The Los Angeles Lakers picked up the option year on the rookie contracts of Brandon Ingram and Larry Nance Jr. and. Was it a good move for the Lakers who plan on spending lavishly this offseason on star free agents?
The truth of the matter is that the picking up of the option was just a formality. The Lakers had until Oct. 31 to either pick up the option, thus guaranteeing their salary for next, or letting a deadline pass. If the deadline had passed, the players would have become restricted free agents at the end of the season.
But to answer the question, yes it was a smart move for the Lakers to pick up both players options. Ingram and Nance are playing on cheap contracts, comparatively speaking to the two players abilities, and both have tremendous upside.
The decision on Ingram was a no-brainer. The athletic No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft is just beginning his second NBA season and has a chance to become a great player. Still, the 20-year-old small forward has a lot of work to put in order to reach his potential.
Ingram was awful last year as he ranked near the bottom, among all small forwards, in both offensive real plus-minus and defensive real plus-minus.The 6-8 wing struggled with his shooting, efficiency, and on the defensive end all season. He did, however, show improvement in the second half of the season — scoring in double-figures in 17 of his final 21 games, including two, 20-point games.
Ingram worked hard on his game this summer and his body. He tore up the Las Vegas Summer League in his lone game and closed out the preseason strong.
Ingram is at his best in the open court and when attacking the basket off the dribble. He can also knock down open jumpers.
Ingram set a career-high with 25 points, on 9-of-14 shooting, against Phoenix last week. Then Thursday night (Oct. 25), he compiled his first double-double of his career with 19 points — 15 of those points coming in the second half, including 10 in the fourth — and 10 rebounds against Washington.
Ingram sent the game into overtime by getting the ball on the backboard as he was off-balance driving to the bucket and following it up with a tip with less than a second left.
Through four games, Ingram has shown marketed improvement in nearly every category. He is averaging 15.8 points, 3.0 assists and 4.8 rebounds a game. His jumper is still very inconsistent and his assist numbers are on par with last year. Ingram does need to cut down on his fouls as he has fouled out in one game and has been whistled for a foul 16 times already.
On a positive note, Ingram is much better defensively and he has cut down on his turnovers. He is also attempting five free throws a game. The best news for the Lakers may be that Ingram has a +7.8 plus-minus rating, up from a minus-4.8 last year.
Ingram will make a little more than $5.75 million in 2018-19.
While picking up Nance’s option was not the no-brainer that Ingram’s, it was pretty close. The only cause for consternation is that it is unknown whether Nance truly fits in the team’s future plans. Yet, for just over $2.27 million salary next year, Nance is definitely a bargain.
The No. 27 overall selection in the 2015 draft is a high-energy athletic defensive-minded player. He is a very good defensive rebounder and decent rebounder overall. He currently ranks in the top quarter of all power forwards in rebounding this season.
Nance is not much of an offensive threat. He does most of his damage in the paint, mainly on second-chance points and in transition. The 6-9 power forward has made 23-of-37 shot attempts (62.2%) with 26 of those attempts coming within eight feet of the basket. 19 of his made field goals have come via dunks, layups or tip-ins.
Nance has started all four games for the Lakers this year. But besides, the 30 minutes he played on opening night, he has played fewer than 25 minutes a game. There is a chance that Julius Randle will eventually take over the starting power forward role. Nance saw 22 minutes of action a night in 2015-16.
Nance started strong against the Wizards last night with six points and six caroms in the first six minutes of the game, propelling him to his second double-double of the game (18 points and 10 rebounds) He is currently averaging 13.0 points and 7.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes a game.
With Nance and Ingram officially in the mix for next year, the Lakers now have seven players with guaranteed contracts worth approximately $46.6 million. Meaning that they will have around $44 million to spend this summer to try lure a few players. However, that number could change if they are able to find a taker for either Luol Deng or Jordan Clarkson.
Clarkson, who has nearly $26 million left on his deal over the next two seasons, is off to a very good start to the season. So, he is the one that will likely be traded if the Lakers so desire. In the meanwhile, Deng will be inactive most of the season. The 32-year-old forward scored two points in 13 minutes in the season opener though he has not seen the floor since. Deng is due $36.8 million over the next two seasons.
The biggest decision, besides whether or not to trade Clarkson, the Lakers face is what to do with Julius Randle. The team has already allowed the deadline to offer Randle an extension pass. Therefore, the seventh overall selection in the 2014 draft will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season — assuming the Lakers make the $5.5 million qualifying offer to 22-year-old.
Quite honestly, Randle didn’t deserve to get the extension as he has not come close to player that he was expected to be coming out of Kentucky. The 6-9 forward, who is immensely talented, had a good season in 2015-16 after playing 14 minutes in his true rookie year due to a broken leg.
Last year, Randle showed off his all-around game on a regular basis and was more efficient than the prior season. But he wasn’t a consistent rebounder.
Randle is reportedly in the best shape of his career, yet he is unhappy about coming off the bench. He has seen sparse action this season, so far, and prior to the game against the Wizards.
Against the Wizards, Randle came up big on both ends of the floor late in the game. He had 11 points, on 5-of-7 shooting, and nine rebounds along with three blocks in just 19 minutes of action.
For the season, Randle is averaging 9.8 points along with 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks while shooting 64.0% from the field.