Nicolas Batum is arguably the second best wing in this year’s free agency class. And even though the Frenchman has reiterated his desire to stay with Charlotte Hornets, a league source has confirmed that Batum will be meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers when free agency begins this weekend.
According to Brad Turner of the L.A. Times, Batum is flying back from Paris to the U.S. tomorrow and will grant a meeting to the Lakers, who are desperate for all-star caliber talent. Despite drafting Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles could use Batum to shore up its perimeter defense and 3-pt shooting.
Nicolas Batum leaving Hornets?
Last month, a report on FIBA.com hinted that Batum is expected to re-sign with Hornets after averaging a career-high 14.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.8 assists last year. “Batum’s agent had previously indicated that his client, a free agent who just had a terrific first season with the Charlotte Hornets, would be in the United States resolving his NBA future and that the paperwork would not be finalized in time for him to play,” revealed a report when Batum was in France playing in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
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The report further added: “However, it is understood that the French player and the Hornets will quickly agree terms on a new deal and that could could give France enough time to obtain insurance for Batum and allow him to take part in some of the OQT games.”
On Wednesday, ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported that Batum was high on the Lakers’ wish list which also includes Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford, Warriors swingman Harrison Barnes and New Orleans Pelicans Stretch 4 Ryan Anderson.
Luke Walton holds the key…
NBA Free Agency opens at 12:01 a.m. ET on Friday. The Lakers have struck out in their pursuit of marquee free agents in recent years. But they have a good chance of landing all-star caliber players this year, especially since the hiring of coach Luke Walton, who has promised to be an active recruiter this summer.
With the Lakers unlikely to get a free agency meeting with Kevin Durant, Batum would be viewed as a consolation prize. However, it would be a great addition to a young Lakers roster that can desperately use a primary playmaker and scoring option such as Nicolas Batum.