Wenyen Gabriel: From A Throwaway Signing To Critical Rotation Piece

When the Lakers first got Wenyen Gabriel, few thought he would cement himself as a key rotation player. Signed in March of 2022 at a time when the Lakers' hopes of a mere play-in appearance were quickly fading away, Gabriel immediately proved himself with his energy and effort, earning a guaranteed contract for the rest of the season and starting five of the 19 games played.

While Gabriel was a late addition to the Lakers roster last season, the Lakers have been familiar with him from their battles against the Portland Trail Blazers in the bubble. Gabriel started in game 1 in that first-round series, putting up 4 points and 3 rebounds in Portland’s win. This time with the Blazers was simply another pit stop for Gabriel, who has been a part of six organizations in the span of 4 seasons.

While the undrafted talent out of Kentucky has struggled to find a home in his short NBA career, Gabriel has cemented himself as a player that continues to get rostered due to his hustle and determination on the glass and the defensive end.

This has been on full display in his recent stretch with the Lakers. Standing at 6 '9'' with a 7' 1'' wingspan, Gabriel is a versatile defender, able to battle against players like Joel Embiid on the boards while also being able to switch on players like Luka Doncic and create a good contest.

Despite establishing himself as a defensive player, Gabriel has developed an underrated offensive game. Often pairing up with Russell Westbrook in the pick-and-roll as a part of our bench unit, Gabriel has developed an interior presence offensively, often using the jump hook to finish. Gabriel has become one of the more consistent shooters on the Lakers' current roster, shooting 61.9% from the field and 36% from three-point range.

Gabriel had a great game against the Nets on Monday, finishing with 11 points and four rebounds in 16 minutes.

He has been in and out of Ham's rotation, but when he plays, he always makes an impact with his energy and intensity.

Gabriel’s overall two-way presence has allowed his role to increase over time and has caused Darvin Ham to rely on him late in games. The energy and effort that Gabriel provides on a daily basis is one that Laker fans should not take for granted, and this energy hopefully can be infectious to the rest of the team as the season continues.

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