L.A. Lakers Wise to Gamble on Ex-UCLA Star Reeves Nelson

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistSeptember 6, 2012

TAMPA, FL - MARCH 19:  Reeves Nelson #22 of the UCLA Bruins looks on after he suffered a cut to his face in the second half agianst the Florida Gators during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at St. Pete Times Forum on March 19, 2011 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

There are plenty of reasons to believe that former Bruin Reeves Nelson won't make it in the NBA. There are even more reasons to doubt he has a shot at any playing time with the Los Angeles Lakers this season.

None of those reasons amount to a compelling argument against giving the guy a chance.

And, that's exactly what GM Mitch Kupchak has decided to do after the 20-year-old competed for Los Angeles' team at the Las Vegas Summer League.

The Los Angeles Times' Baxter Holmes reports that Reeves will have an opportunity to prove himself in training camp, but nothing more than an opportunity:

Former UCLA forward Reeves Nelson will be invited to the Lakers training camp that begins in early October after he signs a one-year, non-guaranteed contract, potentially worth about $700,000 with the team, Nelson told The Times on Tuesday.

In other words, the Lakers will only incur any costs if they see something they like. And when you're already spending almost $100 million on your roster, what's another $700,000?

Are there risks associated with bringing Nelson into the mix? Sure, at least in theory.

You won't find anyone questioning his ability, but that's not what got him dismissed from UCLA's team last season. On the court, Reeves has been a hard worker who doesn't shy away from contact. He could score, rebound and even led the team with 13.9 points and 9.1 rebounds in 2010-11.

But, his production tanked the following season, along with his attitude and maturity. A number of incidents involving a lack of effort and no lack of insubordination put him on head coach Ben Howland's bad side, and it became apparent that Nelson's days were numbered.

One way or the other, he wasn't going to remain a prominent part of the Bruins' program.

The drama might have forced Nelson to grow up in short order. He was apparently nothing but professional in his brief stint with the Lakers' Summer League team, and that's pretty much what you'd expect from a guy who got kicked off his college team.

Success at this level is a precarious thing. If Nelson hopes to make anything of his outside shot at an NBA gig, he can't afford to leave any doubts about his mental readiness and self-control.

Pending those doubts, there's a lot the Lakers should like about the 6'8" forward.

For one thing, the Lakers are at a juncture in which they're more or less auditioning young small forwards to see who can play behind Metta World Peace and potentially replace him when the time comes.

Those options currently include Devin Ebanks and Earl Clark, so Nelson will at the very least offer some competition for a backup job.

Even if he doesn't claim a spot on the roster, he could make Ebanks and Clark work that much harder in order to secure their own jobs.

Additionally, the Lakers really don't have much of a bruiser on their bench, and that could add some needed edge to the rotation once World Peace moves on. 

No one is projecting Nelson to be the Lakers' starting small forward of the future, but that's hardly a reason for a club short on young talent to narrow its options. 

As tempting as it is to focus on the present, L.A. still has to do some long-term planning from time to time. Don't be entirely shocked if Nelson just so happens to become part of that planning.