3. Khem Birch
Listed at 6 foot 9 rather than 7 foot tall, by default Khem Birch is lower on my wish list than Whiteside or Lopez.
Despite being undersized, Birch has demonstrated a knack for playing larger than his listed height throughout the course of his career, as evidenced by his career per-36 average of 10.0 rebounds per game.
Before the start of the season, Orlando had aspirations of making the playoffs for a third straight season. However, that all changed after losing Markelle Fultz to an ACL tear after 8 games. Now, Orlando’s priority should be player evaluation, which means giving Birch’s backup center minutes to former top-five pick Mo Bamba.
Right now, Birch is the second-best center on the Orlando Magic roster behind all-star Nikola Vucevic. However, he’s unlikely to factor into the team’s long-term plans, making him a highly desirable target for contending teams who are in search of a backup big man.
While not the same caliber of rim protector as the other 4 members of this list, Birch is a very solid defender. In 2019-20, he graded in the 78th percentile for Defensive PIPM and in the 83rd percentile for expected FG% at the rim. This season, he’s ranked 7th in screen assists per game, the highest rank for any player who hasn’t started the majority of games this season.
For $3 million per year and coming off contract at season’s end, Birch is another quality depth piece that the Lakers should look to acquire. Although Birch’s height isn’t ideal, he’s only an inch shorter than Dwight Howard. Based on his career body of work, he matches up with 7 footers far better than Montrezl Harrell, which is what the Lakers need in a backup big man.