Thursday night’s 2022 NBA Draft came and went without Vanderbilt’s star point guard Scotty Pippen Jr. hearing his name called. Despite not receiving a phone call during the draft, the Los Angeles Lakers signed Pippen to a two-way deal immediately following the draft’s conclusion.
What It Means
By signing Pippen to a two-way deal, the 21-year-old will be splitting time between the Lakers’ G-League affiliate South Bay Lakers, and the team in Los Angeles. This particular contract will allow Pippen to play up to 50 games in the NBA with the rest of his action coming at the G-League level.
Pippen is set to make $502,000 during the season, but will not be eligible to play in the postseason unless the team chooses to convert his contract to a full NBA deal.
Why Did Pippen Go Undrafted?
Pippen was a highly decorated player in his three years at Vanderbilt. He was a two-time First Team All-SEC selection and a member of the SEC’s 2019-20 All Freshman Team. Pippen even led the conference in scoring, averaging 20.4 PPG in 2021-22.
The Lakers struck gold with Scotty Pippen Jr. pic.twitter.com/2TVcXjUjVn— ⁸ ²⁴ (@BeansGoated) June 24, 2022
Though Pippen is an elite scorer, his efficiency took a dip last season. After shooting 35.8% from three and 85% from the free-throw line in his sophomore season, Pippen’s junior season featured some shooting struggles.
Pippen shot 32.5% from three and just 74.9% from the stripe last season, leading the nation in free-throw attempts. He was also plagued by turnovers last season. Pippen averaged 3.36 turnovers per game, which was enough to scare off more than a few NBA scouts.
Having followed Pippen closely throughout his collegiate career, the turnovers could be attributed to the lack of talent he played with. He was forced to make just about every play for the Commodores, sometimes forcing the ball into high traffic areas. I expect this issue to be corrected as the talent around him improves.
Though he improved over his time at Vandy, Pippen’s defense is still lacking. Too often was Pippen exposed in isolations in the college game, which will have to change as he gears up to guard some of the world’s best scorers in the NBA.
What Makes The Lakers A Perfect Fit
Pippen grew up in Los Angeles, CA, supporting the Lakers throughout his childhood. Not only does he have the chance to play for his favorite team, but he will have the opportunity to make a significant impact in his rookie season.
Los Angeles has not been able to find production out of the point guard position in quite a while. The Russell Westbrook experiment was a total failure as the team continues to explore ways to shed his contract this offseason.
The Lakers are strapped for cash, meaning that cost-effective additions like Pippen will help balance the books with LeBron James Anthony Davis, and Westbrook on the payroll. Laker fans have seen plenty of development in some lower salary players such as Talen Horton-Tucker, Austin Reaves, and Alex Caruso.
At 6’3″, Pippen’s offensive game is NBA ready. His silky smooth handle and high basketball IQ will translate to the NBA. His unique ability to get to the free-throw line will also have an immediate impact and should be showcased during Summer League action.
Scotty Pippen Jr. going to the free throw line every possession like pic.twitter.com/6Z6mUPLiOo— Pregame Empire (@PregameEmpire) February 23, 2022
Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka still has plenty of moves left to make over the offseason, but if his defense can improve, I anticipate Pippen will be cracking the Lakers’ rotation by spring.
Feature image via Randy Sartin – USA TODAY Sports