The Los Angeles Lakers are enamored with Bismack Biyombo, Toronto Raptors’ shot-blocking sensation, and are likely to pursue the free agent center during the offseason, per league sources.
On Saturday, Biyombo had the greatest night of his basketball life, 26 rebounds and four blocks, besides six of seven points in the fourth quarter, as his Toronto Raptors beat the undefeated Cleveland Cavaliers 99-84 to cut the series deficit to 1-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Biyombo joined Dwight Howard (2015) and Hakeem Olajuwon (1988) with the most rebounds in a playoffs game for the last 30 years. As Raptors entered the game in danger of going down 0-3, Biyombo showed immense heart and hustle, nearly out-rebounding the entire Cavs starting unit while collecting almost as many boards as the rest of his teammates combined (28). Biyombo had 8 offensive rebounds – more than the entire Cavaliers roster.
The 23-year-old, who grew up idolizing Dekeme Mutombo, was instrumental in leading a Raptors defense that totally shut down the Cavaliers, forcing LeBron James to shoot more perimeter shots rather than driving to the hole. Biyombo furiously blocked the likes of Kyrie Irving and James and reminded the Cavs why the Raptors made it this far into the postseason.
SportsNet summed it up aptly: “Biyombo set that tone—that aggressive, take nothing and fight for everything attitude—which helped the rest of the Raptors finally find the swagger that led them further than any team in franchise history has ventured before. If the Raptors forgot who they were in Games 1 and 2, Biyombo reminded them.”
Bismack Biyombo + Lakers: Good fit?
With the Roy Hibbert experiment failing to deliver, the Lakers are desperate for a rim protector and would pursue the likes of Al Horford and Hassan Whiteside during free agency. While Biyombo is being looked at as Plan B, he could move up their wish list if he continues to wreak havoc during the rest of the series against the Cavaliers.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, Biyombo will turn down his 2016-17 player option and enter free agency this summer. “For Biyombo – who’ll assuredly reject his 2016-17 players option and move into free agency – he could be the most interesting test case of a free-agent market flushed with television money. He can barely catch the ball, but could command $12 million-$14 million a year on this free-agent market. Surround him with shooters, and let the man loose.”
Wants to work with Hakeem…
Raptors GM Masai Ujiri revealed that Biyombo has been wanting to work out with Hakeem Olajuwon, a former Raptor, to improve certain facets of his game. “He sees Hakeem, and he wants to work out with him. So I called him into the room, and said, ‘Biz, with all due respect, I’ve had all kinds of guys go work out with Hakeem. At the end of the day, there’s only one Hakeem in the world and there will never be another one. That guy was a ballerina. I don’t care what you think you’re going to do with that guy but … no, forget it.’
Remember, the Lakers are loaded with cap space and will be able to offer Biyombo a very healthy contract. Is he worth a max contract, though? If Biyombo can help the Raptors win another game or two against the Cavaliers, it’s possible that GMs view him as a max player.
After Saturday’s game, Bismack Biyombo was grateful that Raptors coach Dwane Casey compared him to Dennis Rodman and Mutombo. “That’s great, and I appreciate it. But at the end of the day, I’m Bismack Biyombo.”