Even though the Sixers selected Bonga with the No. 39 pick in the draft with the intent of sending him to the Lakers, because Philadelphia had accepted the maximum amount of cash considerations during the past league year, they had to wait for the new one to begin on July 6 to complete the transaction because the Lakers were sending them money for Bonga in addition to the 2019 second-round pick they received from the Chicago Bulls.
A 6'9" point guard with a massive wingspan, the 18-year-old recently became the youngest player to debut on the German national team in 40 years.https://t.co/kw6gURAKsv— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) July 6, 2018
Bonga averaged 7.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals for the Fraport Skyliners last year, starting in 19 of the 21 games he appeared in. Those averages may not sound gaudy, but watching the 18-year-old pro makes it clear why the Lakers think he might have some potential, as our own Pete Zayas outlined last month:
Bonga’s ball-handling and court vision are the strongest parts of his game, which he combines with his physical gifts to take advantage of opportunities that simply aren’t there for other players. His coordination and long strides are tailor-made for transition, where he does much of his damage.
Bonga is extremely raw - he doesn’t turn 19 years old until November - and has plenty of holes in his game. His jump shot has several technical flaws in it, and addressing them will take time and concerted effort with player development coaches over the next couple of seasons. Many of his other issues, such as turnovers and over-penetration, stem from the difficulties with his shot. He’s also not much of a leaper, despite his lithe frame and long strides.
And the Lakers liked Bonga, (enough that it sounds like they could have covertly promised him) and according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, the plan is for Bonga to be on the roster this year:
Lakers were obviously super high on Bonga. They shut him down VERY early in the process after bringing him in for a workout, and traded Chicago's 2019 2nd rounder to make sure they got him (also had #47). Bonga didn't work out for any other team, and didn't send out his medicals. https://t.co/eaL6HyP7lQ— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) July 6, 2018
Lakers were on the Bonga train early - from scouting him overseas https://t.co/UHzoUVTbYS— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) July 6, 2018
I expect Bonga to be on the Lakers this season, where they can work to develop him https://t.co/jFWDiH5Szj— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) July 6, 2018
The Lakers obviously couldn't negotiate with Isaac Bonga until the trade was official. As I understand it, they intend to sign him (instead of stash overseas) but that's not something they could get to discussing til now— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) July 6, 2018
Given they made a trade to make sure they have him - that they have cap room and can use that to sign him to more than two years - suggests to me that he's a part of the team going forward this season https://t.co/Znf5mt78z9— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) July 6, 2018
Update: The Lakers have officially signed Bonga:
Official: Lakers sign 39th overall pick Isaac Bonga @IsaacBonga99 is expected to join #LakersSummer in Las Vegas for their opening contest vs Philadelphia, Saturday at 8:30pm PT https://t.co/Fyx7uMBlAl— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) July 6, 2018
The Los Angeles Lakers signed Isaac Bonga, the 39th pick of the draft, to a 3-year deal, a league source told The Athletic.— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) July 6, 2018
However, as Pincus noted, Bonga signing would put the Lakers at 14 players on their roster (the max is 15, with two spots for two-way contracts), with only JaVale McGee and Ivica Zubac as true centers, which could be a roster-construction problem.
One option (this isn’t sourced, just a theory) would be putting Bonga on one of the team’s two-way contracts, although doing so would mean cutting ties with either Alex Caruso or Malik Newman, and might not make financial sense for Bonga. And if the Lakers weren’t going to give Thomas Bryant — who almost literally played all his minutes in the G League last year — a two-way contract, then it seems unlikely they’d do so with Bonga, even if he is just as much, if not more, of a developmental prospect than Bryant was.
With Bonga on the Lakers’ Las Vegas Summer League roster, fans and the team will get an up-close-and-personal look at how his game has progressed, and how NBA ready he is. Either way, it seems like the Lakers really like the German teenager and have big plans for him moving forward.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.