After a strong offseason with several savvy free-agent signings, there is real potential for the Los Angeles Lakers to throw out one of the best starting lineups in the sport. That is, if they were to actually play their five best players.
Instead, the Lakers are reportedly confident in Jaxson Hayes’ ability to start and play alongside Anthony Davis. This would give the Lakers a two-big lineup that struggles with floor spacing but allows AD to play power forward — which he himself called his preference.
This explains why the Lakers are reportedly looking for a floor-spacing big and also explains why Christian Wood is not a fit at all as he would not be starting in this conceived lineup. Instead, this plan points in the direction of a young center that is not available to be signed right now but should be in the coming weeks.
Lakers’ lineup plans point toward signing Usman Garuba in free agency.
Usman Garuba is currently signed to the Oklahoma CIty Thunder, who have 20 players on the roster. OKC is going to have to cut loose at least five players before the start of the 2023-24 season and Garuba is one of the main candidates to be let go.
OKC acquired Garuba in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks and with so much talent in front of him in the frontcourt there is really no place for him on the Thunder. It is just a matter of time until the Thunder eventually cut him loose and the Lakers should be interested.
Garuba is not a traditional rim-protecting center and profiles more as a power forward in the traditional sense. However, in today’s game, he is more than capable of playing a small-ball five and giving the Lakers the floor spacing that the team needs.
The 21-year-old Spaniard shot 40.7% from three in 59 attempts last season, giving him the fourth-highest three-point percentage among centers with at least 50 attempts last season. While it is a small sample size, his ability to space the floor and hit shots was one of the intriguing things about him in his scouting report.
He is young, moldable, and is someone who the team does not need to commit to long-term. Garuba can likely be signed with a non-guaranteed contract, meaning the team could part ways with him easier in the future if a better option becomes available on the buyout market.
Plus, this is the kind of big that the Lakers need to get if Hayes is going to start and play big minutes next to Anthony Davis. There are going to be times when Rui Hachimura and Jarred Vanderbilt are on the floor together and adding that additional floor spacer with Vando on the court makes sense.
Suddenly, the Lakers could have a really fun, larger lineup that can shoot with Gabe Vincent, LeBron James, Vanderbilt, Hachimura and Garuba. Whichever direction the team takes, Garuba offers the kind of flexibility that should be touted in a back-end rotation player.