The 18-year-old still hasn’t shown much promise as a shooter, but he managed to end the night with 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field. He also nearly notched a double-double, grabbing 9 rebounds.
However, the most impressive NBA skill Bonga flashed on Friday was his ability to make plays for others, and head coach Luke Walton said on Spectrum SportsNet that his playmaking is one of the main reasons they drafted Bonga.
“We love Bonga’s playmaking ability. He needs to continue to get stronger, but he’s doing that. What we saw today was much better than what was going on in pickup games before the season started. He’s got a great feel for the game, he’s unselfish, he’s long. I mean there’s a reason we drafted him, and it’s because we like what he can do and he got to show a little bit of that tonight.”
Despite having the size to play out on the wing (listed at 6-foot-8, per NBA.com), Bonga is very much a point guard. During his time overseas with the Fraport Skyliners of the Bundesliga, that’s what he played, and the same goes for his appearances with the German national team.
The Lakers have made it clear they want to be play a positionless style of basketball, but at this stage of Bonga’s development, point guard is the only position he can play. Luckily, he’s pretty darn good at running the offense.
6'9" | 18-year-old | Point-Guard...Buying up all of the Bonga stock. pic.twitter.com/IifQIDZxbG— Alex Regla (@AlexmRegla) October 13, 2018
If the Lakers plan on playing him at either forward spots, Bonga will have to get stronger and develop an outside jump shot. He’ll have the opportunity to work on both of those things throughout the season both with the Lakers and in the G League with the South Bay Lakers. In the meantime, he’ll get the bulk of his offense at the rim.
Bonga is still very much a project and the Lakers will treat him as such, but Friday night was a step in the right direction for the German forward. If he can continue to build on his already impressive playmaking, he’ll have the chance to carve out playing time during his time in Los Angeles.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.