The Los Angeles Lakers have a couple of roster decisions looming.
The two decisions that the Lakers have to make involve Thomas Robinson and Metta World Peace. Both players non-guaranteed contracts become guaranteed on Jan. 10.
Robinson was a late training camp addition and was not expected to make the team by some people in the media as the Lakers had 14 players with guaranteed deals plus they invited Yi Jianlian to camp on a partial guarantee that was potentially worth $8 million for the season. But Robinson, a former top five draft pick, impressed the Lakers’ brass with his relentless energy and rebounding.
“He quickly showed how hard he works and how hard he plays every time he plays basketball,” Lakers head coach Luke Walton recently told the Orange County Register. “He filled a reputation for himself at least in my eyes right off the bat. Through his hard work and the way he competed on the floor in training camp, he earned a spot on the team.”
Robinson didn’t get a lot of time on the court at the beginning of the year, receiving nine DNP-Coach’s decision in the team’s first 15 games. In the six games he did appear in, he saw 21 minutes of action or just over three minutes a game. The six-foot-ten power forward then saw an increase in minutes as he appeared in 12 straight games at the end of November through the middle of December as several Lakers were dealing with injuries. But once the Lakers got healthy, he went back to receiving DNP-CDs.
However, reserve Larry Nance Jr. suffered a bone bruise during a Dec. 20 game against Charlotte and has been out of action since. With Nance out, Robinson has once again received more playing time. And he has been more productive than the previous time, averaging 7.0 points along with 7.7 boards and 1.0 assist while shooting 67.6 (23-for-34) percent from the floor in 11.6 minutes of action.
The 25-year-old Kansas product has tallied double-figures in two of his last seven games and has hauled in at least nine boards in five of those seven contests. His best game of the recent stretch was Sunday against the Toronto Raptors where he pumped in 12 points, on 9-of-12 shooting, and hauled in nine boards to go along with two assists and one steal in 17 minutes. Overall, Robinson is averaging 3.9 points and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 50.6 percent from the field in less than 12 minutes a game though he has a minus-3.1 plus/minus rating.
It seems that the Lakers will keep Robinson around as he is only making $980,431 this year. Plus, they seem intrigued by playing him together with another bruiser in Tarik Black. The pair combined for 21 points and 18 rebounds in New Year’s Eve loss to Toronto.
“They brought us an energy and toughness we lack a lot of the times on the defensive end,” Walton said. “It was nice to have them out there fighting and battling, and watch the other team get mad at each other for not matching that level of intensity.”
Metta World Peace is a different story. The 37-year-old was kept on the roster to provide leadership and help the Lakers’ youngsters. And he has done a good job as Julius Randle has developed into a very good all-around player, compiling his third career triple-double in a win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday. However, World Peace has no on-court value and the Lakers (13-25) are not making the playoffs this year. So, it would be better for the Lakers to give younger players an opportunity.
World Peace has only played six minutes in the last 14 games and has played in 13 games all year long. He has seen over 10 minutes just three times and is averaging 1.2 points on 23.8 percent (5-of-21) shooting from the field and 16.7 percent (2-of-12) from beyond the arc. World Peace is also making $980,431 this season.
ESPN reported that Robinson and World Peace would know their fates by Jan. 7.
The Lakers have several promising youngsters in D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Randle and Nance Jr. Veteran Lou Williams has been terrific off the bench, and Nick Young has had a nice bounce-back year. 2016 Second round draft pick Ivica Zubic needs more time to develop but with the team already out of playoff contention there is no reason not to give him more playing time with the club. The 19-year-old has only played in seven games with the big club, but has played well in his 10 games with the D-Fenders, the Lakers’ D-League team — averaging 16.9 points and 9.5 caroms while shooting 60.2 percent from the field.
The Lakers have several major issues with the biggest being on the defensive end. They also need to improve their shooting, turnovers, and rim-protection.
The Lakers would have an open roster or two if they release Robinson and/or World Peace. One intriguing option for the Lakers would be to promote Vander Blue. Blue is currently with the D-Fenders, and one thing he has proven over the last three years with the team is that he can score. The six-foot-four guard is currently averaging 24.0 points and 4.6 rebounds along with 2.3 assists while shooting 47.5 percent from the field, 37.1 percent from beyond the arc and over 80 percent from the free throw line.
Blue has five games of NBA experience, spending time with the Lakers (2014-15) and Boston Celtics (2013-14). The 24-year-old has career averages of 5.4 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists. He has shot 30.0 percent from the field and 20.0 percent from beyond the arc.
[Featured Image by Mark J. Terrill/AP Images]