When the Los Angeles Lakers signed forward Juan Toscano-Anderson earlier this summer, most fans didn’t pay much attention to it.
It’s somewhat understandable, as he has career averages of 4.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 17.1 minutes per game.
However, beneath the numbers, Toscano-Anderson has the ability to be an invaluable part of the Lakers’ bench this coming season at a position they badly need serviceable depth at.
He is a 6-foot-6 forward who can comfortably play either the 3 or 4, and he plays the game with a palpable level of energy and intensity.
Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report is high on Toscano-Anderson’s ability to help a Lakers team that seriously needs an infusion of supporting talent.
Via Bleacher Report:
“The Lakers needed a player like Juan Toscano-Anderson, in more ways than one. He can answer LA’s question marks on everything from defensive versatility and hustle to transition energy and supporting a star.”
Toscano-Anderson loves to play defense
Defense was one of LA’s biggest weaknesses last season. It finished 21st in defensive rating, 26th in free throw attempts given up and 27th in defensive 2-point percentage.
In addition, the team has suffered from a lack of youth and depth at both forward positions. It was forced to bring in Stanley Johnson and Wenyen Gabriel to fill the void, and although both men showed potential, they are largely unproven.
Toscano-Anderson may not be a true defensive stopper, but he will give 100 percent when he’s out there on that end of the floor.
Furthermore, he can guard multiple positions, something that new head coach Darvin Ham is sure to like.
With all the star and superstar wings and forwards in the NBA right now, Toscano-Anderson should be a key member of the Lakers’ second unit this coming season.
Another major weakness the Lakers have is 3-point shooting, and it’s another area Toscano-Anderson can help in.
He may not be as deadly in that department as some of his former teammates on the Golden State Warriors, but his ability is clearly there.
His accuracy from that distance has fluctuated from year to year. He shot a decent 34.8 percent as a rookie during the 2019-20 season and improved to 40.2 percent the next year, but that figure plunged to 32.2 percent last season.
However, in his final 35 games starting on Jan. 13, he made an outstanding 41.5 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
Look for Toscano-Anderson to feast on open looks created by LeBron James and Russell Westbrook.
A bonus the Lakers will get from Toscano-Anderson is his ability to move the ball with purpose.
His raw assist numbers may not seem the least bit impressive, but his more advanced stats in that area tell a different story.
“According to Cleaning the Glass, Toscano-Anderson is not only fresh off of posting a career best 17.4% assist percentage, but also ranked in the 96th percentile among all forwards in assist-to-usage ratio (measures how often a player gets an assist given how much they have the ball).
“To further illustrate how much passing Toscano-Anderson actually does on a per possession basis, among players who had a sub 15% usage rate last season and also played in at least 60 games, Toscano-Anderson had the eighth highest assist percentage in the entire league. Meaning, when he touched the ball, it rarely stuck.
“…Whether it was hitting a teammate in the dunker spot, swinging it on the perimeter, or spraying it out to the corner off of a drive, Toscano-Anderson often excels in making the right read at the right time.
“…According to the league’s tracking data, Toscano-Anderson registered a 28.6% assist percentage out of post-up opportunities last season — the highest mark on his team.
“… What ultimately makes Toscano-Anderson such an intriguing and adaptable passer is his ability to exploit mistakes.
“Whether it’s a defender who is one step too far away from his man, a head turned in the wrong direction, or simply being willing to pass up a good shot for a great one, there’s a calculated deceptiveness to his game that is worth appreciating .
“This is something both the eye-test and vast slew of passing data (as seen in his BBall-Index playmaking metrics below) can agree upon. One slip-up and its’ essentially blood in the water.”
Over the last few years, even when they won the NBA championship in 2020, the Lakers’ half-court offense devolved too often into LeBron James pounding the ball while remaining almost stationary near the 3-point line and milking the shot clock.
They need a set offense that is defined by ball and player movement, and that is something Toscano-Anderson can supply when he’s on the court.
Last season, some players on the Lakers’ roster seemed to have a casual approach. There was even a feeling that some players thought all the team needed to do was reach the play-in tournament, and after that, it would flip the switch and win it all.
Toscano-Anderson is the polar opposite in that regard.
He will make the extra effort to stay with his man defensively, contest shots, run the floor in transition, go after rebounds and even pursue loose balls.
Toscano-Anderson may not get a ton of playing time with the Lakers, but he could become a fan favorite just because of the way he sacrifices his body and makes the right plays for his team.