Latest Lakers intel: Sources view JJ Redick as a leading coaching candidate

JJ Reddick walks onto the court before the Lakers play the Clippers on Feb. 28

As the Lakers continued meeting with prospects in the final days of the NBA draft combine, their coaching search continued to be a strong topic of conversation among rival scouts and executives.

Internally, Lakers sources not authorized to speak publicly have tried to describe their coaching search as being a “wide open” process, with things still in the early stages.

Following the dismissal of Darvin Ham, the team began researching a batch of candidates that included top assistants, former head coaches and, yes, broadcaster-podcaster JJ Redick.

Candidate interviews are close, but as of now, anything being discussed with certainty has been called “hypothetical” by candidates involved in the process.

Read more: Lakers newsletter: Would JJ Redick be a good fit as Lakers coach?

But despite what the Lakers are saying, many around the league view Redick as the favorite and offered varying levels of approval.

Some see Redick as a bright, analytically driven basketball mind with a top understanding of the game and excellent communication and presentation skills.

Some wonder if Redick’s business relationship with LeBron James would poison his ability to connect with the rest of the locker room, an opinion prominently voiced on television by Udonis Haslem.

Others see nothing but inexperience and view the Lakers’ job as a disaster waiting to happen for even experienced coaches, never mind someone moving from the broadcast booth to his first coaching job.

Part of what's driving the expectation Redick will get the Lakers job is a belief that he’ll have incredibly strong interviews, according to sources discouraged from discussing personnel moves for competitive reasons.

Read more: Lakers' next coach? Here's a rundown of the potential candidates

The reality is, at this stage, no one can say for sure.

New Orleans assistant James Borrego does have strong support in his candidacy and has been highly valued by Pelicans staffers and executives who spoke with The Times.

Boston’s Sam Cassell, an NBA assistant since 2009 after a 15-season career, is expected to interview soon and has real support from others around the league.

The same can be said for candidates such as Miami’s Chris Quinn, Minnesota’s Micah Nori and Denver’s David Adelman.

The race is seemingly open enough that anyone with a direct or second-hand connection to candidates was comfortable making their pitch in Chicago.

The Lakers’ offseason plans, and to some degree their coaching plans, also hinge on LeBron James and his future with the organization.

Lakers forward LeBron James smiles during a game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics Monday

James’ courtside appearance in Cleveland on Monday night raised suspicions around the league regarding his intentions. Sources largely believe the Lakers will ultimately re-sign James, with the 39-year-old star merely working through different scenarios for the terms of the contract.

There were also discussions about the Lakers and their interest in Cleveland guard Donovan Mitchell, according to sources.

The Lakers’ best offer in any blockbuster trade looks somewhat similar, with the team able to offer their first-round pick in the year’s draft — No. 17 — in addition to first-round picks in 2029 and 2031. Their best young player, Austin Reaves, is still regarded highly within the organization on two fronts — as a prospect for their future and a player on a team-friendly contract.

The team’s willingness to push all-in on Mitchell or any other player is still unclear. Other options include using draft picks in non-blockbuster deals to try to improve around the margins, with Dallas’ acquisitions of Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington providing real-time examples of how non-superstar transactions can make a meaningful and immediate impact.

Read more: Bronny James not thinking of playing with his dad, he'd be happy getting to NBA

Other players commonly mentioned as potential trade targets this offseason include New Orleans’ Brandon Ingram, Atlanta’s Trae Young and DeJounte Murray and Chicago’s Zach LaVine — none seriously linked to the Lakers at the combine.

In terms of the draft, the Lakers seem as if they’ll be the draft floor for Bronny James at pick 55, a player the team conducted an interview with in Chicago, according to sources not authorized to publicly discuss draft strategy.

James undeniably boosted his stock in Chicago with strong interviews, impressive athletic testing and strong play in a scrimmage Wednesday, helping counteract the bad feelings after measuring 6 feet, 1 ½ inches in socks.

Some other players who helped themselves in scrimmages, according to scouts, included Houston’s Jamal Shead, UCLA’s Adem Bona, Marquette’s Oso Ighodaro and Colorado’s KJ Simpson.

The Lakers’ first round pick at 17 is near the middle of the draft’s second tier, some scouts believe. That tier includes players such as Ja’Kobe Walter, Terrence Shannon, Tidjane Salaun, Jared McCain, Devin Carter, Yves Missi, Kyle Filipowski, Tyler Smith and Tristan da Silva.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.