Outside of a Sterling Brown 10-day contract audition, the Los Angeles Lakers have had an open roster spot ever since waiving Matt “The Dash Mamba” Ryan way back in November, but that slot may not be unfilled for much longer.
Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report — who has long been as plugged-in to what is going on in and around the Lakers as anyone — tweeted on Saturday that he expects the team to sign a player on Sunday, the final day of the regular season.
I anticipate the Lakers will sign a player tomorrow, probably for the rest of the season and an additional year with a non- or partial-guranteee (perhaps with a team option)— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) April 8, 2023
Any player the Lakers signed to such a contract would be eligible for the postseason as long as they were waived by their previous team by March 1, and there are several practical reasons for the Lakers to sign one, in addition to just serving as an emergency, play-in or playoff-eligible reinforcement if the team deals with injuries.
For one thing, if a player were signed to the type of contract Pincus described, they would be eligible to be included in offseason trades as salary sweetener to get closer to matching money while letting the team that brought them in save some cash (ala Stanley Johnson last summer in the Talen Horton-Tucker for Patrick Beverley deal).
Additionally, by signing the player on the last day of the regular season — likely to a prorated veteran’s minimum deal — the Lakers will also save on luxury tax payments they would have owed more of for each day the player was on the roster. The Lakers will already be paying approximately $35 million in taxes this year (seventh-most in the NBA), and pretty clearly were concerned all year about spending more on any marginal help.
Finally, much like the Lakers did with Wenyen Gabriel last year, this would also give the team the potential opportunity to get a fringe guy they like in-house and decide if they want to keep them around as cheap help for next season.
Now, who are the candidates to get such a deal? Two-way players Scotty Pippen Jr. and Cole Swider would seem to be natural in-house candidates to get a promotion like Austin Reaves did last preseason, but given that the team barely used them all year on their two-way status, that seems unlikely. The team has also looked at a few centers, working out Meyers Leonard, Demarcus Cousins, Tony Bradley, Tristan Thompson and Cody Zeller (Leonard has since caught on with the Milwaukee Bucks, who are among the six NBA teams with a higher tax bill than Los Angeles).
So even if it’s not one of those players, given the struggles of Gabriel in certain matchups and the unpredictability of what Mo Bamba can provide after a long injury absence, the best guess here is that this mystery player will be a big man, if they are signed at all. Stay tuned here to Silver Screen and Roll for updates.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.