Damian Jones will plug some significant holes for the Lakers

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When the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA championship in 2020, they did so with a solid center rotation that consisted of JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard.

Both men provided the team with vertical spacing, transition baskets, defense, rim protection and rebounding.

They also allowed Anthony Davis to play power forward more often than not.

But the Lakers’ center rotation has been lacking since. They had to make do with Marc Gasol in 2021 and an aging and ineffective DeAndre Jordan this past season.

As a result, Anthony ended up playing 76% of his minutes at the 5 in 2022, which is way too much for him.

But this season, L.A. will have a solid center duo once again after signing Damian Jones and Thomas Bryant to man the position.

While the Bryant signing got hard-core Lakers fans somewhat excited because he’s already a proven player, Jones should also prove an indispensable piece for the team in a couple of different areas.

Defense

The Lakers have lacked rim protection since they won it all, and Jones can help shore up that part of their defense.

While he isn’t a player who gets a ton of minutes, on a per-minute basis, he’s a pretty effective shot blocker.

Jones averaged 1.7 blocked shots per 36 minutes in 2022 while playing for the Sacramento Kings, and he also posted a decent defensive box plus/minus of 0.5.

In addition, he can come out on the perimeter and effectively guard players there when needed, making him a relatively mobile defender, especially for a big man.

The Lakers desperately needed to improve on the defensive end, and it looks like they got someone who will help them do just that.

Easy baskets on offense

Jones is 6-foot-11 and 245 pounds with a 7-foot-4 wingspan, and he has ample athleticism, jumping ability and energy.

He is a nice target near the basket on lobs, off ball and player movement, in transition and off offensive rebounds.

Jones is a strong finisher who had 57 dunks in 2022 while playing 18.2 minutes per game.

He has even shown signs of developing a perimeter shot lately. Although he took just 0.5 3-point shots per game in 2022, he made a decent 34.5%  of them.

Over the second half of the season, Jones started to turn it on, averaging 11.4 points, 5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 22.8 minutes a game while shooting 37.5% from downtown and an amazing 69.9% from the field overall starting on Feb. 3.

In the last 10 games of the season, he did even better, putting up 16.6 points, 7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 28.9 minutes per contest on 71.6% overall shooting and 50% from beyond the arc.

Perhaps Lakers fans shouldn’t expect tons of treys from Jones, but it appears he can stretch the floor every now and then.

Jones is young and seemingly improving

In the 2021-22 season, the Lakers had a whopping 13 players who were at least 30 years of age on their roster at some point.

But all of their free agent signings this summer have been guys in their 20s, suddenly making the team much younger and more athletically gifted.

Jones just turned 27 on June 30. Not only can he give L.A. the type of youthful energy and athleticism it lacked, but he also seems to be on a positive trajectory.

He may be able to improve as an outside shooter and in terms of his defensive instincts and decision-making as time goes on, especially with someone such as LeBron James available to mentor him.

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