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Lakers Rumors: LA Plans to Land Kevin Durant Meeting, Pursuing More Free Agents

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIJune 29, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK- MAY 28:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder stands on the court during the game against the Golden State Warriors in Game Six of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs on May 28, 2016 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Noah Graham/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers have been excluded from Kevin Durant's free-agent wish list thus far but are reportedly keen to contact him when the market opens on July 1.ย 

A team source told ESPN.com's Chris Broussard the Lakers are confident about their chances of landing a meeting with the longtime Oklahoma City Thunder superstar.

"I can't imagine Durant wouldn't talk to us," said the source, per Broussard's Tuesday report. "That would shock me."

Since a mere meeting with Durant hasn't been possible to date, Los Angeles is also looking into intriguing alternatives. Sources told Broussard the Lakers are interested in big men Hassan Whiteside and Al Horford, along with versatile forward Harrison Barnes.

Los Angeles' big market and rich franchise history can only do so much to sway big-name players to sign on, though. In Durant's case, he's already scheduled meetings with six teams: the Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers, per ESPN.com.

All of those teams just made the playoffs, whereas the Lakers are coming off their worst season in franchise history at 17-65. Although the makeup of the team stands to be far different following Kobe Bryant's retirement, L.A. is hardly in a position to win anytime soon.

Durant will likely seek to join a more championship-ready team, considering he's yet to win an NBA title and is going to want as many chances as possible to seize the Larry O'Brien Trophy in his prime.

As for the trio Broussard mentions, there is definitely a need in the frontcourt for someone like Horford or Whiteside.

Horford has thrived at the 4 and the 5 for the Atlanta Hawks and would be an intriguing, versatile fit alongside Julius Randle. However, he is likely in the same boat as Durant in that he'll want to play for a bigger winner at age 30 after failing to get over the hump in Atlanta.

The two players who make the most sense on paper for L.A. are Whiteside and Barnes. That assertion aligns with what the Wall Street Journal's Michael Chapman tweeted Tuesday:

Michael Chapman @mikechapmanNBA

Any combination of Harrison Barnes, Chandler Parsons, or Hassan Whiteside are the Lakers' "big fish" they want to catch in free agency.

Whiteside has enjoyed a meteoric rise with the Miami Heat and averaged 14.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per contest last season.

With the chance to join a pantheon of great Lakers big men and potentially be the centerpiece of a young nucleus that features Randle, Brandon Ingram, D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson, Whiteside is a logical fit to round out L.A.'s prospective starting five of the future.

But if the Lakers miss out on Whiteside, Barnes isn't a bad consolation prize. New L.A. coach Luke Walton has been an assistant on the Warriors staff, which is where Barns has spent his entire career to date.

Barnes has a golden opportunity to reunite with Walton, take on a larger role and perhaps morph into the All-Star he's flashed the potential to be. There isn't much room for the 24-year-old to thrive on Golden State's loaded squad either personnel-wise or in terms of cap space.

Since he hasn't had an optimal chance to showcase his talents with the Warriors, Barnes' open-market value will ultimately go a long way in determining whether L.A. will sign him. His familiarity factor with Walton supplies at least one encouraging element to the equation.

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