In spite of all the names on their injury report, the Los Angeles Lakers were able to roll out their projected starting lineup for the regular season in their first preseason game on Saturday night. The bench, on the other hand, suffered a bit — particularly at the forward spots with Kyle Kuzma and Jared Dudley sidelined.
While Kuzma won’t be re-evaluated until the Lakers return from China next week, Dudley is expected to play in at least a few preseason games after sitting out of Saturday’s game with knee soreness. Whether he’s available to play or not, though, head coach Frank Vogel expects him to make a big impact on the team.
“The enthusiasm piece obviously helps your culture, but his IQ and his knowledge, and the ability to see what we’re doing and make it better like an assistant coach would,” Vogel said of what Dudley will bring to the team at practice last week.
“The ability to mentor some of the other players, young guys and old guys, about ‘hey, you can do this a little bit better, you can do that a little bit better,’” Vogel continued. “You want guys who can do that but they can still go out and play, and Jared still goes out and gets the job done and practices what he preaches.”
“He’s going to be an invaluable member (of the team) for us.”
With 12 years of experience, Dudley has no shortage of wisdom to share players like Kuzma, who Dudley has already said he wants to help this season. That being said, Dudley still has something to offer the Lakers on the court.
The Lakers’ bench managed to be productive this weekend despite not having a true backup 4 healthy, but they could have used the spacing Dudley — a career 39.2 percent 3-point shooter — especially in lineups with non-shooters like Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee.
Dudley might not average the 20.7 minutes per game he averaged with the Brooklyn Nets last season, but he could feasibly carve out a 10-15 minute per game role behind Kuzma and Davis if he establishes himself as a reliable 3-point threat and serviceable defender.
Hopefully Dudley is healthy enough to show his value on Thursday, when the Lakers are set to take on the Brooklyn Nets in China.