Los Angeles Lakers land their new starting center in NBA free agency

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

While rumors about Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have swirled, the Los Angeles Lakers have quietly done a lot with limited resources in NBA free agency.

The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t found a way to land Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant. They haven’t found a way to turn Russell Westbrook into a piece that fits better with their top-heavy roster. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t had a very productive offseason so far.

The team has already added Juan Toscano-Anderson, Troy Brown Jr. and Damian Jones, all inexpensive young players who have upside and potential to play meaningful roles. They also added Lonnie Walker IV, an explosive guard with plenty of scoring talent who appeared to chafe at times under the rigid structure of Gregg Popovich and the Spurs.

And now it appears they may have landed a new starting center. Chris Haynes is reporting that they’ve signed Thomas Bryant to a one-year deal and will give him an opportunity to win a starting role.

How does Thomas Bryant fit in with the Los Angeles Lakers?

Bryant turns 25 later this month and only appeared in 37 games over the past two seasons for the Wizards, recovering from a torn ACL. However, before that injury he had become the starter in Washington, averaging 18.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.6 blocks per 36 minutes on 59.4/36.0/77.0 shooting splits.

Bryant’s outside shooting ability could be particularly valuable to the Lakers, opening more space around the basket and making a frontcourt pairing with Anthony Davis more viable. He’s also a very effective roll-man (74.2 percentile in scoring efficiency in 2019-20) with the athleticism and vision to make the right play in the short-roll, whether it’s a pass or a shot.

A lot depends on Bryant being healthy and being able to recover some measure of the bouncy athleticism that helped find success with the Wizards. But on paper, he looks like a solid fit in the starting lineup and potentially a great pick-and-roll partner for Westbrook, anchoring bench units, when the Lakers stagger his minutes with Davis.

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