The Lakers’ reserve big man has been a key rotation piece.
Your Los Angeles Lakers will be missing a pretty important role player, big man Wenyen Gabriel, for at least the next week. Mike Trudell of Lakers.com reports that the 6’9″ power forward/center has sprained his left shoulder, and is now set to miss the last four games of the team’s road trip, including tonight against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
As Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register notes, Gabriel has emerged as a fairly crucial backup at an imperative and fairly thin spot, as a true power forward.
The 6’9″ big man has leapfrogged two more credentialed reserves, center Damian Jones and forward Juan Toscano-Anderson, as a more trusted part of Darvin Ham’s lineups. Gabriel’s hyper-athleticism and malleability allows him to operate at both the four and five-spot. Though he’s not much of a shooter (and JTA ostensibly is), his defense and size have helped him become a more reliable resource for L.A.
Gabriel, like 6’5″ shooting guard Austin Reaves, remains on a non-guaranteed contract with the Lakers. Los Angeles has until January 10th to guarantee Gabriels’ full $1,878,720 salary for the season. Given his place in the team’s actual pecking order, it seems quite likely that the 25-year-old power forward out of teammate Antony Davis’s alma matter, Kentucky, will be sticking around through the rest of the 2022-23 NBA season.
Through his first 20 games for Los Angeles this season, Gabriel is averaging 5.1 points, on 59.7% shooting from the floor, and 3.7 rebounds a night, across 13.6 minutes.
L.A. could really have benefitted from Gabriel’s size and versatility against the frontlines of the Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, and Philadelphia 76ers, the team’s next three opponents.
In the absence of Gabriel, Jones and JTA may get re-activated, and Thomas Bryant (who has been playing really well since returning from his preseason thumb surgery, but is more of a true center) should get a bit more run.