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Lakers officially acquire Isaac Bonga from Sixers, will have him on roster this year

Isaac Bonga was initially thought to be a draft-and-stash candidate when the Lakers acquired him, but it seems he will instead be brought over for the Lakers to develop him on their roster.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports, Graphic via Grant Goldberg

A few weeks after it the move was initially reported, the Los Angeles Lakers have finally completed their trade to acquire 2018 NBA Draft pick Isaac Bonga from the Philadelphia 76ers.

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.

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:

Update: The Lakers have officially signed Bonga:

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.

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