Russell: Jaxson Hayes will ‘make a lot of money this summer’

The Los Angeles Lakers, faced with yet another key game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday, were hit with thunderbolts during their quest to improve their postseason seeding.

LeBron James was ruled out prior to the opening tip due to an illness, and Anthony Davis left following the first quarter after he got hit in the eye. It resulted in a 127-117 loss, and they’re now back to ninth place in the Western Conference.

That loss caused their chances of finishing at least eighth, let alone avoiding the play-in tournament, to greatly dwindle.

But Sunday was still a great night for Jaxson Hayes, who did an admirable job of filling in for Davis. He scored a season-high 19 points while grabbing 10 rebounds and adding five steals.

Afterward, guard D’Angelo Russell gave Hayes his flowers.

Earlier in the season, Hayes seemed soft at times and often didn’t play to his potential. But he has raised his game more recently, especially ever since Christian Wood, L.A.’s only other legitimate big man, went down with a knee ailment.

In his last 31 games, Hayes has averaged 6.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.5 blocks in 15.8 minutes a game while making a remarkable 75.5% of his field-goal attempts. While he will never become a legitimate starting center in the NBA, he has made significant strides in a matter of weeks.

At the same time, his improved play could create a problem for the Lakers. He has a player option for next season, and if he turns it down, it could be difficult for them to re-sign him, as they have very little, if any, salary cap flexibility.

Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire