In a deal long ago reported as done, the Lakers have officially announced the re-signing of big man Tarik Black. From the team’s press release:
“Tarik is a player whose strengths are well-suited for the style of play we envision for our team going forward,” said Kupchak. “He plays the game with a mix of athleticism, energy, and physicality that make him a valuable frontcourt contributor in today’s NBA.”
In two seasons with the Lakers, Black has averaged 5.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in 16.9 per game while shooting 57.5% from the field over 77 games (27 starts). Awarded to the Lakers on a waiver claim on December 28, 2014, he also appeared in 25 games (12 starts) for the Houston Rockets to begin the 2014-15 season before being waived.
When this deal was initially announced, the crux of my analysis was as follows:
Lakers’ fans should be familiar enough with Black’s skill set, but if there are any questions as to why he’s such a good fit with this group, one only need to see how he attacks the rim as a roll man in the P&R and how hard he works defensively to protect the paint and to get after rebounds on both backboards. Black still has a ways to go in terms of developing the type of craftiness undersized big men like him need to be full time rotation players, but what he lacks in savvy he makes up for with a high motor and by always playing hard.
While Black is a strong fit for how the Lakers want to play, time will tell how much floor time he actually sees. As we know, the Lakers recently signed Yi Jianlian to a contract which could be worth up to $8 million. Yi, of course, joins Timofey Mozgov and rookie Ivica Zubac as other bigs who were added this summer. Combine those three with Julius Randle and Larry Nance, Jr. and the team has 6 players who will compete for playing time at the PF/C spots — and this doesn’t even include Luol Deng (or Brandon Ingram) who could be slotted at PF in small-ball lineups.
Regardless of this potential logjam, Black will get his chance to prove he deserves minutes. This was apparently promised to him as part of his agreement to return, not to mention Walton has a history with Black from when Walton served as an assistant coach during part of Black’s time at the University of Memphis. This doesn’t guarantee Black a role, but it should ensure he gets a fair shot at earning a rotation spot.
Ultimately, I do believe this type of competition will help this team in the long term even if, in the short term, it creates a challenge for the coaches when trying to manage roles and keep players happy while still maintaining buy-in. This is the balance which must be struck, though, and it is up to everyone — coaches and players alike — to continue to be flexible and ready to shift things around in order to maximize the play of the entire group.
Lastly, now that Black is on board, there is little left on the Lakers’ plate in terms of moves to be made. Black’s signing brings the team to 15 roster spots and while there will be additional signings for training camp, the likelihood any of those players make the team will be slim. Those odds could change if Nick Young is waived or traded, but until that actually happens (which I think it will), this is the team the Lakers are very likely to start the season with.