Sensing that perimeter defense was going to be an issue, Frank Vogel and the Los Angeles Lakers submitted a waiver claim for Avery Bradley before the start of the season, a familiar face who was with the team during the 2019-20 regular season.
He helped LeBron James and the Lakers become the best team in basketball during that season before opting out of the Walt Disney World Bubble.
However, his impact was not expected to be the same on this team. During the 2020-21 season that he spent with the Miami Heat and Houston Rockets, he was injury prone and looked to have lost a step defensively. He also shot just 32.7% from three for the year.
Bradley signed a non-guaranteed deal with the Golden State Warriors at the start of the 2021-22 season before being waived just days before the season began. But, from the risk of a non-guaranteed contract, Bradley has become a massively impactful player for L.A., starting in 25 of the 30 games he’s played in.
Vogel — who obviously gravitates towards Bradley’s defensive chops — praised him for coming in unexpectedly and being an impact player.
“He’s done a great job for us all year,” Vogel said. “A difficult circumstance for him bouncing around early in the season and obviously he’s a part of what our culture’s been the last couple years.
“He started with us two years ago and really we just talked about it a minute ago, having two-way players, he sets a great tone for us on the defensive side of the ball and he’s really brought a lot on the offensive side as well.”
James also took note of the way Bradley has been able to impact the game on both sides of the ball. “What he’s held his hat on his whole career is the defensive side of the ball and that’s what we are as a group. That’s what coach Vogel is that’s what we are as a ball club so it’s an immediate fit, that’s one.
“He doesn’t do anything that he’s not capable of doing. He knows exactly how to make his mark on the offensive end around guys that handle the ball. Guys, that attract a lot of double teams, guys that attract a lot of eyes. He knows how to be effective on the offensive end. Over the stints we’ve had him in a Laker uniform he’s played extremely well for us. When he’s on the floor he just makes plays on both sides of the floor.”
All of this praise will be taken into account when the Lakers have to make a big decision on Bradley in just a few days. By Jan. 7, the Lakers have to decide whether or not to guarantee Bradley’s contract for the remainder of the season.
At this point, it would be surprising to see L.A. let him walk, especially with Vogel’s love of Bradley’s defense. However, finances and roster spot flexibility could play a role. The Lakers have long enjoyed having an open 15th roster spot in case of a buyout player wanting to join.
This is an interesting decision with multiple facets to it, but we’ll have clarity within the next few days how the Lakers want to approach it.
Vogel hopes to have Stanley Johnson back
Another player the Lakers need to make a decision on is Stanley Johnson, whose 10-day contract expired recently. As another defensive piece, Vogel is hopeful that he’ll get to have Johnson back, at the very least on another 10-day deal.
“I don’t know in real detail I can go into on that other than that we still hope to have him back for some more games,” Vogel said. “So all those answers will reveal themselves over the next few days, but right now it’s still up in the air.”
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