The Los Angeles Lakers are starting a new era without Kobe Bryant, and one of their preferred pieces in free agency is reportedly Hassan Whiteside, per Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 25, 2016
Los Angeles is loaded with young talent, even more so now after drafting 18-year old Brandon Ingram out of Duke No. 2 overall this week. D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle are both 21 or under, so the franchise has some extremely raw materials to work with.
The one thing the Lakers do currently lack is a dominant big man, however.
While Randle is a beast on the boards as an undersized power forward, he isn’t a rim protector. Roy Hibbert isn’t chopped liver in this department, but he’s not getting any younger and cannot compare to the likes of Whiteside.
In fact, when it comes to defensive low-post basketball, there isn’t anyone in the Association who can compare to Whiteside. He led the NBA with 3.7 blocks per game and hauled in 11.8 boards per game on top of that. Furthermore, he is a developing offensive player who has much room to grow.
The Lakers are far from the only team what will go hard to land Whiteside, however. Perhaps the biggest competition for his services will be the Miami Heat, which has the money to spend and which Whiteside himself has said would be preferable, provided he gets what he wants financially.
At the age of 27, he is just now coming into his prime and is still a malleable player. He is probably the second-most coveted NBA free agent coming out this year behind Kevin Durant, and it will be interesting to see how things develop as free agency approaches.