What Should the Lakers do with their 15th Roster Spot?

Darius Soriano —  August 2, 2017

Welcome to the worst part of the circle of life for an NBA season. August. The dead zone. These truly are the dog days of summer.

Free agency, for all intents and purposes, is over. While there are some high profile restricted free agents still out there (*waves at Nerlens Noel*), most teams have filled their rosters. Teams are starting to use some of their 2-way contracts to snag players who have big team potential but G-League ability, but even these contracts are rare as teams still need to dole out their training camp invites.

Which leads me back to the Lakers. Here is their current depth chart (simplified for guards, forwards, and centers — note, Alex Caruso and his two-way contract is not included here):

Guards: Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Jordan Clarkson, Tyler Ennis, Josh Hart, Vander Blue
Forwards: Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr., Luol Deng, Kyle Kuzma, Corey Brewer
Centers: Brook Lopez, Ivica Zubac, Thomas Bryant

The additions of Ennis, Bryant, and Blue have brought the Lakers roster up to 15 players — even if these guys are in very different situations. Ennis will play, he’s the backup point guard. Bryant will likely spend a lot of time with the South Bay Lakers (SBL) to get minutes there, getting squeezed out of minutes by more senior players. Blue’s deal is only guaranteed for $50K, making him a prime candidate to be cut by the end of camp and end up on the SBL as either a 2-way contract player or just a regular G-League contract.

By the time camp starts, though, I expect the roster to jump to 20 players. 14 of those (everyone above, minus Blue) basically already being guaranteed a roster spot. The question is, then, will the Lakers actually keep any of those guys (and this includes Blue) on the actual roster, bringing them to the maximum 15 players?

Before we say what we think the team should (will?) do, let’s lay out the scenarios:

1. The team brings 5 more guys to camp, but at the end decides to not keep any of them for the main roster. This would allow the team to remain roster flexibility to add players in a variety of ways over the course of the season. Maybe someone gets waived at the end of camp by another team that the Lakers want to take a chance on. Maybe the team wants to make a 1-for-2 or a 3-for-2 type of trade where they fill that extra roster spot. Maybe they make a G-League call up. Or maybe, later in the year, someone is bought out and the Lakers want to add him. Having that extra spot can be useful.

2. The Lakers add a player who impresses at camp, but sign him to a non-guaranteed deal which doesn’t guarantee until later in the season. This gives the Lakers time to invest in someone who looks to have promise, but gives them the flexibility to still waive them outright, (likely) before the trade deadline in February. And, if the team likes a player enough, they could guarantee his deal for the full season and sacrifice some of that flexibility noted above for the value added by a guy who is proving to them his value every day in practices, the film and locker room, etc.

3. The Lakers sign a player outright from their camp roster, bringing their roster total to 15. They could still waive this player (or any player, really) if they needed the space to do so and all it would cost them is the money they pay out when cutting the player.

Of these three options, the third is the least likely. There’s just little reason to go this route with options one and two on the table.

I’d argue, then, that the Lakers would likely go with the second option over the first. This is what they did last year (Thomas Robinson made the team out of camp and they ended up keeping him all year) and it worked out well enough. Magic and Rob aren’t Jim and Mitch, but the roster numbers at the end of the bench can be more malleable and they should understand this well. If a guy is good enough to make your team, get him on board and then deal with the potential if finding someone better to replace him as time goes on.

If someone does materialize, you have the flexibility through a non-guaranteed deal to make that type of swap. Same goes for a trade materializing. There’s just little upside of adding more players who you think can A). play for your team in a pinch or B). add enough value in other ways to keep around for a while — or the entire season if that’s what ends up happening.


Darius Soriano

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to What Should the Lakers do with their 15th Roster Spot?

  1. Question Darius – if one is already signed to a 2-Way Contract like Alex Caruso, then their future is decided and they would not come to training camp?

    On another issue, what is up with Deron Williams and would he be a good mentor for Lonzo?

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    • I don’t believe the Lakers will look at another PG now that Ennis is signed. As for Caruso, that’s a good question and I do not have an answer for that. Since he’s on a two-way deal, though, I actually think he might be at camp to get more reps at that level.

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  2. Dog Days of Summer????

    I’d say you KNOW its the Dog Days when BSPN’s lead story is about Darko Milicic’s and his burgeoning green thumb as a Serbian Apple farmer…………………..

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  3. A Horse With No Name August 2, 2017 at 5:28 pm

    Clay: It’s time to read a book(s). This is the time of year for this ancient practice. To whit, a couple of suggestions:

    http://www.nationalbook.org/nba2016winner_f_whitehead-underground-railroad.html#.WYJq7YTyupo

    https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/19/books/review/barbarian-days-a-surfing-life-by-william-finnegan.html

    The first book deals with an imagined underground railroad, one that chronicles the terrible history of slavery in this country that still informs our culture in so many unfortunate ways. The second is the greatest book about surfing ever written in my opinion. You do not have to surf to love it. It’s great autobiographical writing. Both books are highly acclaimed. Check ’em out. I welcome suggestions!

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    • @horse – Yes, not much happening in bball land. Not to muck up Darius’ blog with other topics, but thanks for the tips. Enjoyed the first, haven’t read the 2nd but will do. Two tips: “Rogue Heroes” about the formation of the SAS in WWII. And “The Swerve” about… well, sort of about classical literature but a lot more. Oh and Trevor Noah’s bio is well worth a read if you haven’t had a chance.

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    • Books??? What are those???? A new APP?????? ; )

      Thanks for the recommends Horse. My friend has read Barbarian Days on a Surf Trip to Indo. I’ll try to grab it. Both look like interesting reads.

      I’m currently reading a book called SHANTARAM by Gregory David Roberts an Aussie. Its educated fiction flavored with the author’s knowledge and passion for India particularly Mumbai (Bombay). I’ve always been intrigued by India and wanted to go there. I’m enjoying the book so far about 10% into it.

      When you can’t travel as much as you’d like to, travel writings are a nice escape.

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      • A Horse With No Name August 3, 2017 at 9:28 pm

        Sounds interesting, Clay. I’ll read up on it. My son traveled to India a few years ago and loved it. Hope you get to go sometime.

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  4. Rob Pelinka should take a break in Europe and Asia, have fun and establish scouting for young shooters who can blend with Lonzo. Clippers got Milosovic, one of the best in Europe five years ago. I think BL, KCP, LD and JD are not affordable if James and George hook up with the Lakers. Prepare for ’18 roster when they’d need role players that will fit within the cap and avoid luxury taxes.

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    • Brewer, Lopez, and KCP are on expiring deals. They’re gone. Expect also to be gone are JC and Deng via trade. That would open up the money for James and George. With them on board you’d have

      Ball, George, Ingram, James, Randle (if re-signed)
      Hart, Kuzma, Nance, Zubac (if not waived, non-guaranteed), Ennis (same as Zubac)

      For Randle to work out, the Lakers would have to work out and agree to parameters on a deal with Randle with the agreement as well to not sign a deal until the cap space beyond his cap hold of $12.4 million is used (unless he signs a contract with a starting salary less than this, not likely). Once all the cap space beyond his hold is used up, they can then sign him to his deal using his bird rights to go over the cap. It’ll be interesting to see how this lineup works out if both James and PG are brought in with Ingram, and also shifting Randle to the C spot since LeBron would likely take the PF position. I anticipate either Ingram or PG will play the SG spot and the other the SF spot. Style of play, PG makes sense at the SG spot, but for matchup and size purposes, Ingram will likely slot at the 2 instead.

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