The Los Angeles Lakers didn’t have a pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, but that didn’t stop them from adding at least one rookie on the evening. According to Shams Charania of the Athletic, the team has made their first undrafted free agent addition, signing Zavier Simpson, a senior guard out of Michigan (the same school where Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka played college basketball):
Michigan's Zavier Simpson has agreed to an undrafted free-agent deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 19, 2020
But beyond the Michigan connection, Simpson appears to fit the profile of having some skills the Lakers could use. He finished last season ranked third in the nation in assists with 236, and was just 11 short of tying for first overall during his fourth year with the Wolverines.
He also, as some of you have pointed out, has a nifty hook shot that makes him practically destined to be a Laker:
However, Simpson is also not without his flaws as a prospect. He did turn the ball over 3.2 times per game against his 7.9 assists per contest, so it appears that his decision-making with passes might be an issue that could have led to him dropping out of the draft entirely. He was also suspended for one game last year for crashing a car that belonged to the wife of Michigan’s Athletic Director.
For a better sense of Simpson’s game, I asked Robert Flom (@RichHomieFlom) — a Michigan alum who covers the Clippers for 213hoops.com — for a scouting report:
Zavier Simpson is one of the best point guards to play at the University of Michigan. Over the past four years, he grew from a little-used backup playing behind Derrick Walton Jr. to the heart and soul of the Wolverines and the starting point guard on a team that went to the National Title.
Simpson is undersized, but was nonetheless one of the top defensive point guards in college basketball, especially his junior season. He fights through screens well, picks up guys full court in a manner that actually wears them down, and is nearly always in the right place at the right time. He will be at a disadvantage against NBA size and athleticism, but his smarts and instincts mean he will at least contribute some positives on that end of the court.
On offense, Simpson is a fairly deft passer and playmaker. He’s not very flashy, but he knows how to work the pick and roll, and developed superb chemistry with Michigan center Jon Teske. Surrounded by NBA athleticism and shooting, he should be able to run a second-unit offense fairly effectively. Simpson’s weakness is shot creation and scoring, along with outside shooting. He improved as a three-point shooter every year in college, but his release is slow and he’s not likely to be better than average from three in the NBA. His lack of burst and athleticism together with his frame means it will be difficult for him to create easy shots, though he’s a superb finisher considering his physical limitations.
Overall, he’s probably a longshot to stick in the NBA, but if he does get on the court, his tenacity, defense and sheer effort should make him a fan favorite.
As Rob points out, Simpson is likely just a camp body, and with the format for the G League season still unclear, it’s not certain if he’ll really get the chance to show he can be more, especially because there will also be no summer league this year.
Still, this signing means that the Lakers are at the very least giving Simpson one of their 20 spots in training camp, and who knows, if he manages to improve his decision-making and makes an impression, he might be a prospect worth keeping an eye on down the line.
This story may be updated with more information. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.