Thanks to a particularly vicious injury bug, the 2018-2019 Los Angeles Lakers found it necessary to call up a number of players from their G-League affiliate, the South Bay Lakers. Of those players, Johnathan Williams, Jemerrio Jones, and Isaac Bonga showed enough to suggest they could be contributors moving forward.
Williams was thrust into the rotation early in the 2018-19 NBA season as the Lakers looked to shore up their backline with Kyle Kuzma struggling to act as a small-ball center and Ivica Zubac not back up to speed following an illness. He showed a knack for rebounding and some ability to switch on defense but saw his role eliminated when Tyson Chandler was waived by the Phoenix Suns and made the jump to Los Angeles.
While it was a small sample size, Williams led the team in offensive rebound percentage and showed a willingness to do the dirty work, but his offensive game — which is limited to dunks and a running left-handed hook shot — needs work.
Meanwhile, Jones only appeared in six games for the Lakers at the end of the season and shot just 36% from the field and 20% from the three-point line. However, he displayed tough defense and an uncanny ability to rebound the basketball. Despite being just 6’5” and a slim 174 pounds, Jones grabbed double-digit rebounds in three games, including a whopping 31 in his final two games combined. It’s yet to be seen if he can consistently contribute at the NBA level but he can rebound with the best of them.
Finally, Bonga was acquired via a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers after being selected with the No. 39 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Just 18 years old at the time, Bonga took some time to adjust to playing against NBA-caliber players, but it’s easy to see why the Lakers were intrigued. At 6’9” but with the mentality of a point guard, Bonga could eventually turn into the kind of versatile player that modern NBA teams desire. He’s a project, but patience may pay off in the long run.
Highlight Of The 2018-19 Lakers Season
While it isn’t the flashiest play, it was sneaky boards like this that endeared Williams to Lakers fans.
As fun as it was watching teams forget about the unassuming Williams only for him to grab offensive rebounds and dunk all over them, the reality is that it’s possible that none of these players are with the team for the 2019-20 season. Jones and Williams are on expiring deals and Bonga — who has a guaranteed $1.6 million coming his way next year — could find himself tossed into a trade to upgrade the talent alongside LeBron James.
Should the Lakers land another All-Star player via free agency or trade, they will have to find some cheap options to fill out the rest of their roster but may opt to look at ring-chasing veterans in that scenario. Still, regardless of where they land, Williams, Jones, and Bonga all turned in a rookie season that they can build upon next year.