Lakers rumors 2016: Team will go hard at Harrison Barnes in free-agency if Kevin Durant unavailable

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Lakers Rumors – The Los Angeles Lakers will once again go big name hunting in free-agency season, with their eyes set sight on All-Star forward Kevin Durant as the ultimate prize.

However, there’s no guarantee Durant will leave Oklahoma City this summer. And if he does, Yahoo Sports writer Adrian Wojnarowski reported Tuesday that the Golden State Warriors, not the Lakers, are the favorites to land the former MVP.

After failing to bring in an All-Star caliber player the past three years, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak is facing more pressure in bringing ‘the next franchise player’ especially with Kobe Bryant officially retiring at the end of the season.

Durant would be a dream replacement for Kobe as the face of the franchise. On the other hand, the Lakers front-office is also aware of their slim chances in salvaging the perennial All-Star.

Getting Durant remains the Lakers’ plan A. If it doesn’t materialize, they will have a plan B and that’s chasing after budding forward Harrison Barnes, who will also hit the market this summer as an unrestricted free-agent.

Averaging 11.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game this season, the Barnes is an intriguing young talent with still plenty of upside. Although the Warriors have the rights to match any contract offered to him, analysts expect Golden State to let Barnes walk away if they feel they have a legit shot at Durant.

Speaking of a potential Durant to Warriors scenario, Barnes had a quick phone chat with SFGate writer Rusty Simmons to discuss the possibility of leaving Bay Area after this season.

“It’s always something, right?” Barnes said. “The first summer, it was Dwight (Howard). The next summer, it was Kevin Love. Every single year, there’s always been somebody who the Warriors wanted or somebody who wanted to come here. That’s part of the business. That stuff happens.

“If it happens, great. If it doesn’t, great. At the end of the day, I’ll still get the chance to be in the NBA and still get to play.”

For a young team like the Lakers, going after Barnes would be a solid move. At 23-years old, Barnes is ripe to take his career to another level. In 2012, the Houston Rockets gambled on a talented but untested James Harden and it paid off. Harden has become a perennial All-Star ever since, emerging as the uncontested face of the Rockets.

The Lakers could do the same move by investing in Barnes, the 7th overall pick in the 2012 Draft. Putting Barnes alongside Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and possibly another high-pick in this year’s draft will give the Lakers a team to reckon with in the next 2 or 3 years.

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