With Monday’s announcement of the release of Jose Calderon, the Los Angeles Lakers now have 14 members on the roster and, thus, one open spot.
Since the trade deadline and under Magic Johnson, the Lakers have shifted completely toward the future. They dealt away Lou Williams, traded Marcelo Huertas for a younger guard (albeit one who likely won’t produce much) on top of releasing Calderon.
In their shift to the future, the Lakers appear likely to bring on a younger player from the D-League to fill in Calderon’s role. With a wide array of options available, let’s take a look at who might make sense (and who might not) for the Lakers over the final quarter of the season.
David Nwaba – We’ll start with some local players. Nwaba has been an interesting player for the D-Fenders this season. Statistically, the wingman is averaging 13.9 points and 7 rebounds. However, he’s almost exclusively a non-three-point shooter, having hit 28.6 percent of his 14 three-point attempts.
However, Nwaba’s impact on the team is indisputable. His net rating of 10.9 is far and away best on the team. His 105.1 defensive rating is third-best on the team. With Nwaba off the court, the D-Fenders’ net rating plummets to -6.1.
His case is certainly an interesting one. While the Lakers probably would look more at a combo guard or shooting guard, Nwaba’s impact on the court raises some eyebrows and could earn him a call-up.
In reality, though, I’d be surprised if he was the one. Nwaba would struggle as a two-guard in the NBA and that’s where the vacancies would be.
Vander Blue – While we’re talking about the D-Fenders, it’d be impossible not to mention Blue, who has been inarguably the team’s best offensive talent this season. Blue is averaging 24.9 points per game on 43.9 percent field goal shooting and 36.9 percent three-point shooting.
His offensive rating is second behind Nwaba’s on the team, but he’s doing it on nearly twice as high a usage rate.
The problem with Blue is, to a certain degree, he’s a known quantity. Blue played two games at the end of the 2014-15 season for the Lakers, scoring 15 and 7 points, though his second game saw him put up a 15-8-7 statline albeit in a full 48 minutes.
Blue is still just 24 years old, meaning there’s reason to believe he could still be productive. As a combo guard who can score, he could fill in the hole left by Williams perfectly. If we’re putting odds on if he’d be called up, I’d say he’s one of the favorites, if not the odds-on favorite.
Anthony Brown – The subject of the most controversial decision heading out of training camp, Brown was cut essentially in favor of Metta World Peace. While most deemed it a bad decision, Brown has looked less than impressive in the league this season with both the Pelicans and Magic, averaging 3.9 points and shooting just 25.9 percent from behind the arc.
The same problems that plagued him last season and into summer league have followed him this season in the NBA.
The counterpoint is that Brown has been lighting up the D-League, averaging 20.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists on 47.1 (!) percent three-point shooting.
Fans know how effective he can be defensively, the question has always been whether his offense could meet that level.
Again, if we’re putting odds on a decision, I’d make Brown one of the favorites as well right alongside Blue for a roster spot. Brown is familiar with the team and Walton’s system, something that should give him an edge over the competition.
Jalen Jones – Now we’ll jump into some lesser-known names around the Lakers’ fan base. Jones is a guard/forward for Maine Red Claws who is averaging 21.9 points, nine rebounds and 2.2 assists per game on 44.3 percent field goal shooting and 33.3 percent three-point shooting.
Jones is more of guard/forward combo that isn’t a perfect fit for the Lakers, but given the versatility of Brandon Ingram, he could fit if the Lakers want another wing option.
Standing at 6’7″ with a 6’11” wingspan and just 23 years old, there’s reason to believe Jones could have some potential worth tapping. His defensive rating of 103.7 isn’t eye-popping, but those stats can be taken with a grain of salt in the D-League given the up-tempo nature of the league.
As stated, Jones isn’t a great fit unless the Lakers are interested in playing Ingram more as a guard and less as a forward. In that case, Jones might still be behind Nwaba, who the team is more familiar with.
Abdel Nader – Another potential option could be a teammate of Jones’ in Nader, another forward with potential. Nader is averaging 22.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists on 47.5 percent field goal shooting and 39.4 percent three-point shooting this season.
Like Jones, Nader is a 6’8″ forward with a long wingspan (7’1″) and is just 23 years old. Nader is a better three-point shooter and a better playmaker, sporting a better assist ratio, a better effective field goal percentage and a better true shooting percentage.
Nader, however, is a worse defender, though marginally, but it would appear his offensive talents would make up for it.
Again, Nader and Jones are pretty far behind the eight ball but both would be intriguing options for the Lakers over the final weeks of the season.
Manny Harris – Another name that fans are familiar with is Harris. With the Texas Legends this season, Harris is averaging 26.2 points on 45.6 percent shooting from the field and 36 percent three-point shooting.
Harris is likely the exact type of player that the Lakers are looking forward as a combo guard. The downside to Harris is that he’s 27 and will be 28 before the start of next season.
The future for Harris is not there and while he’s a name fans know, his timeline makes little sense with the Lakers’ current timeline, making him an unlikely candidate.
Larry Sanders – While Sanders isn’t a D-Leaguer, obviously, Sanders is a former player that has recently been linked with the Lakers. The Lakers have no need for a big man and their interest may purely be a due diligence. There’s intrigue there, but for a team that has too many forwards already, signing Sanders makes no sense.
There is a myriad of other players whom the Lakers could look at signing, but rank down the list. Josh Magette is a player who has been a D-Fender for multiple years and has been chronicled often. He’s a pure point guard, though, and might not make total sense with Clarkson.
Darius Morris and Jordan Crawford and other players whose names might pop out, but who also don’t make much sense for the Lakers going forward. Kevin Murphy and Alex Poythress are other players who could be interesting but are down the totem pole.
In the end, I’d expect, if the Lakers are to make a move, it’d be Brown or Blue ahead of the pack.
I believe that the Celtics still retain rights to Nader.