The Lakers have been quiet in free agency to this point, only signing Troy Daniels as they wait on a decision from Kawhi Leonard. This strategy has seen many of the league’s free agents inked to contracts, leaving a depleted market for them to fill out their roster.
The Lakers, then, did well to sign free agent forward Jared Dudley to a 1-year $2.6 million deal Tuesday, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Dudley’s veteran minimum contract will not affect the team’s cap space. Woj notes that Dudley had at least two other interested suitors, but chose the Lakers:
Both Brooklyn and the Detroit Pistons were interested in signing Dudley, but he was determined to get a chance to play for the Lakers. Dudley is a native of San Diego.
Dudley is an excellent fit for these Lakers, offering strong shooting ability and a high basketball IQ which translates into an excellent understanding of offensive schemes and spacing as well as good team defense. Dudley is a career 39.2% 3-point shooter, though only connected on 35.1% last season in Brooklyn.
The Lakers should hope that number returns back towards his career norms, but should be encouraged if playing in lineups next to LeBron and/or Anthony Davis where he’ll get more wide open looks based on their ability to draw extra defensive attention. If nothing else, though, Dudley’s spacing as a threat from deep should give his teammates more room to operate and his smarts as an off-ball worker should help grease the wheels of more efficient offense even if he’s not a primary shot taker.
It remains to be seen if Dudley will be a full time rotation player or more of a spot minutes guy at this stage of his career, however. He did average 20.7 minutes per game for the Nets last year, but only appeared in 59 games (25 starts). I envision Dudley would be a backup option as a stretch PF, mostly getting minutes behind Kuzma — though this is just me guessing considering the lack of clarity on what the full roster will look like.
Where I really like Dudley’s fit, however, is in the locker room and as another veteran voice who can contribute as a leader, be an extension of the coaching staff in practices and film sessions, and bring an overall positive presence.
Dudley isn’t one to sugarcoat things, but is known to be a positive presence who can mentor young players (I think rookie Talen Horton-Tucker could benefit here — he’s another big-bodied wing who has good feel; which is very much a description of Dudley when he came into the league), and contribute from the bench and in huddles in a “this is what I’m seeing out there” presence who helps from the sidelines. Again, I think very highly of Dudley’s basketball intellect — something that was on display in a wonderful piece on The Athletic where Dudley provided a particularly insightful scouting report for the Warriors/Rockets 2nd round series this year.
I get that touting a player’s off the court value might seem a bit much considering the current state of the Lakers’ roster. The team, after all, needs bodies who can get out there and play. But, I think Dudley will do that well enough for this team regardless of what his role ends up being. His skill set is a nice match for playing off of LeBron and Davis. But the intangibles he brings are also a vital part of what makes up a winning team. Especially one that hopes to go deep into the playoffs.
So, overall, I really like this signing. When taken in tandem with the Daniels signing, it’s clear the Lakers are prioritizing shooting. And to get Dudley at the minimum is excellent work. We’ll see who comes next, but I’m very happy with this move.