After the Lakers traded Marc Gasol and a future second-round pick with the Grizzlies in exchange for Wang Zhelin’s draft rights, many questioned the Chinese player’s future with the Lakers.
The move was not surprising, given that Marc Gasol already seemed out of the Lakers’ plans last season, when the experienced pivot was pulled out of rotation. With DeAndre Jordan’s arrival confirmed, opening another cast spot by saying goodbye to Gasol was the wisest thing to do.
Some fans got the wrong impression that one of the team’s spots would be used to house Zhelin, but that won’t be the board’s plan.
Wang Zhelin will not have the honor of wearing the Lakers shirt and for very simple reasons.
Some who know the skills of the Chinese pivot even agreed that he could add depth to the Lakers cast. But more importantly, with the switch, the Lakers saved $10 million in salaries and made room for the cast they wanted so badly.
On the other hand, Zhelin will make more money playing outside the NBA as a star player on his team than if he comes to the league and plays in the G League.
There’s a reason why Zhelin was drafted in 2016 and didn’t make the NBA. Being traded with the Lakers five years later is not going to change that. The Lakers have the rights to him if he decides to come to the US, but he probably won’t.
If Zhelin was as promising as some are mentioning, why weren’t the Grizzlies interested? Zhelin is one of the best players in the Chinese league and that’s where he is successful.
A great example of this scenario was the first Lakers-Grizzlies deal by Marc Gasol himself. The Lakers traded draft rights from Marc, who was very promising, for a legitimate star in his brother Pau. If Zhelin really were that quality prospect, he would have been included in something much bigger.
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Instead, his draft rights were just one reason to make the deal possible and open a spot for the Lakers. The team has already made it clear that they don’t want to lose spots with guys who can’t contribute on the court, Zhelin would be one of them.
With two open roster spots, the Lakers must fill one of them to maintain flexibility during the current season, with the other option.