The Los Angeles Lakers have worked out free agent center Donatas Motiejunas with Larry Nance, Jr. set to miss four weeks with a bone bruise, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein.
Motiejunas went through a lengthy free agency process due to his status with the Rockets. He was a restricted free agent who signed an offer sheet with the Brooklyn Nets. The Rockets matched but Motiejunas did not show up to his physical and eventually the team gave up his rights to make him an unrestricted free agent.
According to Stein and Shelburne, Motiejunas had an impressive workout with the Lakers and the team is now weighing whether it should sign him. Per ESPN, the main concern is the minutes he would take away from the likes of Julius Randle and Tarik Black.
This is an interesting conundrum for the Lakers. Motiejunas is a supremely talented player especially with his back to the basket. When healthy, he has been one of the most efficient post-up players in the NBA. Contrary to popular belief, he would likely not effectively spread the floor as a shooter, having shot better than 30 percent in only one of his four seasons in the NBA.
But D-Mo has struggled mightily with staying healthy playing 44, 62, 71, and 37 games in his four seasons in Houston. Just as important are his defensive deficiencies. With Nance out, Motiejunas would likely play the center position next to either Luol Deng or Julius Randle in the second unit. There’s very little rim protection there.
That said, the Lakers have little rim protection anyway with Black being the best option as a backup center. If Motiejunas looked healthy, then he is certainly worth a gamble. The Lakers are not going to be a good defensive team but could at least keep the offense churning with the bench unit that has sometimes struggled to get good shots.
In effect, the Lakers have this decision to make: is the potential of a high-scoring and efficient backup center in Donatas Motiejunas more valuable than the hustle, athleticism, and better (albeit not great) defense of someone like Tarik Black? Either way, both could be trade chips for the Lakers, making this an intriguing signing.