This season was all about opportunity for Los Angeles Lakers rookie Isaac Bonga.
Leading up to the draft, the Lakers traded into the early second round for an opportunity to draft the Frankfurt native. However, they didn’t do so because they felt he could contribute right away. As soon as Bonga took the floor for the Lakers at the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League, it was apparent that he was going to be a long-term project.
Still, there’s plenty to like about the 6-foot-8 point guard, and now he’ll have a full offseason to work on his game and fill out his thin frame. During Bonga’s exit interview last week, he detailed his plans for the summer.
”Right now it’s more like getting physical in a grown-man’s league, and my shot, clearly,” Bonga said.
Bonga looked like he had figured out his jump shot early in the season, shooting 47.4 percent from 3-point range on 3.8 attempts per through his first 10 games with the South Bay Lakers, but his shooting cooled off and he ended the G League season shooting 34.4 percent from behind the arc. That’s not a bad start, but the rate in which he regressed to close the season is concerning.
The most promising part of Bonga’s game right now is his playmaking and instincts, and this season, Bonga got to work under one of the best passers the NBA has ever seen in Magic Johnson. Bonga said that regularly being in the same building as Johnson was a surreal experience for him.
”It was just crazy seeing a person like that being around you all the time. Obviously growing up I was watching videos of him because I had the idea of being a tall point guard who could pass and do all of those things. Just kind of being in that environment was crazy for me. It was special for me and I really enjoyed it,” Bonga said. “It was really great.”
Johnson won’t be with the team next season, but Bonga (likely) will, as his contract is guaranteed through next season and he’s in no position to quit his job to tweet more via an impromptu press conference. However, in order to see any meaningful playing time on a team that will be desperate to make the playoffs next season, Bonga knows he has to be better, and quickly.
”I know what I’ve got to work on, but I just can see that it depends on how fast I’m going to get there. I know I need time, so we’re just going to see,” Bonga said.
In the meantime, Bonga isn’t going to take whatever opportunities he can get for granted.
”I’m enjoying the moment. Obviously my first year, I feel like I already got a lot of experience out there playing with those guys. Especially playing with the guys in the G League who came up,” Bonga said. “I feel like I just tried to enjoy everything.”