Have you ever seen the shrug emoji? It looks like this: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
That was basically what the end of the Lakers season was: just one big shrug. However, this allowed the team to give minutes to fringe players who could play key off-the-bench roles on the team in the future. This article is dedicated to those fringe guys.
Perhaps the finest of the smaller role players, Alex Caruso had a heck of a season. His play had many (including myself) calling for him to play in front of Rajon Rondo in the point guard rotation. Before showing stats for any of these players, I’d like to point out that all of them played only minor roles on the team and that small sample sizes are not necessarily indicative of success in a larger role.
Caruso played a shade over 21 minutes a game in 25 appearances as a two-way player for the Lakers. He shot 44.5% from the field on 6.9 (nice) attempts per game, averaging 9.2 points. He scored a career-high 32 points on April 5th against the Clippers, a game in which he shot 10-for-19 and hauled in 10 rebounds in 38 minutes.
I’m not saying he’s the Lakers best point guard, not by any means. I do think that he has played himself into a larger role on the team and that we could potentially see Caruso getting backup minutes to start the season next year.
Moritz Wagner was an enigma this season. He played in 43 games (no seriously, he did) and averaged just 10 minutes per game. Offensively, Wagner disappointed. He was billed as a player who could stretch the floor coming out of college and shot just 28% from beyond the arc in limited attempts this season. He didn’t show that he was strong enough to body up in the paint, and I don’t think that’s a style of offense that the current Lakers roster would be comfortable running anyway. Wagner was also one of the worst Lakers in offensive box plus-minus at -4.0.
Wagner could get another chance this upcoming season because of his work ethic and his potential as a stretch big man, but the Lakers could move on. The team is looking to make a big splash in free agency and unless Wagner shows high caliber play soon, he may be a casualty of a less patient front office. That said, there are few reasons for the Lakers to outright move on from Wagner given his low salary unless he is included in a trade. But we saw the team do just that with another promising but raw big in Thomas Bryant just last year.
Isaac Bonga played the third-fewest minutes on the team this year, ahead of Scott Machado and Andre Ingram. Bonga showed a ton of promise with the South Bay Lakers though and put up solid numbers in the G-League. In 31 games in the G-League, Bonga averaged 11.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game and even shot 34.4 percent from behind the arc.
Bonga doesn’t fit the timeline that the Lakers have, and could be another casualty of a playoff-minded front office. He’s still young at only 19 years old, but the team may consider his development a waste of a roster spot. To succeed, the Lakers will need effective roleplayers up and down the bench, and the German forward doesn’t quite fit the bill, yet.
The Lakers timeline already claimed one of the rookies from the 2018 draft: Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. Mykhailiuk was traded to the Detroit Pistons at the trade deadline along with a future second-round pick for Reggie Bullock, who has hinted at wanting to return to Los Angeles.
Svi appeared in just three games for the Pistons and missed the playoffs after undergoing surgery to fix a left index finger injury.
With the Lakers, Svi showed promise as a potential ball handler on the wing as well as a solid defender but his 3-point shooting never reached the level the Lakers thought it would, as he hit only 31.8 percent of his deep attempts.
Another successful two-way player for the Lakers was Johnathan Williams, who in 24 games averaged 15.5 minutes per game with 6.5 points and 4.1 rebounds. Williams shot 59.1% from the field on 4.6 attempts per game. His energy often changed the flow of games in which the Lakers looked lethargic.
Williams showed that an NBA team needs to take a chance on him. Whether or not that will be the Lakers is yet to be decided, but I would not be upset to see him suit up in purple and gold again next year.
A darling of those who watched a lot of the South Bay Lakers this season, Jemerrio Jones shined in the few minutes he received on the main club. Jones hauled in 31 rebounds between the Lakers last two games and seemed to grab hold of every ball that fell near him. In his six appearances, the 6-5 forward grabbed 8.2 rebounds per game, his hustle becoming a focal point of the team’s late-season surge.
Jones is an intriguing prospect, but one that the Lakers might not have time to fully develop. He will likely succeed as a minor roleplayer in the NBA, just maybe not in Los Angeles.