Over the last few years, the Los Angeles Lakers have developed a reputation for finding talent late in the draft or, in some cases, outside of the draft. This season, they’re hoping their diamond in the rough can be Zach Norvell Jr., an undrafted guard out of Gonzaga.
The 21-year-old signed a two-way contract with the Lakers shortly after he went undrafted in June. Since then, he’s looked the part of an NBA player, and his teammates have taken notice.
After practice on the Tuesday before the Lakers hit the road to start the preseason, Anthony Davis said he’s been encouraged by the competitive spirit he’s seen from Norvell and Talen Horton-Tucker, who — like Davis — are natives of Chicago.
“Zach has been playing well. He’s been coming to practice, being scrappy defensively, making shots. To have those two guys on the team, and trying to mentor them and just kind of give them some knowledge has been great,” Davis said.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel also acknowledged that Norvell has stood out through the first few weeks of training camp.
”Zach’s had a good camp. Not just shooting the ball well, but making plays off the bounce, picking up the defensive coverages really well,” Vogel said.
Norvell isn’t expected to see a lot of playing time with the Lakers this season, but he’s shown he’s capable of holding his own at the NBA level. Through two games in the preseason, Norvell has averaged seven points per game on 44.4 percent shooting from the field, including 42.9 percent shooting from behind the arc, in 15.9 minutes per game. He’s also posted a box plus-minus of +2, which is notably higher than Avery Bradley (+0.5) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (-3).
That might not mean anything now, but it could earn him a call-up sooner rather than later. In fact, if he’s outstanding with the South Bay Lakers next season, the Lakers might consider adding the 6’5” point guard to their full-time payroll.
It’s early in his career, but Norvell’s craftiness with the ball and knack for knocking down tough shots makes him a prospect worth keeping an eye on.