Welcome to our site Lakers Season Preview Series! Over the next several weeks, we’ll be writing columns each weekday, detailing the biggest questions we have about every player the Lakers added in the off-season. Today, we take a look at Wenyen Gabriel.
Wenyen Gabriel only played in 19 games last season for Los Angeles Lakers; However, it was easily one of the bright spots in a campaign that was filled with awe.
Gabriel arrived at the beginning of March, and joined them in the midst of the most miserable period of the season. He came to the team through a two-way contract, but was regularly dressed with the Lakers almost immediately due to injuries, plus most of their players are apparently unfit to make the NBA roster, let alone provide value (that has value). It was also confirmed that this is off-season as most of last season’s squad are still looking for a new home in the NBA).
He became a regular part of the rotation in mid-March, even starting in five games by the end of the season. Gabriel, despite being only 6’9 and 205 pounds according to basketball referencewas able to play at 4 and 5 for Frank Vogel while Anthony Davis continued to sit out due to injury.
Before the end of the seasonThe Lakers rewarded Gabriel for being a productive player with extremely high energy (something many roster members failed to provide) by awarding him a non-guaranteed contract that could keep him with the team through the 2022-23 season.
With Gabriel being one of the few players set to return from last season, can he build on his role among a host of new faces?
What is the best scenario for Gabriel this season?
Last season, Gabriel was able to find time to play because the two Lakers – Dwight Howard and Deandre Jordan – couldn’t stay on the field without feeling too tired or a Lakers rival (or both) in a big race. By the time Gabriel joined the Lakers, they had actually gotten rid of Deandre Jordan, leaving Gabriel to fight for minutes with Howard and the Lakers’ most successful center during the campaign: LeBron James. Obviously, the less LeBron puts pressure with the NBA’s top men, the better for his overall health and thus the Lakers’ long-term hopes of competing, which is how he helped Gabriel rather than Davis.
The Lakers should have far better production than fifth this season after signing Thomas Bryant and Damian Jones to the minimum number of veteran contracts. If these two and Anthony Davis remain healthy most of the year, that could prevent Gabriel from getting much time as a team center.
The best case scenario for Gabriel would be to find a way to play efficiently with 4 alongside one of those 3 big guys who would share time in the 5. If Gabriel can find time to play there, he will have to improve on the 28.6% he shot from deep last season. If he does, he’ll have the opportunity to use high energy, impressive height and a sneaky athletic performance that tends to shine at his best moments in purple and gold.
What is the worst result?
This is very simple. The worst result of Gabriel’s season is that he never plays again. If the Lakers enter the season with a full roster, he will almost certainly be released before his entire contract is guaranteed late in the season, allowing the Lakers to fill his roster spot with someone from the inevitable buyout market.
What is the most likely role for them in your opinion?
I really appreciate what Gabriel was able to do with the Lakers at the end of last season, and I I think I speak for all the fans of the team when I say that.
However, the odds are stacked against him having a great playing time as a front yard member of this list. If Gabriel gets minutes, that probably isn’t a good thing for the Lakers because it would definitely mean something else. The player most important to the team’s hopes of competing – like LeBron and AD, or even Bryant and Jones – gets hurt, or in the case of the latter pair, underperformed severely.
Hopefully Gabriel will prove me wrong and be a solid contributor to the team over a good chunk of the minutes — or at least, play well enough to force the Lakers to secure his full contract and go into another season in a row with the team.