Lakers Sign Former Rival Big Man, 5-Star Prospect: Report

Wenyen Gabriel

Getty The Lakers are adding former Clippers big man Wenyen Gabriel (right).

After remaining quiet at the NBA trade deadline, the Los Angeles Lakers made a series of moves including the signing of former Los Angeles Clippers big man Wenyen Gabriel. The former Kentucky player is signing a two-way deal with the Lakers, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

“The Lakers also intend to sign forward Wenyen Gabriel on a two-way NBA contract, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium,” Charania tweeted on February 28. “Gabriel has had stints with the Nets, Clippers and Pelicans this season, showing flashes of athleticism and versatility at 6-foot-9.”

Gabriel is a former five-star high school recruit who had offers from a number of top college basketball programs including Kansas, Notre Dame, Duke, Virginia and Maryland, per Rivals. The big man played two seasons at Kentucky averaging 5.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and one block while shooting 36.7% from long range in 20.3 minutes per game.

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The Lakers Mark the Fifth Team Gabriel Has Played on This Season

Wenyen Gabriel Highlights! Welcome To The LA LAKERS!!Wenyen Gabriel Highlights! Welcome To The LA LAKERS!! I Do Not Own Any Music Or Clips IN this Video! *No copyright intended* *All clips and music belongs to respective owners* Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching,…2022-03-01T00:39:31Z

After going undrafted in 2018, Gabriel signed a two-way contract with the Kings where he spent his first two seasons before being traded to the Blazers on January 21, 2020. Less than a year later, Gabriel signed a multi-year deal with the Pelicans. New Orleans waived Gabriel before the start of the 2021-22 season.

So far this season, Gabriel has had short stints with the Bucks, Nets and Clippers. After signing two ten-day contracts with the Clippers, Gabriel returned to the Pelicans on another ten-day deal. Heading into the draft, The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie had Gabriel as his No. 65 ranked prospect.

“According to HoopLens, Kentucky was three points better per 100 possessions on offense and nine points better on defense when Gabriel was on the floor,” Vecenie detailed on June 18, 2018. “He can knock down shots from distance, move his feet defensively and protect the weak side of the rim. He’s also shown off ball-handling ability at lower levels and is known universally to have a great, positive energy. I’m happy betting on that type of guy in the modern NBA.”

Paul: ‘LeBron James & Rob Pelinka Don’t Have an Issue’

Wenyen Gabriel 14 PTS 6 REB: All Possessions (2021-05-14)Support the channel Comment if you want a specific player. Twitter | Reddit 2021-05-14 Golden State Warriors vs New Orleans Pelicans: Player Highlights #Wenyen Gabriel 14 PTS, 6 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL. 3 of 7 from 3. 5 of 11 FGs in 30:41 minutes. #NBA #Basketball #Highlights.2021-05-15T20:12:57Z

The Lakers also released former All-Star center DeAndre Jordan in order to sign veteran guard D.J. Augustine. These are not the sort of moves LeBron James likely had in mind prior to the deadline. After not making a trade, the Lakers have also been quiet in an underwhelming buyout market.

During NBA All-Star Weekend, James praised several other NBA general managers, left the door open for a potential return to Cleveland and admitted he was willing to leave the Lakers to play with his oldest son Bronny James. All this prompted speculation that there was friction between James and the Lakers.

According to The Athletic’s Sam Amick, Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul and owner Jeanie Buss met for two hours on February 25 to clear the air. Afterwards, Paul attempted to downplay the rumored tension between James and the Lakers.

“I just don’t think (communicating indirectly) is the right way of doing business,” Paul told The Athletic. “And I don’t think that’s who we are, who LeBron is. We have a great partnership with the Lakers. The Klutch Sports Group and the Lakers don’t have an issue. Rich Paul and Rob Pelinka don’t have an issue. LeBron James and Rob Pelinka don’t have an issue. And Jeanie Buss and LeBron and Rich Paul don’t have an issue. It’s very simple. Very simple. So, you know, whoever put that type of stuff out, and people run with it, I think it’s unfair to the Lakers.”

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