The Lakers first summer league game yielded a 70-62 defeat to the Cavs, but offered a few good performances to build on. Today, they hit the floor for their second game, this time facing a game Portland Trailblazer team who brings some good talent to Las Vegas.
Last season’s rookie of the year Damian Lillard may not be playing, but the Blazers’ other first round pick Meyers Leonard is and he brings with him this year’s 1st round selection C.J. McCollum, a dynamic scorer who can create his own shot very well. Joining those two are 2nd year pros Thomas Robinson (the #5 pick in last year’s draft), Will Barton, Joel Freeland, and Victor Claver as well as rookie Allen Crabbe. This is one of the more stacked summer league teams you’ll find and you should not be surprised if they outclass a Lakers team that isn’t sporting the same type of talented players with first round pedigrees.
That said, the Lakers will go out and compete as they did against the Cavs and the hope is that they can continue to play hard, share the ball, and grasp what the coaches are tying to drill into them. Here are a few things to watch for:
*Can Marcus Landry put in another good game? Landry possesses a solid skill set for a wing player and flashed his ability to knock down the outside shot. The latter is a skill the Lakers can always use more of and if he can continue to knock down jumpers he could easily get an invite to camp even though the Lakers have signed Nick Young and Wes Johnson in free agency.
*Can Sacre continue to hit the mid-range jumper? One of the most important skills a big man in Mike D’Antoni’s system can have is the ability to hit a 15 foot jumper. Having this shot in your arsenal makes you a dual threat in the P&R where you can pop out after screens and still be a threat as well as dive hard to the rim as a threat to score in the paint. Sacre showed last year that he has the ability to dive hard to the cup and at least threaten the defense. But without a viable jumper, teams only have to account for him one way and that limits his utility. Having a mid-range jumper also helps in the HORNS actions the team likes to run, since the big men camp out at the elbow area when those sets are initiated. Knocking down that shot with relative consistency makes you a threat to score that defenses must respect as the screen actions on the weak side take place. I don’t expect Sacre to beat out Kaman for minutes next year, but if he can continue to grow as an offensive threat he can at least challenge for minutes.
*Speaking of HORNS, the Lakers ran this action a lot on Friday and got some good looks out of those sets. These are actions many teams run in the summer because they’re relatively easy to learn and incorporate motion into the half court offense rather than promoting the type of isolation plays that can so easily develop in this environment. That said, the Lakers ran a lot of HORNS during the regular season last year and running those same sets now can help players’ learning curves if they do get a camp invite. So, be on the lookout for players who look most comfortable in these sets, especially the big men who operate as passers, shooters, and screeners from the elbows.
*Chris Douglass-Roberts watch, day 2. CDR had some moments on Friday but mostly moved the ball rather than attacking. It’s clear the coaches are stressing ball movement and I can appreciate everyone doing their part to buy into the game plan. I also think, for a guy that can score as easily as CDR, it’s not that important that he try to consistently get his own in this environment. That said, a few more attacking moves from would be nice and some assertiveness in looking for his own shot when open on the wing would be appreciated.