The Los Angeles Lakers entered 2022 NBA Free Agency with half a roster to fill and almost zero resources with which to work. As a result, the team opted for an inexpensive — and refreshing — youth movement.

The Lakers have signed five free agents, each under the age of 30 — a stark contrast from their (unsuccessful) approach in 2021. Los Angeles has filled 16 of 17 roster spots, including promising undrafted prospects Cole Swider and Scotty Pippen Jr., both on two-way contracts. LeBron James and Russell Westbrook are the only current Lakers who have experienced their 30th birthday.

Barring any blockbusters, NBA activity will idle until training camp. The Lakers are in a holding pattern as they explore Russ deals and await the fate of Kevin Durant. So, with the free agency dust mostly settled, it's finally time to hand out individual grades.

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Grades For Every Los Angeles Lakers Signing

Lonnie Walker IV

There's more pressure on Walker IV than his fellow signees, as he garnered the taxpayer mid-level exception of $6.4 million, while every other signing took a minimum deal.

The 23-year-old made strides in his four years with the San Antonio Spurs but hasn't quite developed into the two-way, 3-and-D fiend he and the Lakers envision.

“I see my skillset fitting in perfectly,” Walker said at his introductory press conference in Los Angeles. “I’m here to do whatever I need to do in order for the team to win. I’m coming in here to play defense. Play the best I can, play the hardest I can, and let the games speak for themselves. Offensively, I know I can provide a lot. Defensively, I’m here to do what I do, whoever you want me to guard, whenever there’s time for me to make some stops, that’s what I’m here for.”

That defensive prowess is a point of contention. The advanced metrics (which can be dubious) don't hold up to his reputation as a stopper.

“I’ve gained a little bit more weight,” Walker said. “If I maybe have to guard the four, so be it. I’m ready for the physicality and I’ve been preparing myself to just guard those positions and be mentality ready for that, for that task.”

Walker also regressed as a three-point shooter in 2021-22 — down to 31.4% — though he isn't concerned.

“I mean, last year, you can look at the percentages, but I kid you not, leave me open, we’re going to see what’s happening,” he said. “All right? I’m ready to show everyone what I’m about.”

Walker IV believes he'll add versatility to the group, and he's ready to embrace any role.

“I’m adaptable. Like a chameleon, I can change to my environment. If it’s coming off the bench and that’s seen as the best fit, so be it. If it’s as a starter, then so be it as well. I would love to be a starter, but that’s not up to me. I’m just here to play ball, to win, and I’m here to get that chip.”

Walker IV, 6'4, brings an intriguing skill set, unique personality, and ridiculous hops. But the Lakers could have used their prized TP-MLE on a bigger, slightly-more-proven player — and/or a more dependable shooter. Walker IV will have to develop into a true two-way player to justify the signing. The Lakers already have multiple under-6'4 streaky scorers and ball-handlers (Russ, THT, Kendrick Nunn).

Grade: C+

Troy Brown Jr.

Brown Jr. offers the most upside of the Lakers' free agent class. The 6'6, 22-year-old — whom the Lakers targeted in the 2018 NBA Draft — provides much-needed length (6'11 wingspan) and defensive versatility on the perimeter. He flashed playmaking skills with the Washington Wizards but is expecting to play a 3-and-Dish role in Los Angeles, as he did with the Chicago Bulls. He's coming off a career-best season from three-point land (35.3%).

“Being able to give some length on the defensive side of things,” Brown Jr. said when asked what he can bring to the Lakers. “I definitely feel like I’m at the point of my career where I’m shooting the ball a little better. So, just being able to be complimentary and do the dirty work for certain guys and be able to take some pressure off some guys will definitely help.”

“I definitely still have the playmaking,” Brown added. “It’s just more so of what I’m asked to do. I think that’s the biggest thing is I’m definitely a team guy and I definitely want to win. So it’s one of those things where if I’m asked to be 3-and-D or if I’m asked to be a playmaker, I can definitely adjust. I think my versatility is the reason that I’m here in the NBA.”

On defense, Brown Jr. excels against guards but can hang with forwards. He should help the Lakers play faster, too — a major goal for Ham.

“Just talking about pace,” Brown Jr. said when recounting conversations with his new head coach. “Being able to get out and play faster, even on the defensive end. Speed up offenses, and stuff like that, for other teams. Being able to put pressure on guys where we can close out and then get out and run and get in transition. It’s definitely something we’ve been talking about.”

“I feel like that way I can take up the space. Like, if a smaller guard is getting to, like, step-backs or he’s getting like through contact and he’s trying to create space, I feel like I can close those gaps based off my length.”

Brown Jr. is an enticing project for the organization's highly-competent developmental staff. The Lakers will still need to add more shooting before the offseason is over.

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Grade: B+

Damian Jones

One theme amongst the Lakers signings was genuine gratefulness to be in purple-and-gold. This certainly applies to the 27-year-old Jones, who thrived in eight games with the franchise in 2020-21 (he made 16-of-17 field goals!).

“For me to be able to come back here is great,” Jones said. “I’m glad to be here.”

 

Since then, the rangy, 6'11 center enjoyed a breakout campaign with the Sacramento Kings. He averaged 16.1 points, 8.7 rebounds per 36 minutes and shot 72% in 56 games, and even added a tinge of perimeter shooting to his rim-oriented game. Jones shot 34.5% on 29 attempts in Sac. He remains a well-above-average rim protector and elite lob threat.

”I got a lot of reps up with it, and I feel pretty confident about it,” Jones said about his outside shooting. “As to whether I’m actually gonna do it or not is up in the air, but it’s there if needed.”

The Lakers needed to get longer, bouncier, and more defensive-minded. Jones — who signed a two-year minimum deal with a player option for the second year — checks those boxes.

Grade: B

Juan Toscano-Anderson

The Lakers lacked chemists and hustlers in 2020-21. Their bench reeked of Bad Vibes, and the veterans were generally unwilling to prioritize intangibles.

JTA — fresh off a title with the Golden State Warriors — is a proud Glue Guy. His soundbites read like profound meditations on daily drive, leading by example, sacrificing for the team, and how his upbringing shapes his dedication to the grit and grind of carving out a role in the NBA.

“To be honest, without sounding arrogant, I think my skill set translates to any team,” Toscano-Anderson said. “I think what I do is so versatile. I think I can guard one through five. I’ll do whatever it takes to win, and when I say whatever, I mean it. I’ll dive over scorer’s tables. I’ll rebound. I’ll do whatever it takes. My energy. The way I approach my craft, I think it’s infectious.”

Besides the Klutch connection (which he shares with Walker IV, Brown Jr., and Pippen Jr.), JTA's cultural influence and size on the wing renders him a logical guy to round out the roster with — especially considering his keenness to accept a limited role.

“The unicorns are gonna be the unicorns,” Toscano-Anderson noted. “The guys who are the guys are gonna be the guys. LeBron is gonna be who LeBron is gonna be. AD is gonna be AD. I think it’s up to the rest of us to support them. Have their back every day. Eighty-two games, it’s a long season. We can’t just count on those guys to go out and win games for us every day. Now, can we count on them to put us in position to win games? Of course. Can we lean on them? Of course. But at some point, they have to be able to lean on us.”

“To have the opportunity to play with a guy like LeBron who is an extremely smart player, a very talented player, I think I can complement him in a lot of ways.”

Whether he can consistently stay in front of smaller defenders and hit corner 3s (he's a career 36.1% shooter) will determine his playing time. At the very least, his contagious energy, tenacity, and speed will make an impact — in either games or practice.

Grade: B

Thomas Bryant

Bryant is overjoyed to be back with the franchise with whom he began his NBA journey.

“I’m not going to lie, it is kind of weird walking back through these halls,” the sixth-year center said. “It just feels great to be here. It’s super surreal for me to be back. For the Lakers organization to want me back, does a lot for my confidence.”

Bryant should give the Lakers' a stretch-5 option they haven't deployed since Marc Gasol. He hit 41.8% of his 3-point attempts across 2019-20 and 2020-21, though dipped under 27% last season after returning from his ACL tear.

“I really do think that I will help him with his offense, just having a floor spacer at the five that can really shoot the ball really well,” Bryant said about fitting in alongside Anthony Davis. “And also just the talk and communication that I can bring on the defensive end.”

Fortunately, Bryant says his knee is completely healed.

“I feel 100% great. Not good, great. Like, I have no hiccups. I have no setbacks or anything. To be honest, my left leg feels even stronger if not stronger than the right. So I feel like it’s really, really back. And I’m ready to go.”

Bryant is a high-character individual on a minimum contract who averaged 11.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, and a block across three seasons before his injury. If he can resemble that production, he has a chance to start for the Lakers.

Grade: B