The Los Angeles Lakers are officially running it back with Jared Dudley. On Tuesday, the defending champions announced that Dudley will return for another season. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN first reported the terms of Dudley’s agreement on Monday.
Last season, Dudley averaged career lows in nearly every statistical category, including minutes (8.1) and points (1.5) per game, and games played (45). However, success for Dudley in his first season with the Lakers was never going to be quantified by the how much he contributed on the court; it was always going to be determined by the impact he had on the locker room, and by that unquantifiable metric, he was invaluable to the team.
From the moment Dudley signed on with the Lakers, he became an ambassador for the team in a way that not even LeBron James was in his first season in Los Angeles. He was the ultimate hype man, and it set the tone for the rest of the team going into a season where they were expected to live up to all such hyperbole.
This season, Dudley projects to have a similar role, but the Lakers generated enough hype around themselves with the way they played in the NBA Playoffs. Will that stop Dudley from talking a big game on his teammates’ behalf again? Absolutely not, but anyone that doesn’t believe the Lakers will be contenders again this season just doesn’t want to believe it.
Dudley could also end up being more of a mentor to Devontae Cacok and Kostas Antetokounmpo depending on how much time they spend with the senior team this season. Two-ways players are permitted to play in 50 games this season, as opposed to the 45-day limit that they had last season, and with the coronavirus still very much a thing globally, there’s a good chance that Cacok and Antetokounmpo see a lot more of Dudz this season, and that’s a good thing.
It’s likely that Dudley will get some playing time under those same circumstances, but it would be surprising to see him get regular minutes with Kyle Kuzma, Markieff Morris and (soon) Anthony Davis ahead of him on the depth chart. That won’t matter, though, because the things that make Dudley valuable to the Lakers don’t show up in the box score. He knows his role is to be a good veteran in the locker room, and he relishes it. There’s always room for a guy like that on a championship-hopeful team.