Summer league is officially over for the Lakers. The group of players sent to Vegas competed hard and well, flashing their skill sets and, for a select few, were able to show off skill sets that will likely earn them invites to training camp in a couple of months.
The names that stood out most should be familiar by now, but I’ll repeat them anyway:
- Marcus Landry. Landry is a combo forward who showed off a nice offensive skill set that includes range on his jumper and effective work off the dribble. He also competed well defensively, both on the wing and in the paint.
- Elias Harris. Harris is rangy power forward who has a good combination of skills offensively with good enough athleticism to compete defensively and on the glass. He was a nice “glue” player for the team and was able to do a lot of the little things that helped the team win games, even if his individual numbers didn’t stand out.
- Chris Douglas Roberts. Everyone knows that CDR can score well so it was nice to see him expand his game to include playmaking for others. He showed a willingness to attack off the dribble and, after drawing extra defenders, make good decisions to hit teammates with passes for open shots. He also defended well on the wing, a trait that he’ll need to show more of to make it in the NBA.
- Robert Sacre. Sacre will never be an above the rim player or one who can use quickness to explode into space and be an athletic presence in the paint. That said, his smarts and understanding of positioning and angles give him a polish on both sides of the ball that stood out in Las Vegas. If he can start to hit his jumper with more consistency, he can be a rotation player in the league simply due to his combination of size, smarts, and emerging skill.
- Lester Hudson. Hudson displayed a good offensive game and solid floor general skills. He didn’t always make the best decisions, but he played hard on both ends and proved that he could score and distribute on one end and pressure the ball and fight through screens on the other. Hudson is a smaller guard who doesn’t quite fit into what the Lakers still need on their roster at this point, but I liked what I saw from him overall.
Of the above players, I could see all of them but Hudson earning an invite to camp (with Sacre a definite since he’s signed for the next two seasons). It’s not that Hudson didn’t play well enough, but the Lakers already have three point guards on the roster and from a pure numbers standpoint he’d likely be better off trying to catch on with another team.
Who gains an invite to camp is pretty important because, though the Lakers have already made several signings, they are not yet a complete team. As of today, the Lakers have 11 players under contract for next season. Once rookie power forward Ryan Kelly is signed, he will make 12. The minimum roster amount is 13 and teams can carry up to 15 players. Typically the Lakers have preferred to have at least one open roster spot for flexibility purposes, so that likely leaves two open spots the team still needs to fill.
Who those players will be is an question that’s a long way from answering. The players above will get looks, there are still free agents on the market who could be signed (Lamar Odom’s name continues to float in the wind), and there’s players who did not play on the Lakers’ summer team who will earn camp invites (Shawne Williams is reportedly one such player). But even if we don’t yet know who the players will be, we do have an idea about what skills the team still lacks and the types of players who would best fill those gaps.
Here is an example of a potential depth chart:
|Position||1st string||2nd string||3rd string|
|PG||Steve Nash||Steve Blake||Jordan Farmar|
|SG||Kobe Bryant||Jodie Meeks|
|SF||Nick Young||Wesley Johnson|
|PF||Jordan Hill||Ryan Kelly|
|C||Pau Gasol||Chris Kaman||Robert Sacre|
You can quibble with whether or not Blake or Farmar will back up Nash, and if Hill will really start at PF or if the team will start both Pau and Kaman together. We’ll get answers to those questions eventually. But, as of today, above is what the Lakers have in mind with the moves they’ve made this summer and in getting everyone back healthy.
What that depth chart shows is that the Lakers are still a bit thin on the wing and at the PF spot. Sure, Blake could (and probably will) play some shooting guard. And Pau can always play some power forward next to Kaman (or even Sacre if it comes to that). But, even with that versatility on hand, the Lakers could still use another wing who can play SF and another big man who can player PF.
If the players brought in to fill those spots can play multiple positions, even better, but that’s not a requirement since the team already has a fair amount of versatility already. But, ultimately, the team needs another big man who can play ahead of Ryan Kelly and another wing to hedge the bet they’ve made on Wesley Johnson. Guys from the summer team — CDR, Harris, Landry — can fill those holes, as can guys currently on the street — Odom and Williams. But the fact is, the Lakers still need to sign at least one player and probably two if only to get enough depth on the team at every position to field a complete roster.
There’s still time for this stuff to play out and over the next month or so we’ll have more insight into what the Lakers plan to do. But from where we stand now, there’s still a bit of work to do even though the front office has already done a good job of signing capable players in free agency.