How Thomas Bryant can be a significant help for the Lakers

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The first several days of the 2022 NBA free agency period left a lot to be desired for the Los Angeles Lakers.

They got Lonnie Walker IV, an athletic wing who is an iffy 3-point shooter and lacking defensively, to agree to their taxpayer mid-level exception, while signing Troy Brown Jr., Juan Toscano-Anderson and Damian Jones to minimum salary contracts.

Jones and Toscano-Anderson can help the Lakers, albeit in limited minutes, while Brown is still somewhat unproven after four unimpressive pro seasons.

But on Tuesday, L.A. went ahead and made a bigger splash by signing a man who can actually help them in an area they need help with – Thomas Bryant.

Bryant, who is 6-foot-10 and nearly 250 pounds, is an athletic and energetic center who can rebound, block shots, hit 3-pointers, run the floor and finish strong.

He has had some injury problems, but he is just 24 years of age (he’ll turn 25 on July 31), and he will be a strong low-risk, high-reward signing for a team that seriously needs functional frontcourt depth.

How specifically will Bryant help L.A.?

Rebounding and defense

It’s no secret the Lakers were a poor defensive team in 2022, as they ranked just 21st in defensive rating.

But rebounding was just as much of a problem for them. They ranked just 22nd in defensive rebound percentage and 25th in offensive rebound percentage this past season, and it seemed like they were getting outrebounded on a nightly basis.

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Bryant not only has a career average of 10.2 rebounds per 36 minutes, but he is an aggressive player who will fight on the boards and make multiple attempts, especially on the offensive boards.

Defensively, he protects the rim well, and he has a career average of 1.5 blocked shots per 36 minutes. Bryant also has an impressive 7-foot-6 wingspan.

He may be penciled in to become the Lakers’ starting 5, but he may not necessarily win that starting job. Either way, he will provide the team with, at the very least, 15-20 productive minutes per game.

Outside shooting

In the 2020 season, the Lakers had a solid center tandem of Javale McGee and Dwight Howard, both of whom did an admirable job defensively and on the boards.

It was good enough to allow the team to win the NBA championship, but one thing was lacking from both of them: 3-point shooting.

Many felt L.A. needed a center who could stretch the floor in order to open things up for LeBron James and (presumably) Russell Westbrook, especially when the team is forced to play halfcourt basketball.

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In his five pro seasons, Bryant has developed into a very good 3-point shooter, and he made over 40 percent of his attempts from downtown in 2020 and 2021.

He even spent the 2021 season playing with Westbrook, albeit for just 10 games before an ACL injury ended his year.

The Lakers haven’t had a true center who could hit 3-pointers at a solid clip since Brook Lopez in 2018.

Bryant can allow the Lakers to run effective pick-and-pop sequences, and with Ham vowing to run a 4-out offense, the big man could fit right in early and often.

Energy and athleticism

Another big problem L.A. had this past season was a lack of youth, energy and athleticism, as it was forced to make do with fossils such as Carmelo Anthony, DeAndre Jordan and Trevor Ariza manning the frontcourt for long stretches.

Not only is Bryant young, but he is a workhorse who brings great effort and can energize his teammates and even the crowd with his animated countenance.

He also runs the floor well, especially for a big man, and he has the ability to leap and throw down emphatic dunks.

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If Bryant still has much of the athleticism he had prior to his ACL injury, look for James to target him with quarterback-style passes and possibly lob passes on the fast break and in early offense.

Allowing Anthony Davis to play the 4

Although Davis can and often is effective playing the center spot, many feel he is better off playing the majority of his minutes at the 4.

During the Lakers’ championship season, he played 60 percent of his minutes during the regular season at the 4. That figure dropped to just 24 percent this past season.

Bryant and Jones will give L.A. a very solid and reliable tandem at center, much like McGee and Howard did in 2020. If this tandem won’t be as physically imposing, it may be a little quicker, as well as more athletic and energetic, as Bryant and Jones are a much younger duo.

With Davis at the 4 more often, he won’t be required to bang as much with men such as Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns or even less-gifted centers such as Ivica Zubac, Deandre Ayton and Steven Adams.

This will, at least in theory, reduce Davis’ risk of injury a bit.



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