The player Lakers must sign after LeBron James’ foot injury

The Los Angeles Lakers’ hopes for the 2022-23 campaign were at an all-time high following a rousing 27-point comeback victory against the Dallas Mavericks. While there were injury concerns for the Lakers’ superstar, LeBron James, after he heard a pop on his foot in the third quarter, The King soon returned to the game and finished the job for a team that needs every win they can get.

However, James suffered a more severe injury than everyone thought in the immediate aftermath of falling down. The NBA’s all-time leading scorer reportedly would miss at least two weeks due to a right foot injury; by then, the Lakers would reportedly evaluate whether James is in condition to return for what should be the most crucial games in the purple and gold’s season.

Until then, the Lakers will have to hold the fort. While D’Angelo Russell’s return from ankle injury should help matters on the offensive end,  LeBron James’ combination of size, strength, playmaking, and basketball IQ on both ends will be hard to replace.

At the end of the day, the Lakers may have to look outside their roster and make one last-ditch addition as they try to salvage what remains of their season as they stare at the very real possibility of missing out on the postseason dance with James on the mend.

Here is the player the Lakers must sign in light of LeBron James’ injury.

Player Lakers must sign after LeBron James’ foot injury: Juancho Hernangomez

Even after the Lakers’ blockbuster trade deadline where they acquired Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, and D’Angelo Russell, as well as their pre-deadline move that netted them Rui Hachimura, the Lakers still don’t particularly have the best depth on the wing. Austin Reaves, a nominal guard, has had to play at the 3 for stretches.

Reaves’ hustle and ability to contribute towards the little things that help winning certainly don’t go unnoticed, but at 6’5, he doesn’t have the tools to defend the league’s best wings for prolonged stretches. That is the running theme for most of the Lakers’ options at the 3 amid LeBron James’ injury: they either don’t have the size (Beasley and Lonnie Walker IV are 6’4) or the offensive game to warrant heavy minutes (Max Christie, a 6’6 rookie, is raw on that end of the court, understandably so, and Troy Brown Jr.’s scoring comes and goes.)

This is what makes the addition of Jarred Vanderbilt so crucial; Vanderbilt functions as a positionless wrecker who not only can take on the opposing team’s best perimeter player, but also someone who hustles on the glass with reckless abandon.

Nonetheless, in the NBA, you can never have enough size on the wing. With LeBron James nursing a foot injury, the Lakers will have to reinforce their depleted wing corps. At this point of the season, however, it’s difficult to find a game-changing talent on the open market. Could this mean that the Lakers bring back a familiar face instead?

No, the Lakers should not be bringing Carmelo Anthony back. Anthony is 38 years old, he hasn’t played in an NBA game in around 11 months, and it’s difficult to envision him anywhere near being an impactful defender at this point in his career. The future Hall of Famer’s shooting could have helped early in the season, but the Lakers have, by and large, overcome that crippling roster issue.

Stanley Johnson, who played well in his stint with the San Antonio Spurs this season, could have been huge for the Lakers; however, restrictions prevent the Lakers from signing Johnson, as they were the last team that traded away the 6’6 wing.

Other options the Lakers could look at to bolster their wing depth are Moe Harkless, Justin Jackson, Josh Jackson, Eric Paschall, or Jake Layman. Alas, with the exception of Justin Jackson, those four have not played in the NBA this season. And even Justin Jackson has barely played, and in his limited minutes, he couldn’t seem to throw a pebble into the ocean.

Enter Juancho Hernangomez.

Drafted 15th overall in 2016, Hernangomez hasn’t quite emerged as a consistent role player. The idea of Hernangomez as a player remains quite better than the actual reality of who he is. Touted for his impressive shooting at his impressive height of 6’9, Hernangomez shot just 25.4 percent from deep with the Toronto Raptors before being waived.

But again, it bears repeating that there are hardly any impact players left on the free agent market at this point of the season. The Lakers could hope that Kelly Oubre Jr., against all odds, hits the open market, or perhaps even Seth Curry, although he doesn’t really address the Lakers’ need for a wing.

But Juancho Hernangomez gives the Lakers someone with size, someone who could play a few minutes right away at both forward positions, and someone who, as the law of averages might dictate, could see an uptick in his shooting percentage.

He may not be the most inspiring option, but he could certainly do a job for the undersized Lakers. As an added bonus, the Lakers will be adding a Hollywood star in Bo Cruz as well. That reason alone should inspire much fanfare for a fanbase in need of positive encouragement following LeBron James’ injury.

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