Isaac Bonga is a 6’9″ point guard prospect that the Los Angeles Lakers selected with the 39th overall pick in June’s NBA Draft (via the Philadelphia 76ers after a trade). The 18-year-old Germany native had played with the Fraport Skyliners in his home country over the last two seasons, and also spent time playing with their national team.
There were several reasons why this pairing made sense for both parties leading up to draft night. The Lakers were reportedly one of the first teams to really look at Bonga during the scouting process, and it turned out they were the only team that he had given his medical information to. When a player declares for the NBA Draft (or the draft for any sport, for that matter), typically you would have your medicals accessible to every team that showed even the tiniest bit of interest in you. But Bonga did not go that route, and in the end it worked out great for him since it seems he landed on the best possible team for his skill set.
*Above: Isaac Bonga (left) competing with the Fraport Skyliners in Germany.
His youth coach would send him videos of Magic Johnson highlights when he was growing up, and the man who he emulated his game after is now one of his bosses. Magic, a 6’9″ point guard himself back in his day, has expressed a desire to develop and utilize Bonga as a point guard, and several Summer League teammates have been impressed with his ball-handling and passing skills given his height and 7′ wingspan.
Though he was thought to be a draft-and-stash prospect during this year’s draft season, the Lakers decided to go ahead and sign him to a contract that made him the 14th player on their roster. With the large group of backcourt guys that are ahead of him on the depth chart, there is no pressure on him to come in and perform at a high level right away. If he plays at all this season it will likely be during garbage time or if the roster gets decimated by injuries, which means that he will have plenty of time to learn the offense and acclimate himself to the NBA culture.
In his brief amount of Summer League action (three games) he hasn’t done very well, turning the ball over a total of 14 times. He is also averaging 3.3 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 0.7 SPG thus far, and has gotten an average of 13.7 minutes per each contest. Despite the uninspiring stat lines, the overall numbers aren’t exactly what the Lakers brass are looking at. They were mostly checking to see how he handled himself in the first couple games, and after a seven turnover appearance in his Summer League debut, Bonga has reportedly gained more confidence as he gets more familiar with the offense and with his new teammates.
Bonga doesn’t appear to be in line for a big role this season, and there is a possibility that he may not even see very much action, if at all. Not to mention that the Lakers already have a slew of players that thrive with the ball in their hands in LeBron James, newly signed Rajon Rondo, Lonzo Ball, and Lance Stephenson. Barring injury to any of the players that were just listed, it is highly unlikely that Bonga will get serious minutes with the Lakers this season.
Overall his ball-handling and passing skills sound like they are big pluses for the big man, and he already seems to have a good sense of confidence as he continues to progress and acclimate himself to the NBA and to the United States. With time to develop and some seasoning, he could turn into a key member of the Lakers in the future.
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