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3 center candidates the Lakers should target

After filling out most of their roster in free agency, the Lakers are reportedly still in search for another center. Here are a few options that can help fill that hole.

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NBA: Playoffs-Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

With a flurry of moves on Friday, the Lakers wasted little time in filling out their roster in NBA free agency. As of this article, 13 of the team’s 15 roster spots are already occupied.

According to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, L.A.’s next step now will be signing one more center to help shore up the frontcourt, and then heading into the year with an open roster spot for future maneuverings:

L.A. is targeting another big man with its 14th roster spot, according to team sources. They are likely to carry 14 guaranteed contracts into the season, leaving one roster spot open. Mo Bamba, whom the Lakers waived on Thursday, and Tristan Thompson, who joined the team right before their playoff run, remain options to fill that 14th spot, according to league sources. The big man market has been dry so far during this free-agency period, so the Lakers could also wait to see if better options present themselves.

As Buha points out, players like Mo Bamba and Tristian Thompson could be candidates to return. But if the Lakers decide to go in a different direction, here are a few options left on the market they could pursue to help address what is still a clear need.

Mason Plumlee

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at New Orleans Pelicans Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Like other remaining free agents, Mason Plumlee seems to be waiting to see how several dominos fall before making a decision on what team he plays for next season.

His incumbent team, the Los Angeles Clippers, have slowly added on the margins as they are still clearly working on a potential blockbuster trade for either James Harden or Damian Lillard.

Because of this, Plumlee likely hasn’t signed elsewhere given the shortage of remaining money available on the market, coupled with the Clippers still in possession of his full Bird Rights to bring him back at a non-minimum salary following an aforementioned trade.

But in the case Plumlee gets tired of waiting, or the Clippers ultimately decide to go in another direction, he would be a terrific backup for Anthony Davis, and complement to Jaxson Hayes in the depth chart.

The 33-year-old would not only add experience, but also help on the glass and on offense via his soft touch and impressive playmaking chops for a big man.

According to Cleaning the Glass, Plumlee had a fantastic defensive-rebounding percentage of 25.5% with the Clippers following the trade deadline (92nd percentile among bigs).

He also is an underrated hub on offense, as actions can be run through him out of the post, or out of dribble handoffs on the perimeter. There have only been two seasons in his career where he hasn’t finished in the 80th percentile or better in AST% amongst bigs in the league.

That level of presence on the glass coupled with being a connector on the other end is something the Lakers haven't had from the 5 spot since Marc Gasol.

Update: Several hours after this article originally published, Plumlee agreed to go back to the Clippers. Read on for two other options.

Bismack Biyombo

NBA: Playoffs-Los Angeles Clippers at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

In terms of the options on this list, Bismack Biyombo may be the most realistic center the Lakers could sign for a few reasons.

For one, not only is it unlikely that Biyombo gets more than the minimum from a team this summer, but he also would provide L.A. with some key dimensions they still desperately lack. Most specifically physicality and rim protection off the bench.

Unlike Plumlee or Hayes — who can offer things on offense — Biyombo has instead made a career out of routinely playing hard and blocking the hell out of the ball. And with the Phoenix Suns last season, Biyombo showed he can still do both at an extremely effective rate.

The 30-year-old had an absurd 5.1% block rate in the 60 games he appeared in, which when compared to the rest of bigs last season, ranked in the 100th percentile. And in terms of the his contests, no center (minimum 50 games played) allowed a lower defended field-goal percentage on shots within six feet than Biyombo did.

He in short, was an eclipse at the rim whenever he stepped on the floor.

Biyombo’s physicality and defense would also likely allow for Hayes to develop in the background, and he could immediately help relieve some of the wear and tear from Davis when it comes to checking sturdier fives around the league.

The Lakers saw firsthand the importance of having some size on the bench last postseason. And although he is limited in other areas, Biyombo could help address that.

Christian Wood

Sacramento Kings v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

If — and it’s a large if — the Lakers were able to sign Christian Wood to a vet-minimum deal, there could be tremendous value to be had.

That said, of the options listed, Wood may actually be the center with the most variability. There may be no better indicator of that than the fact he’s even still available. Because in terms of sheer offensive talent, Wood remains one of the most dynamic jump-shooting bigs in the league.

With the Dallas Mavericks last season, Wood made 49% of his midrange attempts and 39% of non-garbage time 3-point chances.

Either as his backup, or even playing next to Davis, the offensive fit with Wood makes a lot of sense. As seen in Marc Gasol, Thomas Bryant and Mo Bamba, the Lakers have made an effort to find some floor spacing from a frontcourt player for years now.

If brought in, Wood would arguably be the most talented shooting big L.A. has had in recent memory.

According to the league’s tracking data, the 27-year-old made 41.8% of his catch-and-shoot attempts from beyond the arc with Dallas this past season. And on his wide-open chances (defender 6+ feet away), Wood converted on a blistering 42.4% of his opportunities.

There are a few issues that are worth keeping in mind, however, as there is a reason Wood’s role and tenure on teams continues to fluctuate.

Between his inconsistent effort and defensive limitations, it’s been difficult for teams to allocate the type of money he’s coveted while also being competitive on the floor.

This is why playing next to or behind a defensive stalwart like Davis — and being on a more team-friendly contract — may actually be the best move for Wood to recoup his value around the league.

It remains to be seen if his stock has actually fallen that low, or if the Lakers would even have interest, given he does not check the boxes of a traditional center. But in terms of rolling the dice on what likely will be their final signing of free agency, they could do far, far worse.

Given the financial resources available to them and what was already a thin center market heading into free agency to begin with, there does remain a high chance all three of these players find a bigger role or payday elsewhere.

But amongst the bigs still available, and even with their flaws in mind, the Lakers would be fortunate to add any one of these three players under the circumstances.

For all the latest on NBA free agency, check out our Silver Screen and Roll Lakers free agency rumors tracker. You can follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexmRegla.

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