Welcome to our Lakers Season Preview Series! For the next several weeks, we’ll be writing columns every weekday, breaking down the biggest questions we have about every player the Lakers added this offseason. Today, we take a look at Juan Toscano-Anderson.
For the second straight year in a row (and fourth time in five seasons), the Lakers poached a former Golden State Warrior in free agency. After snagging Kent Bazemore last season, Los Angeles is taking a chance on Juan Toscano-Anderson (JTA), a 6’6 forward who’s all about hustle, defense, and toughness. The Mexican native is expected to fill in the lacking wing depth of this current Lakers roster and hopefully be an ideal contributor alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
JTA arrives in Los Angeles fresh off a championship run with the Warriors, where he spent most of the playoffs watching his teammates from the sidelines. Although it’s tempting to classify him as a probable benchwarmer (he is after all, on a veteran’s minimum deal), the Lakers will need the 29-year-old to turn into an integral role player if they hope to mimic the success of JTA’s former team.
Like a basketball Swiss Army Knife, JTA brings a whole host of skills to this Lakers roster, including solid ball pressure, the ability to guard at least four positions, underrated passing skills, a little bit of perimeter shooting, the speed to play in transition, and a high basketball IQ.
To the point of his elite versatility, JTA ranked first in defensive positional versatility (for players who have played a minimum of 500 minutes) according to BBall Index. Also, his 76th percentile D-LEBRON speaks to his ability to be an all-around defensive playmaker, breaking up plays before they happen and picking up whoever the team needs him to. JTA’s defensive package should provide a boost to a team that finished a brutal 21st in defensive rating last season.
On offense, JTA will have to play the role of a connector alongside the team’s superstars to make himself useful on that end, enabling him to stay on the floor for a significant minutes load.
What is his best-case scenario?
JTA’s season would be a resounding success if he can prove that he’s indeed a quality NBA-caliber role player.
Just as Malik Monk did last season, JTA has a great opportunity to earn himself a significant raise by proving he’s worth more than the minimum, and is someone to be legitimately trusted to provide consistent scoring, energy, and efficient minutes off the bench. JTA’s game comes with a lot of hustle, heart, and effort, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he quickly becomes a fan favorite.
Juan Toscano-Anderson continues to impress by bringing some much-needed energy, hustle, and awareness on both ends of the court while temporarily filling in for Draymond Green.— r/Warriors (@GSWReddit) December 28, 2020
(Compilation by u/isla_20) pic.twitter.com/5CV91agX0d
That said, in order for JTA to be an integral role player off the bench, he needs to consistently contribute on offense the way he is expected to on defense. He shot a decent 34.8% from downtown as a rookie in the 2019-2020 season, before drilling 40.2% of his triples the following year. Unfortunately, his 3-point accuracy took a massive dip last season, falling to just 32.2% on the campaign. However, in his final 35 games, he converted 41.5% of his attempts, leaving some reason to hope he can make opponents pay for leaving him open in his first season with the Lakers.
Juan Toscano-Anderson made more hustle plays tonight than some players do in a full season https://t.co/b2DeeoeCQM— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) February 3, 2021
If Toscano-Anderson consistently hits wide-open shots and impacts the game defensively the way he’s done over the past three seasons, then there’s a good chance that he’ll be trusted with significant minutes off the bench and maybe even see himself slotted into closing lineups when he’s got it going.
What is his worst-case scenario?
The worst outcome for JTA is if he follows in Bazemore’s footsteps by playing himself out of the rotation and spending the bulk of the season on the bench. The former Warrior’s defensive mettle should automatically earn him some burn, especially given the scarcity of wings on the roster, but there’s a possibility that JTA could be benched like Bazemore if he underperforms.
Toscano-Anderson will be competing against fellow minimum signing Troy Brown Jr. and taxpayer mid-level exception signee Lonnie Walker IV for playing time at the wing. If JTA struggles to shoot the ball off the bat (which was the case last season), then it could be hard for him to stay on the floor.
Also, with the Lakers’ shortage of depth at the wing, the task of chasing around some of the best scoring forwards in the game could be handed to JTA. If he can’t keep up with the best in the West at the position, a crop including Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and even Andrew Wiggins, he won’t likely be on the floor in the game’s biggest moments.
What is his most likely role on the team?
In all likelihood, the forward will be asked to play the role of a connector between Davis, James, and potentially Russell Westbrook. JTA will be one of the Lakers’ main men tasked with doing the dirty work that is required of winning basketball — something he did a decent job with during his time in Golden State.
If he can colorize the Lakers’ offense, like our very own Alex Regla hopes he can, JTA could become one of the Lakers’ more valuable contributors this season. If he struggles to make open jumpers, he could find himself on the outside of the rotation looking in.
In all likelihood, however, his championship pedigree and defensive fortitude should give him a leg up on the Lakers’ other wings hoping to carve out a role on the court this season.