It’s been nearly a month since the Los Angeles Lakers opened up a spot on their roster by trading Ivica Zubac and Michael Beasley for Mike Muscala, and it still hasn’t been filled. According to head coach Luke Walton, it could stay that way for the rest of the season.
After practice on Tuesday, Walton was asked about the possibility of the team adding Spencer Hawes — who just joined the South Bay Lakers — and told reporters that while the Lakers aren’t opposed to adding someone to their roster, they have no plans of doing so in the immediate future:
“There’s always a chance of anything, but as of now we’re sticking with who we have. But I’m sure the scouting department is looking around to see. We’ve got a lot of banged-up bodies right now, so (they’re) looking to see who’s available if we need to call some people up.”
In past seasons, the Lakers have used their roster flexibility late in the year to give unproven prospects some run at the NBA level. Last year, they did it with Travis Wear, Nigel Hayes and Andre Ingram, and the year before that they did it with David Nwaba.
Could we see the Lakers go the same route this year? Walton doesn’t think so, unless the roster becomes more barren than it currently is due to injuries:
“No, not to me. To me that last spot ... We need healthy bodies, possibly, depending on how much longer some of these injuries are going to go. Whether it’s to get stuff done at practice or if we’re going to need a body for a game, it’s more of that type of thing for now.”
If the Lakers did decide to go that route, Jemerrio Jones of the South Bay Lakers would make a ton of sense for them. Jones wouldn’t give them the 3-point shooting they need, but he does a little bit of everything else, and plays with a high motor, which is more than anyone on the senior squad can say right now.
On the season, Jones is averaging 8.2 points, 9.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
However, before they consider calling up Jones, they should see what they have in Isaac Bonga, who they selected with the No. 39 pick in the draft last year. Bonga has spent almost the entirety of his rookie season with South Bay, where he’s slowly improved as a playmaker and finisher around the rim. He also leads the team in defensive rating, as South Bay has allowed just 101.9 points per 100 possessions when Bonga is on the floor.
Bonga is still a raw prospect, but nothing gets a player ready for NBA action better than NBA action. Whether it’s instead of or in addition to Jones, Bonga should see the floor more going forward, and that seems to be the direction the Lakers are leaning toward.
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