Second-year center Jay Huff numbers among L.A.'s intriguing young prospects that the team is taking a look at during its preseason, which has gotten underway tonight against former Lakers head coach Mike Brown and the Sacramento Kings.
The center, a two-way player with LA last year, returns to L.A. on an Exhibit 10 contract. Let's examine what he could have to offer L.A., should he make the team's main roster.
Huff, 24, has the theoretical outlines of a floor-spacing, rim-rolling, pick-setting behemoth, which is all well and good, but he has struggled to cultivate much of a role for himself against NBA-caliber defensive talent. A big deterrent for Huff has been his foot speed. While he proved relatively athletic at the college level, that has not been the case in the pros. Conversely, he is not quite strong enough to do battle with league centers just yet.
The 7'1", 240-pound big man out of the University of Virginia, boasts some tantalizing attributes. In college, he emerged as a solid pick-and-roll and mid-range pick-and-pop player, which could theoretically (if he makes the Lakers' cut) abet some L.A. stars in the low post. He has trouble creating separation in one-on-one coverages. Another intriguing element of his game that could serve L.A. well is that he remains active and engaged off the ball, and is conscious enough to put himself into scoring position effectively.
In college, Huff was an excellent rim protector. He averaged a whopping 2.6 blocks a night during 2020-21, his final NCAA season. He connected on 38.7% on 3.0 three-point looks a game during that season (and 38.6% on 1.6 attempts across his four-year career). He also connected on 40% of his pick-and-pop jumpers as a senior. All told, he put up an impressive slash line of .585/.387/.837. that year. During that eventful final season with the Cavaliers, Huff was an All-ACC Second Teamer and an ACC All-Defensive Team honoree.
Beyond his issues with quickness and bulk, Huff is also a lackluster rebounder and has been occasionally careless with the rock.
After going undrafted in 2021, Huff latched on with Los Angeles on a two-way contract, ultimately appearing just four contests for the Lakers last season before being waived. He signed on for the rest of 2021-22 with the South Bay Lakers, the team's El Segundo-based NBA G League affiliate. For South Bay, he notched averages of 15.7 points 6.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game across 28 regular season contests, all starts.
Check out how effective Huff was for the South Bay Lakers, L.A.'s NBA G League affiliate in El Segundo, against the Houston Rockets' affiliate club, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, last season:
Clearly the Lakers front office remains intrigued by Huff. Most recently, he played for L.A.'s Summer League clubs this year in Las Vegas and San Francisco. Through four games, the big man averaged 10.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks in just 18.4 minutes a night.
So the big question, then, is can Jay Huff actually survive the preseason (he has yet to get off the bench through the first quarter of L.A.'s ongoing bout against the Kings) and stick in Los Angeles, or will the 24-year-old also be spending most of the 2022-23 season with South Bay? Time will tell.