The Los Angeles Lakers waived former Gonzaga forward Johnathan Williams over the weekend, the team announced on Saturday. It is a solid setback for Williams looking to open his post-collegiate career in the NBA.
Williams joined the Lakers squad after going undrafted in the 2018 NBA Draft. He showcased some strong play during the NBA Summer League, enough so to warrant a piece on the team’s website. A recent article by Jim Meehan of the Spokesman Review has quotes from the likes of Rajon Rondo and Luke Walton only saying positive things.
But positive quotes only go so far in the NBA. The new look Lakers have a bevy of talent at the four-spot, and run a bit thin at the five-spot (hello JaVale McGee). Unfortunately, Williams is a bit undersized at the center position, even in the modern day NBA.
What Williams might lack in overall shooting range, he is a tenacious defender and demolisher around the rim. Williams most definitely has the athletic ability to land with a NBA team, but often as is the case in professional careers, especially for players who are not drafted, much of landing on a roster requires proper timing as it does skill.
Silver Screen and Roll, SB Nation’s Los Angeles Lakers blog, summed up what Williams faces next:
Why would the Lakers sign a player just to waive them 24 hours later? Well, as explained yesterday, Machado (and probably Williams as well) were in all likelihood on Exhibit 10 contracts that would allow the team to pay them a bonus of up to $50,000 if they were cut by the Lakers, sign with the South Bay Lakers and stay with the team in the G League for 60 days this season.
Machado never even suited up for the Lakers, but Williams actually impressed for the team during preseason, averaging 9.8 points and 3 rebounds over six appearances, leading to at least some debate over whether he might have shown enough as a viable small-ball five option to make the roster.
That won’t happen — or at least not yet — but now that Williams has had a training camp to be around the team and learn some of their system, he might be an injury replacement option down the road if he continues his strong play in the G League (should he choose to go that route).
Williams is in a good spot, all considering, because of his strong play during the preseason. Theoretically, depending on how the Lakers pan out—either a glorious LeBron James fueled run into the NBA playoffs or a spectacular crash and burn , there are ways for Williams to squeak onto the team throughout the season if he chooses to stay with the G League.