Former Laker Signs Bumper New Contract With Conference Rival

Larry Nance Jr, Los Angeles Lakers

Getty Larry Nance Jr, Los Angeles Lakers

If the Los Angeles Lakers could any specific type of player to their roster, they would probably look for a forward who can shoot the three consistently, attack close-outs, and put the ball on the floor a little bit.

The funny thing is, they used to have a forward like that in Larry Nance Jr. – a player the Lakers drafted back in 2015, with the 27th overall draft pick. After joining Los Angeles, Nance Jr. participated in 168 regular-season games, averaging 7.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game, while shooting 22.4% from deep and 56.6% from inside the perimeter.

Eventually, the Lakers struck a deal to send Nance Jr. to the Cleveland Cavaliers in return for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and a future first-round draft pick. Yet, while neither Thomas nor Frye became a success in Tinseltown, Nance Jr. slowly developed his game and became an impressive complimentary player. 

Since leaving the Lakers, Nance Jr. has averaged nine points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 34.7% from deep and 58.9% from the perimeter – proving his value to teams around the league.

It’s that same value that has just seen the former Lakers sign a bumper new contract extension with the New Orleans Pelicans, worth $21.6 million, a deal that shows how much his current team values what he brings to the court.

“Nance impacted the Pelicans’ run to the Western Conference playoffs, delivering 14 points and 16 rebounds in a play-in victory over the LA Clippers and scoring in double figures three times in a seven-game Western Conference playoff series,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski wrote as he detailed Nance Jr’s latest contract. 

Lakers Could Still Make a Trade

Although Nance Jr. has never been listed as a potential trade target for the Lakers, there’s no doubt that a player with his skillset wouldn’t improve the current rotation. Still, the Pelicans have now locked-up Nance Jr. for the foreseeable future, and while that doesn’t affect the Lakers’ plans moving forward, it could be something that kicks the front office into gear.

Throughout the summer, we’ve seen the Lakers linked with a plethora of star talent, and nothing has come to fruition in terms of a trade. However, according to a September 30 report by Marc Stein, the Lakers’ decision to stand pat throughout the off-season doesn’t mean they’re not willing to agree to a trade – as long as it propels them into contender status.

The Lakers’ undeniable preference throughout the latter stages of the offseason was to preserve their projected 2023 salary cap space for a significant signing next summer…Yet they have not ruled out a deal between now and the Feb. 9 trade deadline that involves taking on long-term salary and/or surrendering their much-discussed future first-round draft picks in 2027 and 2029 … but only if that trade is deemed to clearly return the fallen giants to contender status,” Stein wrote.

It will be interesting, then, to see who the Lakers decide to target as a potential addition to their roster, given the fact they will see that addition as the missing piece to their championship puzzle.

DeMar DeRozan Was ‘Hell Bent’ on Becoming a Laker

The Lakers might have no regrets about letting Nance Jr. go, but one player they could be kicking themselves over is Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan, who the team almost signed before making a deal to bring Russell Westbrook to Los Angeles. Speaking to JJ Redick on a September 29 episode of the Old Man And The Three Podcast, DeRozan discussed how he was so close to joining the Lakers that he thought it was a ‘done deal,’ only to find out the team had pivoted to acquire Westbrook instead.

“I’m looking at my phone like, ‘Damn, that did happen. Well, I guess that’s out the window…In my mind, that was the only option for me to go to. I was sold on that. Done deal. I didn’t even entertain anything else because I’m letting this situation work itself out. So when I see the trade happen I knew there was no way for me to go to the Lakers at this point. So now it was a scramble mode,” DeRozan said.

Considering the Lakers are now short on elite-shot makers outside of LeBron, and potentially Davis, they might be kicking themselves for missing out on a player who was so dominant for the Bulls last season.

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