On late Tuesday afternoon, the Los Angeles Lakers officially announced that they will sign veteran big Andrew Bogut. According to the Vertical’s Shams Charania, this will be just a one-year deal where Bogut will receive the veterans minimum of $2.3 million. Although the Aussie struggled with various injuries during the 2016-17 season, he still shines as a relatively solid rim protector when he’s actually on the court. Just two years ago, Bogut blocked 1.63 shots in only 21 minutes per game during his final season with the Golden State Warriors.
Coinciding with his defensive ability, Bogut adds a veteran presence to one of the youngest teams in the NBA. A prime example of their youth is seen in the team’s front-court as Brook Lopez previously stood as the only player that was older than 24 years old. Aside from Lopez and Bogut, the Lakers center position consists of the 20-year-old Ivica Zubac, 20-year-old Thomas Bryant and 21-year-old Stephen Zimmerman.
Each of those players definitely have a certain amount of upside, however Zimmerman stands as the one player that’s least likely to make the team’s opening day roster. That’s because Zimmerman will be entering training camp under a partially-guaranteed deal, while the other two are under guaranteed contracts that should allow them to remain with the organization until the 2018-19 season.
Although Zimmerman stands as a huge long shot to make the Lakers opening day roster, there’s still a chance that he could still make a decent amount of money while staying within the organization. That possibility could come with Zimmerman receiving a two-way deal from the Lakers in the near future. At this point, the Lakers still have a two-way remaining after they used their first contract on Alex Caruso back in mid-July.
He actually fills all the qualifications to receive that type of contract as Zimmerman has one year of NBA experience and is currently under a training camp contract where only $50k of that is actually guaranteed. Alongside that, Zimmerman’s deal also has exhibit 10 exception according to Basketball Insider’s Eric Pincus. That exhibit 10 exception is important since that means that a player’s deal can always be changed into a two-way deal.
So while training camp invites like Vander Blue, Briante Weber and VJ Beachem might fit part of the criteria when it comes to experience (3 years or less in NBA) or contracts (50k or less of guaranteed money), their lack of an exhibit 10 means that their training camp contract can’t be translated into a two-way. For those players to actually get two-way contracts, the Lakers would actually have to cut them, wait for them to go through waivers, and then they can sign them to a deal
Along with him being a qualified candidate, it would make sense for the Lakers to allow Zimmerman to work in the G League under a two-way deal. The 21-year-old player is just two years removed from being one of the top recruits in high school hoops where he was praised for his great athleticism and nice outside touch.
Unfortunately, he never really got an opportunity to showcase those skills on an NBA level as he only played 107 minutes during his lone season with the Magic. However, he did shine during some stints in the G League as he put up 13.4 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks on 48% from the field in 30 minutes per game during his 21 outings with the Erie Bayhawks. That G League run includes him putting up a 24 point, 24 rebound game on December 7th against the Long Island Nets.
Although he currently sits in a relatively low point of his career, Zimmerman could gain some momentum back if he’s able to improve on that production and put better numbers during an entire G League season with the South Bay Lakers.
If he’s able to put up big numbers in the G League, the young big might actually have a future with the Los Angeles Lakers. With Brook Lopez and Andrew Bogut having their contracts expire after the 2017-17 season, the team might be looking for another big to help solidify their rotation. While they may end up looking for an experienced player in free agency, the Lakers could end up bringing back Zimmerman as a cheap option that has experience within the organization.
Obviously, that’s just speculation on my end but it definitely would make sense for the Lakers to throw their final two-way deal at Zimmerman. He stands as a relatively young big that’s athletic and can also hit the occasional mid-range or perimeter jumper.
While the likelihood of him being a starter in the NBA might be small, there’s a chance that he might end up as a solid diamond in the rough player. For a young squad like the Lakers, it would definitely be a good idea for them to take a chance on Stephen Zimmerman.