Summer League, Free Agency, & Dwight Howard

Darius Soriano —  July 18, 2012

With Summer League in full swing and the Lakers still looking to fill out their roster, there’s lots to discuss in Laker-land. So, lets jump right in…

  • The Lakers’ summer league team is winless so far and has had some truly horrible performances in their first few contests. They got blasted by the Warriors in their opening game and were trounced by 50 a few nights later against the Heat. While this is somewhat discouraging, don’t invest too heavily in the results. The Lakers don’t have a lottery level talent on their team. Their roster is full of players who are trying to fight for spots ten through fifteen on a roster, not for a starting gig. What we learn about this “team” is not important; we’re really looking at the growth of the individual players and evaluating their individual skill level.
  • Even evaluating the players as individuals is somewhat tricky, however. The summer team doesn’t have a single player that will ever be a featured guy within an offense. This roster is filled with role players whose talents will be maximized playing off of their more talented teammates (should they make the regular season roster). When you put 5 role players on the floor together, the results (offensively) will be what the Lakers have seen so far – tight defense, little spacing, and no one able to create the types of plays that generate sustained worthwhile basketball.
  • In yesterday’s game against the Spurs, the Lakers made adjustments with their schemes and that led to better spacing and ball movement. These tweaks compensated for the limited individual talent on their roster. But those adjustments only got them so far. It allowed for more space on the wing to operate off the dribble and more space for the post players to work in isolation. It opened up better passing angles for cutters. And, their improved effort put them in better positions to take advantage. But, in the end, this group was out talented again and lost by double figures.
  • All that said, we are starting to get a better picture of what types of talents these guys are. Darius Morris is showing that he can be a threat in the open court and in attacking the rim off the dribble in the half court. His size allows him to bully smaller defenders to get to the spots on the floor where he can be successful. His finishing is still up and down, however, and his jumper needs a lot of work. But, he’s showing more confidence in each game and his attack mentality has served him well so far. He certainly likes to pound the ball when probing the D, but that’s the case for most attack guards that create off the dribble as often as he does.
  • Andrew Goudelock looks like the same guy he was last year. His lack of size is giving him some issues on both sides of the floor and his lack of burst is making it hard for him to shake free from bigger defenders. His jumper has been off but we know he’s a better shooter than he’s shown so I’m not as concerned there. However, he’s still not shown much of an ability to create for others. He’s worked a lot in the pick and roll but rarely hits the roll man (who’s been open several times) and typically only gives the ball up when he’s exhausted his opportunity to score for himself. I’ve long believed that for Goudelock to stick in this league he’ll have to show adequate ability to initiate an offense and be a lead guard. So far, we’re not seeing it. Some of that may be what the coaches are asking him to do, but his instinct is to score first (and second) and his playmaking is suffering because of it.
  • Darius Johnson-Odom has shown some good qualities – he’s an active defender, possesses good court vision, and knows how to create his own shot. He’s also shown that he can initiate an offense and has no issues taking an outlet pass and running a delayed fast break. He shows good footwork in setting up his own shot and has a very nice shot fake that’s earned him trips to the foul line. However, his jumper hasn’t been falling even when he’s been getting open looks. This could simply be a small sample and nothing to worry about. But, he’ll need to hit shots eventually if he wants to stick.
  • Christian Eyenga looks like the most pro-ready player the Lakers have but that shouldn’t surprise considering he’s their most seasoned player. His athleticism is as advertised – he’s had several above the rim finishes – and he’s mostly been under control when displaying it. He’s shown a nice little post game too, working over defenders from 10 feet and it with good strength and solid footwork. His jumper is not good, however and that limits what he can do on that end of the floor. Defensively, he’s been above average. His quickness, instincts, and desire to get into his man have all been plusses.
  • The surprise of this team, at least for me, has been Robert Sacre. He’s a bit stiff in his movement but he knows how to use his big body to his advantage. He aggressively fights for position on both ends of the floor, has shown nice touch on his mid-range jumper and his jump hook, and he plays hard. His biggest asset, though, looks to be his smarts. He knows where to be on both ends of the floor and seems to have a strong spatial awareness. He knows where to move to in the P&R game to get open and has made a few smart cuts to position himself under the rim where he’s been active on the offensive glass. In one of the games an announcer compared Sacre to Michael Doleac and that seems apt. Sacre has shown a bit more aggressiveness around the rim than Doleac used to, but all and all they have similar games. Doleac stuck in the league for a while as a back up big man and Sacre may be able to do the same.
  • Moving beyond the Summer League team, the Lakers are still in the middle of a lot of rumors. There’s been reports that Antawn Jamison will “choose” the Lakers soon. Yesterday the Lakers were present at a workout for Jermaine O’Neal who, after having the orthokine treatment that Kobe’s become the poster boy for, is looking to continue his playing career. Reports of how he looked in that workout have been mixed (I’ve read one tweet say he didn’t look mobile while others stated he looked as good as he has in the last 4-5 years), but he remains on the Lakers’ radar. Brandon Rush was also at that workout so the Lakers also got a look at the Warriors restricted free agent.
  • And then, of course, there’s still the pursuit of Dwight Howard. Reports had the Lakers meeting with reps from the Magic yesterday in what was described as a “hard push” to acquire the Magic big man. During the Lakers/Spurs game, Jim Buss commented (per team policy) that he had “no comment” about reports that there were negotiations going on. At ProBasketball Talk, Kurt Helin had a logical take, basically saying that there should be no expectation a deal gets done when neither Howard nor Bynum have (seemingly) changed their stances about re-signing with LA/Orlando should a trade happen. I tend to agree with this. It’s worth having the talks because you always try to make a move that improves your team, but expecting something to happen at this point is optimistic.
  • One thing I also wonder here is if there’s a point of no return with the Lakers and these Andrew Bynum trade talks. This is the longest he’s ever had his name floated in what seem to be legitimate trade rumors. For years his name was out there, but those reports were quickly shot down from the Lakers side (be it Jason Kidd, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, or anyone else you can think of). However, this time, these reports seem to have legs and Bynum certainly seems available in a deal for Howard. Whether this is really something to worry about isn’t something I have any inside information on. However, I wonder if there’s a stop point where the Lakers simply call off their discussions with the Magic and make nice with the all-star Center they have in house. You can only window shop so often before you either have to make a purchase or go home and keep with your same wardrobe. I wonder when the Lakers are going to make that call. Remember, Bynum is a FA after next season as well and if nothing happens with Howard, the Lakers will surely want Bynum back for the long haul. If these talks go on for too much longer, does a long term commitment from Bynum get put in jeopardy? These are questions that need to be asked.

Darius Soriano

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