While there were reports that the Lakers were likely done signing free agents, the team has reportedly picked up a familiar name:
First, I’m happy for Blue. He’s been with the Lakers in some way — either with the big team or their G-League affiliate — since 2015. Last year, he was the league MVP. He’s played for their summer league team multiple times and after his exploits in Vegas this past month in helping the team to the LVSL championship, he openly spoke about wanting to catch on with the Lakers and get his shot in the NBA. It seems he’ll get his shot to try to stick this fall.
Make no mistake, though, I see this as exactly that — a shot. The Lakers have 14 players signed to a contract and I would imagine they’d want either keep that spot open into the season to maintain roster flexibility or wait until close to the end of camp to sign someone who impresses. Maybe that’s Blue, but maybe it’s not.
Further, I would not be surprised if the nature of Blue’s deal is more like a “make good” contract where the guarantee is for some nice, but small amount — essentially paying him extra for coming to camp. Remember, training camp rosters can swell to 20 players and the Lakers typically use every last spot in order to get extended looks at guys and then to maintain some “rights” on them should they decide to cut them and send them to the now rebranded South Bay Lakers. This could easily be their fall back plan with Blue if he doesn’t do enough to impress them nor enough to catch on with another team based on his camp and preseason performance.
That said, Blue is an interesting player who has NBA level talent. He’s a natural scorer who has some playmaking skill — though not great instincts in that area. He’s clearly a shoot first, pass second (or, really, third) type of guy; which is fine, it’s just he needs to mix in more passing and show more willingness to defer when playing at the NBA level.
That said, I was impressed with Blue as summer league went on in this area and in other aspects of his game as well. After coming out in pure gunner mode in the Lakers’ 1st game, he started to come around later in the tournament, dishing out a few assists each night to go along with his aggressive scoring tendencies. He flashed a nice enough jumper (connecting on 40% of his 3’s) and showed off a nice first step and shake in the open court in order to get to the rim. Once there, he displayed good body control and an ability to finish through contact.
All in all, he was a strong offensive player who proved he could get buckets in Vegas. Though, after his MVP season in the minors, this really wasn’t in question much. Still, though, having him play as well as he did should mean something. And, it apparently has with the Lakers wanting to get a longer look. We’ll see how it goes, but, again, I’m happy for him. Considering the Lakers depth on the wing he could just surprise come September and October.
If the $50K guarantee is accurate, I’m even more inclined to believe that Blue is more of a “camp invite” than a guy who is primed to make this roster before heading into camp. Of course he could always play himself onto the team with a strong camp, but even with the Lakers depth concerns on the wing, I would imagine the team would still look to players already on the roster to fill a need rather than Blue.
I should also add that the $50K guarantee is also an indicator that the team could be looking at Blue for the team’s 2nd two-way contract or that the Lakers really do want him to play for the South Bay Lakers should he not make the main team. Per Larry Coon, that amount is the most he could be guaranteed and still play for the SBL:
A Two-Way player’s salary may be guaranteed for no more than $50,000, which is pro-rated if he signs after the start of the season. If a player is waived from a standard NBA contract with a guarantee greater than $50,000, then for the rest of that season he cannot play for that team’s D-League affiliate or sign a Two-Way contract with any team.
It’s nice to have this clarity about Blue’s contract. And while it may not pave a great path for him to make the main roster, I wish him the best of luck in his pursuit of a full time NBA gig.