Looks like Lakers new head coach Luke Walton is keeping himself busy as he and the team are keeping an eye on Golden State Warriors Festus Ezeli, who has been rumored to opt out of his contract to join the elite list of talents in free agency this summer.
With the Warriors still busy with their second round playoffs series against the Portland Trailblazers, Walton and the Lakers are already sending feelers for Ezeli once he opts out of the Warriors to test his worth in the free agency market. And with $60 million worth of salary space, it’s pretty sure the Lakers and Ezeli could work out a deal.
Ezeli has been coming off the bench behind Andrew Bogut in the Warriors’ rotation. The 26-year old Nigerian has been used sparingly by his team as he can be a dominant force inside the paint as well at six-foot-11.
Ezeli has been averaging 15 points, per 36 minutes numbers, with 12 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. His skills and talents are not maximized as Bogut is also getting the starter role but Steve Kerr has been doing a balancing act especially as they are aiming to defend their title this year.
Ezeli, who was the Warriors 30th overall pick in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft, signed a four-year contract with the team worth $5.2 million and this year he is set to receive a base salary of not more than $2 million. However, the team has the luxury of exercising their option on his contract this summer making him a restricted free agent. If the Lakers can match their offer, then it could be a different scenario.
The Lakers are looking at Ezeli, who could complement Julius Randle in protecting the paint, and with his size it could provide intimidation to those who would try to close it down the paint plus at 255 lbs. he could easily shrug off the ball of the board.
“The Lakers, a source said, will have an interest in Ezeli, seeing his size and rim-protecting defense as an ideal complement to forward Julius Randle. L.A., of course, just hired Warriors assistant Luke Walton to be its coach,” Sean Deveney of The Sporting News reports.
Even though sources are stating that the Warriors would want Ezeli to stay as he would be the future replacement for Bogut, but the table discussions with the Lakers with Walton on board could spell the difference and might see Ezeli donning the Lakers uniform next season.
For Ezeli, winning more games and getting involved in those wins would make his a more marketable for the free agency season. Thus, his relationship with Walton will be tested come July 1 if he opts out and would sign with the Lakers will be a good sign as they are in the rebuilding process as well.
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