For the first time since the team’s COVID outbreak in December, the Lakers brought in fresh blood this week with the signings of DJ Augustin and Wenyen Gabriel. It was a pair of moves on the fringes of the roster for the Lakers but a more-than-welcome change following the team’s abysmal showing against the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday.
Neither player will likely be a gamechanger for the Lakers, but both represent upgrades in areas the Lakers categorized as holes on the team’s roster. Neither acquisition came at a noteworthy price with Gabriel replacing Sekou Doumbouya, who had appeared in just two games for the Lakers this season, and Augustin replacing DeAndre Jordan, who should have only appeared in two games for the Lakers this season.
Prior to Tuesday’s game against the Mavericks, head coach Frank Vogel spoke about the acquisitions, firstly by noting the team parting ways with Jordan with him having an “opportunity to have a bigger role somewhere else,” presumably confirming the reports from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN on Monday that he would join the Sixers.
“We had a need for more point guard (play) and shooting that we were able to pick up with DJ Augustin, someone I’ve coached before,” Vogel said. “He’s a solid pro that can really, really shoot the basketball and can really playmake. Obviously, we began the season thinking (Rajon) Rondo and Kendrick Nunn in those spots and, obviously, we dealt Rondo and haven’t had Kendrick all year so DJ really fills a need in that regard. Wenyen is someone that we’ve been high on, someone who has upside as a really athletic, 6’9”, 3-and-D type player.”
Augustin played 76 games under Vogel in the 2012-13 season with the Pacers, then played 153 games across two seasons under Vogel in Orlando from 2016 through 2018. This season, Augustin played 34 games with the Rockets, averaging 5.4 points in 15 minutes per game. He did shoot 40.6% from the 3-point line and is a career 38% 3-point shooter.
After falling out of the rotation in Houston, Augustin was eventually waived, allowing him to eventually reunite with Vogel for yet a third time.
“I know his game really well,” Vogel said. “I have exchanged texts with him. I think he gets in late tonight and we’ll be able to sit down and talk more in-depth about where he fits with our team. I like what he brings to the table and not just with the off-ball ability to shoot the basketball and stretch the floor and give our guys more space. When we play smaller lineups – either with AD at the five or LeBron at the five – DJ, when he played with Vuc, I thought had the best stretch of his career, those final two years in Orlando, where Vuc was a five and they were playing a five-out system with an open paint.
“He’s a very, very good pocket pass and pick-and-roll playmaker. You have to go over his pick and rolls or he will beat you over the top. I mean, he almost beat us last year when we played Houston in this building. He can still go. I think he’s going to help us, we think he’s going to help us. I’m looking forward to sitting down with him.”
Gabriel, meanwhile, represents a further commitment to a small ball style. As an undersized but athletic big, Gabriel can help the Lakers have a more mobile frontcourt. The good news for Lakers fans is that, despite Gabriel being a two-way player and the Lakers sparsely using their two-way signees with the big league Lakers this season, the expectation is for Gabriel to get a shot at rotation minutes.
“My understanding is that he will be with us full-time, not really with the G League unless there are smaller stints that require that and we will give him a looking,” Vogel said. “Hopefully, we can get some practice time and we can see him and see what he can do up close and in person. But he has a skill set that fits what we need. The successful stints this year have been with Bron, Russ, AD and the younger, energetic guys.
“We’ll have to see what Wenyen brings to the table but it is possible he gets in the rotation and plays some.”
In typical seasons, two-way signees have a limit on the number of days they can spend with an NBA team but those restrictions were relaxed and Gabriel can spend the rest of the regular season with the Lakers.
Neither Augustin nor Gabriel will drastically change the outlook for the Lakers this season. The signings may have even come too late to make any kind of noteworthy impact. But for a Lakers team desperate for literally any kind of shake-up, these two will represent that at the very least.