The Lakers will have interest in signing Festus Ezeli this summer, reports Sean Deveney of The Sporting News, citing a source. Still, Ezeli prefers to re-sign with the Warriors, believing he’ll inherit a job in the starting lineup once Andrew Bogut‘s contract expires after next season, a source indicated to Deveney. Golden State has the ability to match all offers for him as a restricted free agent, though several league executives suggested it’ll take a three-year, $50MM deal for any team to secure the 26-year-old center.
It’s nonetheless unlikely Ezeli ends up with a four or five-year deal, Deveney writes, pointing to his history of injuries. The 6’11” former Vanderbilt player has only appeared in 170 regular season games since becoming the 30th overall pick in the 2012 draft. A left knee surgery helped limit him to 46 regular season appearances this year. Still, he’s impressed when he’s made it onto the court, and his performance in Tuesday’s playoff game was vital to Golden State’s win over Portland.
Agent Bill Duffy reportedly talked Ezeli out of signing what would have been a team-friendly extension with the Warriors this past fall, but the center said shortly after extension discussions broke down that he wants to remain with Golden State for his entire career. Warriors assistant GM Kirk Lacob, the son of co-owner Joe Lacob, suggested in January that the team would be willing to pay whatever’s necessary to retain Ezeli and fellow soon-to-be restricted free agent Harrison Barnes this summer.
Still, the Warriors, like the Lakers and just about every NBA team, have aspirations of signing Kevin Durant, and it may well be necessary for the team to let go of Ezeli and Barnes to create enough cap room for the former MVP, given that the Warriors already have more than $73MM in guaranteed salary against a projected $92MM salary cap. Durant is in line for an estimated max of about $26MM for next season.
The Lakers have much greater flexibility with only $23MM in guaranteed salary. They’ll have an opening at starting center with Roy Hibbert headed into free agency.
Where do you think Ezeli will play next season? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.