The Los Angeles Lakers trimmed their roster down to 13 players on Monday when they waived veteran guard Quinn Cook. That gave them two roster spots to work with, and they've now filled one of them on a short-term basis. The Lakers signed Damian Jones to a 10-day contract, the team announced Friday. Jones, a five-year veteran, was drafted No. 30 overall by the Golden State Warriors. He spent three seasons there before getting traded to Atlanta. He spent the early portion of this season with the Phoneix Suns but was waived. Now, the Lakers are adding him to address a short-term need.
Anthony Davis remains out with a calf strain, and the Lakers are precariously small without him. Marc Gasol is their only other rotation player with true center size, as a backup center, Montrezl Harrell is only 6-8. Jones gives the Lakers another look, particularly as a pick-and-roll finisher. Harrell excels in that area, but in different ways. While Harrell is the more skilled player, Jones, a bouncy 6-11 big man, has an easier time catching lobs thanks to his longer catch radius and superior athleticism.
But the fact that this is only a 10-day contract is informative. The Lakers had been linked to a number of other big men on the buyout or trade market, including DeMarcus Cousins and Hassan Whiteside. These would have been full-season additions and given their reputations, they would have expected meaningful roles. The Lakers might have been able to give them those roles in the regular season (though even that would be a stretch once Davis returns), but when the postseason arrives, there just aren't going to be any spare minutes for centers if this roster remains intact. Davis will play a significant number of minutes at center in the playoffs, and Gasol and Harrell will soak up what remains.
Signing a big man without such a reputation to only a 10-day contract indicates that the Lakers have other priorities for their two vacant roster spots. While Jones could help fill in for Davis now, the Lakers are seemingly operating under the assumption that he will be healthy in time for the playoffs, and that rather than using roster spots to help replace him, they should use those roster spots to supplement him upon his return. In other words, expect the Lakers to seek out guards and wings on the buyout market rather than another big man.
But with approximately one month left until the trade deadline, the Lakers won't be limited to the buyout market. Their flexibility is limited thanks to the hard cap, underneath which they currently have approximately $1.6 million in space, but unlike last season, the Lakers have a tradeable first-round pick (2027) and a promising young prospect (Talen Horton-Tucker) to offer in deals if the right opportunity comes along. The Lakers are technically only obligated to carry 14 players when the dust settles, so there are a variety of different paths they could take to improving their roster.
Waiving Cook, a beloved locker room presence, was an indication that Rob Pelinka is not satisfied with that roster in its present state. Jones will help the Lakers manage in the short-term, but expect the Lakers to be aggressive in trying to improve for the long haul on both the trade and buyout markets.