Just two days ago we wondered what moves the Lakers might still make with an unbalanced roster and needs in both the backcourt and the wing. Well, the first domino has fallen as the Lakers will reportedly bring back a somewhat familiar face to serve as their backup to Lonzo Ball.
Lakers have agreed to a one-year minimum contract with Tyler Ennis. Team option on Year 2, per league source.
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) July 25, 2017
First, getting Ennis for the minimum is a nice pickup. After flirting with Derrick Rose for what was likely their full room level exception (roughly $4 million), the team found a viable backup for much cheaper than that.
Also, bonus points for getting a player who is familiar with this coaching staff and the schemes the team wants to run on both ends of the floor. Ennis should come right into camp knowing what his role is, how the coaches want him to play, and eager to build on what ended up being a nice stint after the Lakers acquired him via trade from the Rockets as part of the Lou Williams deal.
In Ennis’ 22 games with the Lakers he averaged 7.7 points, 2.4 assists, and 1.2 rebounds a night in nearly 18 minutes a game. Nothing groundbreaking in these numbers, but in his final 10 appearances, those numbers jumped to 11.6 points and 3.4 assists while shooting 46.3% from the floor and 42.5% from behind the arc (on 4 attempts per game) in 26 minutes a night. These are solid backup numbers and even though I do not expect him to get as much burn as he did to close last season, the Lakers are clearly investing more time into his development.
Which, really, is more than reasonable and maybe even pretty smart. Ennis will turn only 23 years old in August of this year. He was a former top 20 draft pick and it’s well known that PG’s take longer to find their stride in the NBA than other positions — especially 1-and-done players like Ennis was. The Lakers coaches have seen him working on his game all summer (he’s supposedly been doing all his work at the Lakers facility) and, after chasing some bigger names (Rose), they’ve settled back onto Ennis.
Overall, then, I like this signing. The fact that it’s (technically) only 1-year keeps the team’s plans for next summer totally unaltered and allows them to actually keep him of he outperforms his expectations and the team doesn’t need that sliver of cap space he’ll occupy. All in all, it’s a win-win for the Lakers.
Now, for a bit of book keeping…
Before Ennis signs his deal, the Lakers actually have a small slice of cap space left – roughly $815K to be more accurate. Why does this matter? Well, the Lakers 2nd round pick Thomas Bryant remains unsigned currently. Players selected in the 2nd round can sign for two years using the minimum salary exception (what Ennis just signed for) or a piece of/full amount of any other exception on the books (like the room exception I mentioned above). But a contract using one of those exceptions can only be for 2 years.
However, if you use cap space to sign a 2nd round pick, that contract can be for up to 4 years. The Lakers have likely been saving that last sliver of cap space to try to sign Thomas Bryant to a 3 year (or longer) contract. Having a player signed for 3 years or longer means you obtain his full Bird Rights at the end of the deal and allows you to match full offer sheets when that player hits restricted free agency after his contract is up. If a player hits free agency after his 2nd season, he is subject to the Arenas Provision which limits what can be offered and matched in RFA (restricted free agency), which complicates this entire process for the incumbent team. If you recall Jordan Clarkson’s FA options, you’ll know this well.
Getting back to Ennis, then, when he signs his deal will matter here. If he signs before Thomas Bryant signs, the Lakers will only be able to offer a 2-year contract to Bryant. So, this is something to keep an eye on. The fact that Bryant has not yet signed is a clear indicator to me that the Lakers want him to sign a deal longer than 2 years. The fact it’s not done strongly implies Bryant/his agent are resistant to this.
On a different (and last) note, the Lakers could still chase another wing in either a pure SG/SF type or even still look at Ian Clark as a combo guard who defends PG’s but mostly fills the role of a shooting guard on offense. Despite signing Ennis, the Lakers could still use some depth on the perimeter and I wouldn’t yet rule out Clark entirely. We’ll see how it goes.
For now, though, welcome back to Tyler Ennis. I look forward to seeing if he can improve and grow as he ages and gets more reps under these coaches.