Lakers Rumors: Latest on Mindaugas Kuzminskas Pursuit and Larry Nance Jr. Return

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistNovember 23, 2017

Los Angeles Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. passes the ball against the Washington Wizards during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, March 28, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers have looked better overall as of late, and they could be looking at even more depth going forward.

Perhaps the biggest news is the potential early return for power forward Larry Nance Jr. after he underwent surgery for a fractured left hand earlier this month. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported on Nov. 3 that the third-year player was expected to miss four-to-six weeks with the injury, but he could be back even sooner than anticipated.

According to Bill Oram of the Orange County Register, Nance could be back in the lineup Monday against the Clippers after practicing over the past week.

"He's been out there mixing it up with the guys, getting his shots in, his running in," head coach Luke Walton said of Nance. "So (with) a couple good practices I think he'll be fine."

Los Angeles has four days off before its upcoming game against the cross-town rivals, which provides the perfect opportunity to work him back into the rotation.

The question is how Nance will fit in the lineup when he is back to full strength. While he started the first eight games of the year before the injury, Kyle Kuzma has played too well to give up his spot at power forward. The rookie was the No. 27 overall pick of the draft, but he is looking like a steal and a possible Rookie of the Year candidate with his incredible production through the first month of the season.

With his scoring and ability to stretch the floor, he provides a lot of value that Nance simply can't replicate.

Julius Randle has also been playing well behind him on the depth chart, leaving few minutes to go around. Either Nance starts seeing time at center in smaller lineups, or the team will have some tough decisions to make.

Considering Randle is already reportedly on his way out of town, according to Wojnarowski (h/t Jack Maloney of CBS Sports), Nance's return could help expedite a potential trade.

Meanwhile, the Lakers could add help at another spot on the floor with the possible addition of free agent Mindaugas Kuzminskas. The small forward was waived by the Knicks earlier this month after playing just two minutes all season long.

Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Marc Berman of the New York Post immediately reported the Lakers could be interested along with the Bulls and Hawks. The interest has apparently grown, with the team meeting with the player recently and "keeping tabs" on him since, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

Kuzminskas only averaged 6.2 points per game last season in New York, but he showcased a quality shooting stroke for a 6'9" wing. He made 32.1 percent of his three-pointers, but he has even higher potential after knocking down 36.4 percent of looks beyond the arc at the European Championships for Lithuania, per FIBA. He averaged 15.3 points in six contests during that tournament.

These aren't eye-popping numbers, but they would help a Lakers team that ranks dead last in the NBA in three-point percentage. Outside of Kuzma and Jordan Clarkson, no one can be trusted from deep.

This type of addition would be a minor move in the headlines but would help a young team compete for the rest of the season.  

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