Editor’s Note: Starting this week, we will be debuting our Silver Screen and Roll staff rankings of the most interesting Lakers heading into next season (The 15 guaranteed contracts plus the two guys on two-way contracts). We start today with No. 17, Travis Wear, and will be counting down to the Laker we think is most interesting with a new piece each day until we hit No. 1.
Making it back to the NBA last season was a long, winding road for Travis Wear. The UCLA product played 51 games for the New York Knicks during his rookie campaign, but didn’t see NBA action again until last year. In the meantime, Wear was shuffled through summer league rosters for the Lakers, Knicks and Hawks, and even got a Lakers training camp invite, but never got the call up to the big show again until the tail-end of last year.
That journey had to be a frustrating one for Wear, but the sweet-shooting big man just kept pounding away, working on his craft for two seasons with the Lakers’ G League affiliate, the South Bay Lakers, after spending one with Delteco GBC of Spain’s ACB league, before finally making the Lakers’ roster.
When Wear finally got his shot — as with most shots he takes — he swished it, flashing surprisingly solid defense and the shooting the Lakers desperately craved from their frontcourt spots, albeit mostly during a forgettable closing stretch in which the team as a whole was pretty much just playing out the string.
In his very first game, Wear gave the Lakers an injection of life, scoring 7 key points off of the bench despite not even getting to fully practice with the team before a win over San Antonio in which he was a team-high plus-18.
Add that Wear’s grind back to the NBA culminated in a spot on his hometown team, and that’s the most heartwarming story to happen around the Lakers last year this side of Andre Ingram. So just because Wear is — at least according to this list — the least interesting member of the Lakers next season doesn’t mean he isn’t interesting.
Central to that interest, in addition to what a fun narrative it would be for the Southern California kid who grew up rooting for the purple and gold to make an impact on their first relevant team in nearly a decade, is Wear’s lights-out shooting ability.
All summer, all we’ve heard is that the Lakers don’t have any 3-point shooting. And while that concern might be a bit overstated, Wear getting a few minutes here and there might be one solution to remedy whatever worries there actually need to be about the Lakers’ collective 3-point marksmanship.
Now, as a two-way player, Wear is limited to 45 days with the Lakers until the G League regular season is over, and must either spend the rest of his time in South Bay or see his deal converted to a regular NBA contract (which would necessitate the Lakers cutting someone). Still, with the Lakers not boasting much traditional big depth, there is a pretty obvious avenue for Wear to get playing time and make his presence felt: by offering the 3-point shooting neither Ivica Zubac nor JaVale McGee provide.
If Zubac or McGee severely underperform or get injured, the window will be there for Wear to take advantage of the opportunity if rookie Moe Wagner isn’t ready for NBA burn just yet, or if the Lakers want to bring him along more slowly, or even just if there is a rash of frontcourt injuries.
LeBron James has traditionally played his best offensive basketball with stretch bigs like Wear — albeit ones with a higher pedigree — and after a season that saw him shoot 41.2 percent from distance in the G League and 36.2 percent in the NBA, Wear might be ready to give James and the rest of the Lakers’ playmakers some space to make said plays.
Wear’s G League teammate Scott Machado, one of the primary beneficiaries of the space Wear can create, might have summed up his game best to me last season when I asked around South Bay what the Lakers and their fans should expect to see from Wear.
“Guys can’t really leave him because if they help off of him you’re passing it straight to him and that’s a 3-pointer automatically. You can count it every time. I loved playing with Travis and I think Travis is definitely an NBA player,” Machado said.
Wear will get every chance to prove Machado right during training camp, or if the Lakers’ big man rotation hits any turbulence this year. If the opportunity to create space for LeBron allows Wear to demonstrate he belongs, then he’ll vault up this list and prove he’s far from the least interesting Laker.
All stats per NBA.com or Real GM. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.