Lakers’ 7-Foot Summer League Star Eyeing Roster Spot, Gaining Fans

Colin Castleton (right), Lakers two-way center

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 09: Colin Castleton #26 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots against James Nnaji #46 of the Charlotte Hornets in the second half of a 2023 NBA Summer League game at the Thomas & Mack Center on July 09, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS – It is a longshot, but the Lakers have a frontcourt need, eager to sign another center to provide depth. And they happen to have one of the early stars of the NBA Las Vegas Summer League  … who just happens to be a well-tested five-year college center who stands 7-feet and excelled at Florida before signing on with the team as an undrafted free agent.

That would be Colin Castleton. He scored 21 points with 14 rebounds in L.A.’s second summer-league game on Sunday against the Hornets, going 8-for-13 from the field, including 5-for-5 on jumpers outside the restricted area. He had three assists, after posting six assists in the Lakers’ summer opener against the Warriors.

Castleton: Lakers a ‘1st-Class Organization’

Bulky, polished and an excellent passer, Castleton has looked the part of an NBA-caliber center. He signed with the Lakers immediately after the draft ended, as L.A. made him a priority once the final pick was called. On July 3, the Lakers made Castleton one of their three two-way players. Now, he is giving the team pause as it fills out the end of its regular roster.

“This is a first-class organization,” Castleton said. “I knew when I came here I was gonna get better little by little every day. And that’s just the biggest thing for me. It’s just having a growth mindset. I wanted to develop my first year, learn from the best players in the world, which they have, a great organization from the front office to the coaches, everybody there is great.

“I knew that with my agent (Aaron Reilly, who represents Austin Reaves), he already knew everybody so you know, it’s kind of easy on draft night to know where I was gonna go and just have a good fit and opportunity.”

Castleton figures to have a place within the organization going forward, but the question is how big that place will be. As a two-way player, he is eligible to play in 50 games for the Lakers on the NBA level, and the team will have the option to convert Castleton’s contract into a standard deal at some point going forward. The team is reported to be considering veteran NBA big men like Christian Wood and Bismack Biyombo, and if one of those players signs, Castleton’s opportunities will be limited.

Castleton Remains an Aggressive Shot-Blocker

Castleton transferred from Michigan after his second season in college in 2020, and was a fifth-year senior for the Gators last season (he averaged 16.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists). He is mature, already 23 years old. He drew appreciation from fans in Gainesville for his shot-blocking ability when he averaged 2.5 blocks over three years, and now is making the adjustment to defending the rim against more athletic NBA players here in Vegas.

“In college I’m used to just sitting in the paint all the time and just you know, swatting everything at the rim, but in NBA you got to be more active, you got to move your feet better,” he said. “Definitely got dunked on a couple of times, but you know, that doesn’t bother me. Just being able to be at the room and be a rim protector, just letting my teammates know if something happens, I’m there for you. But just yeah, definitely an adjustment to more athletic guys dunking everything, but I’m gonna continue to jump with everybody because I don’t care.”

That kind of aggression should win him some fans in Los Angeles, too. But winning enough fans among the Lakers’ decision-makers to get significant playing time this season will be Castleton’s real challenge.

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