Too short. Too old. The conventional wisdom says Jordan Caroline won’t play in the NBA. The Los Angeles Lakers are saying too bad for the rest of the league, the former Nevada forward is with us now.
The Lakers signed Caroline to their roster today, meaning he will either start the season in Los Angeles or with its G League team, the South Bay Lakers in El Segundo.
Caroline didn’t receive a lot of playing time during the Lakers summer league play, but he did in the final three games and he came through with 27, 14, and 20 points.
Caroline averaged 17 points and 9.6 rebounds for Nevada last season. His 45 career double-doubles are the most in Mountain West Conference history. But at 6-foot-5, he’s undersized as an NBA power forward. And he was in college five years, transferring from Southern Illinois to Nevada and sitting out a year. At 23, he would be an older rookie in the league. He was not picked in the NBA Draft.
But he is extremely strong and is ferocious at getting to rebounds and loose balls. His father is Simeon Rice, a retired star linebacker in the NFL. His grandfather is J.C. Caroline, who led the nation in rushing at Illinois before having a 10-year career with the Chicago Bears.
Longtime ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas talked about Caroline’s NBA prospects during last week’s American Century Championship, a celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe.
“It’s not a surprise he’s having success in summer league but he’s going to have to find a way to blend in to where he can be a productive member of the big squad,” Bilas told Tahoe Onstage. “He’s a mature, older guy playing mostly against college guys and rookies. He was in college for five years.”
“Everyone knows he’s a capable player who can play in the NBA. But the league is different now. At 6-5, he’s basically a 3 or 4 (position) man. He’s going to have to step away and shoot it a little better. But he knows how to play. He’s strong. He gets to the basket. He uses his body really well and can draw fouls and gets to the free throw line.”
Bias said Caroline might follow a similar path to the Lakers Quinn Cook, who was undrafted out of Duke. He developed his game in the G league before contributing to the Golden State Warriors title run in 2018.
“When he had to go for money reasons,” Bilas said, “he was coveted by the Lakers right away. There will be a spot for Caroline (someday) in the league.”
— Tim Parsons