The Los Angeles Lakers made their biggest free agent addition in decades on Sunday when it was announced that LeBron James would join the team for the next four years, but since he can’t officially ink his deal until the moratorium ends, technically the biggest free agent signing the team made that day was adding Kansas guard Malik Newman on a two-way contract.
Newman is obviously no LeBron, but as undrafted free agents go he’s a pretty good prospect. ESPN had the Kansas guard ranked as the 48th-best prospect in the 2018 NBA Draft, meaning they would have projected him to get drafted. Instead, he went unselected and will take up one of the Lakers’ two-way contracts, with Alex Caruso taking the other one.
For a scouting report on Newman, I asked friend of the site Scott Chasen of 247Sports, who covered Newman locally for the Lawrence Journal-World and Topeka Capital-Journal, for a scouting report. His thoughts are below:
After transferring from Mississippi State to KU, the plan was always for Malik Newman to play one year and then go pro. He came into the season with high expectations, with some in the program believing he’d lead the team in scoring. Ultimately, he got off to a slow start, though he did hit a huge shot in the team’s second game against Kentucky. Newman broke out with a 27-point outing in conference play against Iowa State. By the time the postseason came around, he became a different player.
Newman had six 20 point games in the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments. He scored 30 in the Big 12 tournament opener against Oklahoma State, went off against Seton Hall in the Round of 32 and dropped 32 against Duke in the Elite Eight. He also guarded Grayson Allen in that game and did a phenomenal job defensively.
Newman can score from just about anywhere on the court. He’s a great shooter, can work in the mid-range and has a knack for getting to the rim and finishing. He didn’t draw a ton of free throws, but he developed this reputation as a guy that would get to the cup late in games when other teams would start to wear down. He isn’t a great facilitator and needs to improve his handle, but he still has time to work on those parts of his game.
Defensively, Newman was inconsistent. He’s actually a pretty decent on-ball defender, but he isn’t great off-ball. He is, however, a tremendous defensive rebounder for his size. He can go up and snatch a board and then start a break, which should be a valuable tool in the NBA.
Perhaps fitting given Newman’s pedigree, Mike Trudell of Lakers.com reported that he will be given a real shot to make the Lakers’ full roster:
LAL got a lot out of their two way contracts last year, using Alex Caruso and Gary Payton II for both the @SouthBayLakers and the senior squad. Caruso is back for this coming season as well, and Caruso and Newman will have a chance to make the full Lakers roster in camp. https://t.co/KruL4VbSWW— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) July 1, 2018
Most undrafted free agents don’t make a team’s full roster, especially not when that team is trying to be competitive around LeBron James, but if Newman has a strong showing in Sacramento or Las Vegas, it’s possible he exceeds expectations. If not, the Lakers seem content to let him develop in their G League pipeline with the South Bay Lakers.