With an eye on the future, the Lakers waived Trevor Ariza on Thursday and will use that open roster spot on a young player, with Wenyen Gabriel a likely candidate for that position.
The team announced waiving Ariza themselves, while the report on who they will target came from Shams Charania of The Athletic.
The Los Angeles Lakers intend to waive Trevor Ariza and use roster spot to convert a young player prior to Sunday’s deadline to sign a player, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. Open roster spot now provides flexibility to add to roster.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 7, 2022
While Gabriel’s name is not specifically stated, the phrase “convert a young player” would certainly seem to suggest him as the likely player. In 16 games with the Lakers, Gabriel is averaging 5.7 points and 3.9 rebounds in 14.3 minutes per game while shooting 47.3% from the field and 23.8% on 3-pointers. He’s flashed an ability to knock down 3-pointers at times, even if his shot is rather streaky, leading to his percentage beyond the arc.
Still, he’s shown more than enough potential to warrant a veteran’s minimum deal for the rest of this season and next year. Currently, he’s signed to a two-way deal. Given the COVID outbreak across the league earlier in the season, the limits on games and days two-way players could spend with an NBA team were taken away, allowing Gabriel to sign the two-way deal but effectively not spend a minute in the G League.
However, the Lakers signing him to a two-year deal would make sense for both sides moving forward, especially if it’s a similar deal to that of Stanley Johnson with either a team option or non-guaranteed money.
Lakers should be using a roster spot to sign Wenyen Gabriel to a 2-year deal (presumably non/partially-guaranteed or team option for 2022-23) https://t.co/1PtmPpSDE2— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) April 7, 2022
Theoretically, the Lakers could use the open roster spot on another young player, but given the point in the season the league is at, barring any last-minute roster decisions by playoff teams, it’s unlikely anyone will be more appealing than Gabriel to the Lakers.
Signing him or a young player to a two-year contract with non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed money also gives the team more salary ballast in any potential trade this offseason. A two-way contract would not provide that same flexibility.
For Ariza, this spells the end of a second Lakers tenure that was doomed from the start. His foot injury in training camp sidelined him from the start of the season until mid-December. Even as he got on the court, though, it was clear he was a shell of himself and was barely able to contribute.
The team tried its best to get productive minutes out of him but since March 27, Ariza has played just twice in a span of 19 games. It’s a sad ending for a player that will still be considered a cult hero for Lakers fans thanks to his contributions to a title in 2009.
However, his signing and how much the front office and coaching staff expected him to contribute is indicting of the organization’s approach. While the foot injury this season likely hampered his mobility once he returned, the fact is Ariza was considered a sort of linchpin to the Lakers’ desired style of play this season. And now, he is being waived by the team in the final week of the season to make room for a young player that has effectively taken his spot in the rotation.
It’s a lesson that shouldn’t have needed to be learned, as relying on a 36-year-old non named LeBron to be that vital of a piece of your team is setting yourself up for failure. And even with general manager Rob Pelinka likely to be around at least one more season, it’s hopefully a mistake that won’t be repeated.