sounds like the most important name in the free-agency ocean wants to make the swing to Los Angeles.
This refers to LaMarcus Aldridge, of course. Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times reported the rumblings:
That escalated quickly, right?
Just a few days ago, ESPN's Marc Stein and Chris Broussard reported on Aldridge's interest in a return to Texas, where the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs figured to be the favorites in the race. Heck, add in the Houston Rockets and their do-whatever-it-takes front office, too.
Now things change. Aldridge is the most important player on the market with the assumption LeBron James' trip concerns business and numbers—not finding a new home.
The former Texas star is an elite offensive presence who can hold his own on the defensive end of things, averaging 23.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.0 block last year.
Should Aldridge come to town, the offense would run through him—no questions asked. Russell can help him get involved, and as far as youngsters go, he would help the players develop at a quicker pace than expected.
Perhaps most important of all, though, is what Aldridge's feelings toward the Lakers say about the organization.
The Lakers aren't the awkward has-been franchise on the market anymore. If Aldridge's interest is a sign, it points to the Lakers making a full-blown comeback, meaning sooner or later the front office will be able to pull off something big and get back to contention.
Said something might be Aldridge.
All stats and info via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.