The Los Angeles Lakers are limping to the finish line of one of the most disappointing seasons in NBA history. With a season this bad, nobody on the roster, coaching staff or front office can feel too safe. Players like Anthony Davis and LeBron James likely aren’t going anywhere but it’s possible that they are the only two players who remain.
It’s hard to find the silver linings of such a disastrous season but not every player failed at their job. Wenyen Gabriel came late in the season when it was already clear the Lakers were bad. He was on a two-way contract but spent most of his time on the NBA roster. He wasn’t a superstar but brought defensive upside and played hard. Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus believes the Lakers need to ensure that Gabriel stays put going forward:
The additions of Stanley Johnson and Wenyen Gabriel infused the Lakers with greater size and athleticism. Paired with Austin Reaves and Monk, the Lakers found a somewhat viable combination (in stretches) around James.
The team should rip up Gabriel’s two-way contract before the end of the season to sign him to a two-year standard deal (with marginal guarantees). The Lakers need younger legs and depth around players like James and Davis. Los Angeles also needs shooting and playmaking, but everyone on the roster should be capable of contributing defensively.
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Stanley Johnson Also Deserves to Stay
In the offseason, the Lakers bet on veteran talent to lead them to the promised land. That was clearly a mistake as the team’s age became a major issue. This offseason, Los Angeles needs to inject youth into the roster. Luckily, the team had some young pieces who impressed this season outside of Gabriel.
Stanley Johnson was one of the most pleasant surprises for the team this season. The Southern California native got to return home to play for the team he grew up rooting for and didn’t squander the opportunity. He started 24 games for the Lakers and was one of their better defensive players. He only averaged 6.1 points a game but his ability on defense should earn him a spot on the team next season.
Lakers Would Love to Keep Malik Monk
Perhaps the most impressive young player for the Lakers this season was Malik Monk. The 24-year-old guard came over on a minimum contract from the Charlotte Hornets and quickly became one of the team’s best offensive players. He averaged 13.3 points per game while shooting 39.1% from three.
Monk is exactly what the Lakers needed last year when they had an elite defense but not many offensive playmakers. He doesn’t bring much to the defensive side of the court but he’s an electric scorer who can get hot. There’s no way he’s getting a minimum contract this offseason. He’s stated he wants to stay with the Lakers but he’s going to want to get paid his worth. The team needs to figure out how to make salary cap room to keep him around.