Top prospects who went undrafted in NBA Draft: Lakers sign Gonzaga wing Joel Ayayi to two-way contract

The Los Angeles Lakers may not have selected any players in the 2021 NBA Draft on Thursday night, but that doesn't mean they're coming away from the night empty-handed. They have agreed to a two-way contract with undrafted Gonzaga wing Joel Ayayi, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski

Ayayi was expected to be drafted at some point in the second round, but eventually slipped through the cracks and fell out of the top 60 entirely. The NBA's loss is the Lakers' gain here, though, as Ayayi was a key role player on the Gonzaga team that just went undefeated in the regular season and lost in the National Championship Game. He averaged 12 points and 6.9 rebounds for the Bulldogs, but most importantly for the Lakers, he shot almost 39% from behind the arc. He doesn't have great size or athleticism, but he plays hard every night and should be able to develop into a reliable professional. 

The Lakers know a thing or two about developing similarly unheralded prospects. They hit one of the biggest home runs of the two-way era during the 2017-18 season when they signed an obscure guard named Alex Caruso off of the Oklahoma City Blue to a two-way deal that eventually saw him grow into of the better guard defenders in all of basketball. Caruso will cash in on his growth this offseason as a free agent. Down the line, Ayayi could have the same chance. 

The Lakers are in win-now mode with an aging LeBron James and the recently-acquired Russell Westbrook, but they have always done a good job of developing young talent even while trying to win in the present. Caruso is one example. Talen Horton-Tucker is another. Now, Ayayi will have a chance to join them and grow into a long-term part of the NBA's marquee franchise. 

Here are the top-ranked players from the CBS Sports final Big Board who went undrafted and which NBA team they have signed a contract with immediately after the draft if applicable.

RkPlayerPos.SchoolNBA team
35Aaron HenrySGMichigan State76ers
42Austin ReavesSGOklahomaLakers
45David DukePGProvidence
47Joel AyayiSGGonzagaLakers
50Matthew HurtPFDuke
51Daishen NixPGG League
52Sam HauserSFVirginiaCeltics
53D.J. CartonPGMarquetteHornets
57M.J. WalkerSGFlorida State
61Marcus GarrettPGKansas