The Los Angeles Lakers agreed to a one-year deal with center Bryant Thomas, who missed significant time the last two seasons with the Washington Wizards while recovering from an ACL injury.
The Lakers don’t have much wiggle room to work with when signing free agents, so they have to gamble a bit on reclamation projects or veterans coming back from injuries like Bryant.
The Lakers hope Bryant can provide them with a steady rim protector at the 5-spot and a potential double-double guy while Anthony Davis roams the paint at the 4-spot.
Heading into next season, the Lakers are +1100 odds to win the 2023 NBA Championship. Despite missing the postseason last year, the Lakers saw a bump in their title odds after rumors surfaced they were going to trade Russell Westbrook to the Brooklyn Nets for Kyrie Irving.
Bryant is a former standout hoopster from western New York, where he led Bishop Kearney High School to a state title in the early 2010s. The seven-footer caught the eye of several blue-chip programs like Syracuse, Indiana, Kentucky, and UCLA, but ultimately, decided to play at Indiana. After two seasons in college, Bryant went pro. He was drafted by the Utah Jazz with the #42 overall pick in the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft before going to the LA Lakers in a draft-night trade.
Bryant appeared in 15 games — mostly in garbage time — with the Lakers in the 2017-18 season. The Lakers waived him after an unimpressive rookie season where he mostly rode the bench. He linked up and found instant success with the Washington Wizards. Shortly before Christmas 2018, he scored 31 points on a perfect 14-for-14 shooting night in a triple-overtime victory against the Phoenix Suns.
At the start of the 2020-21 season, Bryant averaged a career-best 14.3 ppg with the Wizards along with 6.1 rebounds per game before blowing out the ACL in his left knee.
Bryant returned to the Wizards at the end of the 2021-22 season to play in 27 games, including nine starts. He looked rusty, but it was good to finally see him in action. He averaged just 7.4 points and 4.0 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game.
Lakers have limited offseason moves
The Lakers didn’t disclose the details of Bryant’s contract, but it’s assumed they offered him a league minimum. They already have three max contracts on their roster, and they’re involved in trade talks with the Brooklyn Nets to take over one of them.
The Lakers are trying to ditch Russell Westbrook after last season’s faux pas when they agreed to a mega-deal and trade with the Washington Wizards. They coughed up draft picks and key role players who helped them win a championship in 2020 to acquire Westbrook. The bold, yet foolish, move backfired and the Lakers missed the playoffs.
The Lakers want to trade Westbrook ASAP, however, there are few teams interested in a selfish player nicknamed “Westbrick.” He also earns a $46.1 million salary, which is problematic. The Nets want to trade Kyrie Irving, but they’re not in a rush to do so, even though his market is very thin. The Lakers are interested in Irving if they can include Westbrook in the deal.
The Nets hold the leverage over the Lakers, but the two teams can’t agree to the throw-in players in any Westbrook/Irving trade. The Nets want to include Joe Harris and his $18 million salary in the trade, but the cap-stretched Lakers would rather have Seth Curry for just $8 million.
That’s the main reason the Lakers had to take a flier on Bryant and his reconstructed knee because they’re not flush with cash to throw around to attract a free agent big man like Mitchell Robinson who recently snapped the Charlie Ward Curse when he re-upped with the Knicks.