The Los Angeles Lakers assembled one of the most promising hauls of young players in recent memory in the 2017 NBA Draft, with Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart all showing varying levels of future potential during their first year with the franchise. Often lost in that discussion is the fourth member of that draft class, Thomas Bryant
But while Bryant didn’t play a ton for the Lakers this season, he was still happy with how his rookie campaign went. “I felt like my first year went pretty good. Especially coming in to a new environment, being a rookie, I tried to be a sponge and soak in everything I could,” Bryant said at his exit interview.
Much of that learning process took place in the G League, where Bryant was outstanding for the South Bay Lakers, averaging 19.7 points and 7.4 rebounds on 59.5 percent shooting en route to an all appearance on the All-NBA G League First Team.
Not every rookie would be thrilled to spend time on a team’s G League affiliate while they’re trying to chase their NBA dream, especially not when they see their fellow rookies having so much success, but Bryant said his time in South Bay “helped a lot” with his development process.
“I was at peace with it. I just want to be a sponge and learn everything I could. I know opportunities come at different times,” Bryant added.
“Instead of just moping around, being sad or mad, I looked at it like what is it I can get better at? Whether I’m with South Bay or the main club, the main thing was just getting better.”
Bryant will look to continue improving this summer in the hopes of grabbing a role in the Lakers’ rotation next season, and he already knows specifically what he’s looking to work on.
“Just getting better each and every day with my all-around game,” Bryant explained, citing his quickness, conditioning core and overall strength as areas he hopes to improve. “I feel those are really big parts that have to get done.”
They’re huge parts of the game if he wants to play center long-term, which is the position Bryant said he and the team see himself playing most of his minutes at as his career continues.
The good news for Bryant and the Lakers is that while he doesn’t have the strength necessary to play there consistently in the NBA right now, he does have the necessary motivation and drive to play the position and battle with players larger than he is.
“I’m not going to let anybody push me around,” Bryant said of the emotions he plays with. “Showing people that I’m here, and I’m going to be a player in this league.”
Bryant didn’t show that quite yet during a season he spent tearing up the G League, but if he improves in the areas he’s hoping to, it’s not hard to picture him vaulting into the Lakers’ future alongside the rest of the guys in his already incredible draft class.