When the Los Angeles Lakers take on the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night, they’ll have their first-round pick, Moe Wagner, active for the first time since way back in summer league, according to several reports. Given the state of their center rotation, they’ll take all the help they can get.
Whether Wagner makes it into the game is another thing altogether, but this is a huge step in the right direction. Luke Walton did offer up how he’d like to see things go with Wagner Wednesday night.
Luke Walton said it will depend on how the game plays out whether Wagner will play. The “ideal” scenario would be some garbage time minutes for him to knock the rust off. But for a team woefully undersized, this is a welcome development.— Bill Oram (@billoram) October 31, 2018
Wagner has been rehabbing throughout the summer and into training camp and preseason after suffering a contusion on his knee during summer league action.
The Lakers have gone with undrafted rookie Johnathan Williams as their stopgap solution while they’ve waited for Wagner to come back. Ivica Zubac and Michael Beasley have been ineffective to a level bordering on hilarity in minutes they’ve been on the court.
But while it’s exciting to get someone the Lakers’ vaunted scouting department was willing to use a first-round pick on back on the floor, it’s also fair to ask whether it’s smart to hope that a non-lottery rookie who has missed this much time can come back and fix a playoff contender’s rotation.
To be clear, the Lakers probably aren’t expecting Wagner to come back and fix everything, but he does at least do some things that the Lakers have sorely missed. He plays hard, which is a nice starting point for any rookie inside. He also rebounds well and is able to step out and hit threes from the five spot — something neither JaVale McGee or Williams are able to do with consistency.
This is just one step in what will be a long process of bringing Wagner back and, given the Lakers’ history of playing things extremely conservatively with young guys coming back from injury, it’s hard to see him getting legitimate minutes consistently anytime soon. That said, if there was a position that a young guy could step in and immediately help the Lakers, it’s at center. We’ll see if Wagner is ready to do so.