The Los Angeles Lakers have signed two-way forward Wenyen Gabriel to a standard contract, the team announced Friday. According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, the deal will follow a similar format to the one signed by Stanley Johnson earlier this season: guaranteed for the rest of the year with a team option for next season.
Gabriel initially signed with the Lakers in March as a two-way player, but because their injuries and limited depth, he has had to play a meaningful role in the front court. The Lakers were eliminated from postseason contention on Tuesday after losing to the Phoenix Suns, so they decided to make a move based on the future rather than the present. They waived veteran wing Trevor Ariza in order to create a roster spot to promote Gabriel and secure him for next season.
Gabriel had played for five NBA teams before landing with the Lakers: the Kings, Blazers, Pelicans, Nets and Clippers. He was initially undrafted out of Kentucky in 2018, but has impressed as a Laker due to his energy and size, two things sorely lacking on this roster. He has averaged 5.7 points and 3.8 rebounds in 14.6 minutes per game as a Laker, all career-highs.
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That team option gives the Lakers flexibility if they want it. If they need extra salary ballast for a trade, Gabriel can provide it, or if they try to create cap flexibility by using the stretch provision on Russell Westbrook, they are not committed to Gabriel. But he has played well in his brief stint in purple and gold, and the Lakers would seemingly like to have him back in the fold next season.