The trade that the Los Angeles Lakers made with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the offseason was widely viewed as a salary-dumping move for the Lakers because, well, it was. The Lakers had well-known interest in Marc Gasol, but they couldn’t sign him and Markieff Morris to veteran’s minimum contracts without getting out from under JaVale McGee’s $4.2 million salary, so they cut costs where they needed to.
However, the Lakers also got two players back from the Cavaliers: Jordan Bell, who they waived in November, and Alfonzo McKinnie, who Frank Vogel used scarcely in the first half of the season. How scarcely? Through 37 games in the first half of the season, McKinnie only played 84 total minutes. Only Jared Dudley, Quinn Cook, Damian Jones, Kostas Antetokounmpo and Devontae Cacok have played fewer minutes for the Lakers this season.
McKinnie’s longest stretch of the season came against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, and to his credit, he made the most of his opportunity. In 15:52 off of the bench, he scored 11 points on 4-6 shooting from the field. He also contributed two rebounds and a steal.
McKinnie wasn’t the difference between a win and a loss for the Lakers — in fact, he ended the game a team-low -19 in the box score — but he made a strong impression on his new head coach.
“He’s a good player,” Vogel said. “He’s been sort of buried with our depth here, but he’s maintained a great attitude, been a true pro, coming in to get his work in every day, really trying to show what he can do in the practices or pickup games guys play on off days.
“We’ve been looking for an opportunity to get him in there without supplanting one of the rotation guys and tonight was the night. It was a good opportunity for it and I thought he played really well, especially crashing the boards. He made a couple of buckets for us, played solid defense and really made a case for more minutes.”
Those minutes will be hard to come by once the Lakers are at full strength, but until then, McKinnie will probably get a few more opportunities to prove that he deserves a few more minutes than the 4.7 minutes per game he’s averaged so far.