3 big men the Lakers should take a hard look at with Mo Bamba out

Peter Dewey
7 Min Read

The Los Angeles Lakers continue to get hit by the injury bug, as center Mo Bamba is expected to miss at least four weeks with a high left ankle sprain.

Bamba, who was acquired by the Lakers at the trade deadline in exchange for guard Patrick Beverley, had been playing decently in a limited role for Los Angeles.

Over seven games with the Lakers (one start), Bamba is averaging 4.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 0.6 blocks per game while shooting 41.7 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Even though he is playing just 11.6 minutes per game for the Lakers, Bamba is a quality backup big that can spell Anthony Davis when needed. Now, the Lakers may have to look elsewhere for help at center with Bamba’s status for the rest of the regular season in question.

Los Angeles is already down star LeBron James, so the team is hoping to avoid any more injuries as it makes a playoff push in the Western Conference.

Davis, who has already missed time this season with a stress injury in his foot, has shown he isn’t the most durable player.

The free agent pool is extremely thin at the moment, but there are three big men that could make sense for the Lakers.

1. DeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus Cousins

Earlier this season, it was reported that Cousins was expected to work out for the Lakers, although the veteran big man has remained a free agent.

Cousins spent time with the Denver Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks last season, and he was actually on the Lakers’ roster for part of the 2019-20 season. He didn’t play for Los Angeles that season due to a torn ACL.

In 48 games in the 2021-22 season, Cousins made seven starts and played 15.0 minutes per game. He averaged 9.0 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 0.4 blocks per game while shooting 46.0 percent from the field.

Injuries have derailed Cousins’ promising career, as he’s suffered a ruptured Achilles and torn ACL. However, at his peak, he was one of the most dominant big men in the NBA.

A four-time All-Star, Cousins posted five straight seasons from 2013 to 2018 where he averaged over 20 points per game.

Cousins is still just 32 years old, so it’s possible he has something left in the tank. While the University of Kentucky product is not the best defensive option for the Lakers, his ceiling as an offensive player is higher than that of any other free agent right now.

He could be worth a dart throw if Los Angeles decides to sign a big man.

2. Hassan Whiteside

Hassan Whiteside

If the Lakers are looking for a more defensive-minded option at center, Whiteside is another veteran option they could consider.

Whiteside, who played for the Utah Jazz in the 2021-22 season, averages 2.2 blocks per game for his career and has led the NBA in blocks per game in two different seasons.

Last season with Utah, Whiteside appeared in 65 games, making eight starts and averaging 17.9 minutes per game. He isn’t a versatile offensive player, but Whiteside could be used to spell Davis against some of the better offensive centers in the league.

Bamba’s combination of shot-blocking and 3-point shooting is going to be tough to find in free agency right now, but Whiteside is elite in one of those areas.

There would be concerns about how the Lakers would space the floor around him, especially if they want to play him with Jarred Vanderbilt, but Whiteside is a proven veteran that could help the team’s playoff push.

3. Tony Bradley

Tony Bradley

Former first-round pick Bradley has played in the 2022-23 season, unlike Cousins and Whiteside, but he was recently waived by the Chicago Bulls.

This season, Bradley has appeared in 12 games, averaging 1.6 points and 0.9 rebounds in just 2.8 minutes per game.

While he couldn’t crack the rotation in Chicago this season, Bradley appeared in 55 games and made seven starts for Chicago in the 2021-22 season.

The University of North Carolina product is just 25 years old, and he may be the most game-ready option of the three players since he has appeared in contests this season.

Bradley isn’t going to be a major factor on offense (he averages just 4.4 points per game for his career), but he showed in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 campaigns that he can be productive when given consistent minutes.

In the 2020-21 season, Bradley averaged 16.3 minutes per game for the Philadelphia 76ers and Oklahoma City Thunder. He put up 7.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting an impressive 66.5 percent from the field.

Last season, he averaged 3.0 points and 3.4 rebounds in just 10.0 minutes per game. The Lakers, if they made a move for Bradley, wouldn’t need him to play a major minutes, but rather would just need him to know his role and provide the team with solid defense and rebounding.

Replacing Bamba is going to be tough given the market at the moment, but all three of these free agents could be options for Los Angeles if it wants to look for an external replacement.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.