Editor’s Note: Welcome to our “2020 Lakers Season In Review” series, where we’ll be looking back at every member of this Lakers roster as the offseason commences, and answering some questions about what they contributed (or didn’t) to the team’s 17th championship, as well as discussing what their situation is moving forward. Today, let’s discuss Jared Dudley.
How did he play?
Dudley only played 364 minutes for the Lakers in the regular season, the lowest total of any non-rookie or two-way player who was on the team the whole year. But the 35-year-old was still good in his time on the court, hitting 42.9% of his threes, which was the highest percentage on the team of anyone to take more than six, and second-highest percentage of Dudley’s career. He also showed he could still scramble around on defense a bit in limited minutes, and looked like the type of player that would be ready to play in a key moment if called upon in the postseason.
The Lakers never encountered the type of emergency that necessitated them breaking the glass encasing Dudley though, and so the team fire extinguisher spent most of the postseason collecting dust on the bench, playing 32 garbage-time minutes in nine appearances and missing all four shots he took.
Does that sound like a valuable contributor? Probably not, but Dudley’s role for the Lakers this year also can’t really be fully captured by numbers. In our bubble preview, I called him the Walter White of team chemistry for the Lakers, and that held true during a postseason unlike any other.
While the Lakers were kept away from the outside world, it was Dudley who was once again one of the loudest voices in the room, befriending the veterans, mentoring the young players and echoing the coaching staff’s teachings while serving as the glue that helped the locker room stay together in an environment when we saw so many other teams splinter apart. He was arguably the perfect type of player to have at the end of the bench under these specific circumstances, and probably more key to the Lakers’ success as a result than he would’ve been during a normal year.
Dudley’s other main role? De-facto, highest-paid member of the Lakers’ PR team (he’s also probably their best shooter). All season long, Dudley worked to control the narrative about the Lakers during his always hilarious, unfiltered and seemingly endless podcast appearances, as well as on his must-follow Twitter feed. He also knew where he stood on the Lakers totem pole, and was willing to literally throw hands to protect players more important to the team’s success on the floor than he was. He understand the exact scope of his job as well as anyone in the organization.
So while Dudley may have been robbed in Teammate of the Year voting, he was definitely the best Lakers’ brand manager and bond-builder. In doing so he played his part and earned his ring, even if he didn’t play a lot.
What is his contract situation moving forward?
Dudley will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason after his one-year, veteran’s minimum deal with the Lakers expired.
Will he be back?
Dudley has said he plans to be back with the team, even if it means going and standing on Rob Pelinka’s lawn to beg for a contract (yes, he really said this).
And honestly, it would not be shocking to see Dudley back in a similar end-of-bench role. He’s shown he can still eat some minutes when the time calls for it, and is also totally fine sitting when the team doesn’t need him. Plus, with the Lakers seeming likely to be bring in at least a few new faces, Dudley has already proven his value in helping everyone get — and stay — on the same page.
The team could probably survive without Dudley next season, but if they are looking to fill out the end of the bench again, they could do a lot worse than the man affectionately known as Dudz. Every team needs a guy like Dudley, and there may not be a guy in the NBA better at being Dudley than the man himself. Even if he has to trespass on Rob Pelinka’s property to make it happen, the Lakers should strongly consider bringing him back when they fill out their last roster spot or two.