'Good fit': UM's Zavier Simpson signs with NBA champion Lakers as undrafted free agent

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

It didn’t take long for Zavier Simpson’s phone to ring following Wednesday night’s NBA Draft.

After going unselected, Simpson agreed to an undrafted free-agent deal with the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the wee hours.

Zavier Simpson

According to Simpson’s agent Brian Jungreis, the former Michigan point guard signed an Exhibit 10 contract, which is essentially a training camp deal in the NBA world. It can be converted into a regular-season contract or a two-way deal, or it can expire at the conclusion of camp.

The Lakers — whose general manager, Rob Pelinka, is a former Wolverine — were among the 13 teams Simpson spoke with during the pre-draft process.

“We thought they were a good fit because they showed the most overall and immediate interest in him and felt it gave him the most opportunity,” Jungreis said.

“They have done a good job with development and have turned guys from that position into NBA roster player and two-way players within their organization and others.”

More: Phil Martelli spells out why Michigan freshmen have so much promise

Simpson averaged a career-high 12.9 points and 7.9 rebounds while shooting a career-best 36% from 3-point range last season. He was also the most productive pick-and-roll passer in the nation as a senior, generating 13.7 points per game, according to Synergy.

Like most undrafted free agents, Simpson will have his work cut out to make the roster when training camp opens on Dec. 1. While he’s undersized (6-foot, 190 pounds) and must prove himself as a shooter (career average of 31.4% on 3-pointers), he’s an excellent passer and an elite facilitator who thrives in ball screens. His leadership, toughness, competitiveness and winning experience are also unquestioned.

The Lakers have two point guards under contract for the 2020-21 season in Alex Caruso and Dennis Schroder (Quinn Cook was waived on Thursday). Caruso is a returning player, while Schroder was acquired in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder. And that doesn’t include LeBron James, who was the team’s primary facilitator last season.

In addition to Simpson, fellow Wolverine Jon Teske also went undrafted but has yet to sign with an NBA team. Teske averaged 11.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game last season and ended his four-year career as one of the program’s all-time winningest players, along with Simpson.


Twitter: @jamesbhawkins