Welcome to a new series at FB&G where we will take one player on the Lakers’ roster and discuss one specific skill they possess. Sometimes it will be something very subtle, others it will be more straight forward. We’ll try to shed some light on how this skill can help the team in the coming season. First up in our series (or, second up, if you count Roy Hibbert’s boxing out) is Jordan Clarkson and his mid-range jumpshot. Enjoy.

The NBA is an ever changing game. Go watch tape of the 1980’s or early 1990’s and compare it to the version of the game you see today. The game of my youth only bares a slight resemblance to the version played today.

Efficiency is the buzzword of the 2010’s, with teams striving for offensive possessions to end with a shot at the rim, a three point attempt, or a free throw. These are the shots that optimize offensive output so they are the shots sought after.

But every shot cannot come from those places. The NBA halfcourt is 2,350 square feet and the offenses which can threaten defenses from the most amount of that space are going to find themselves the most difficult to defend. And while more and more teams cut out the mid-range shot from their arsenal, the players who can thrive in this area can not only exploit defenses by making the shots opponents are most willing to cede, but they can open up opportunities for their teammates.

Jordan Clarkson is one such player. Here is a simplified shot chart for Clarkson from the games after the all-star break (when he became a key part of the rotation):

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Lakers’ fans have legitimate reasons to be excited this season. Whether it’s the prospect of watching a healthy Kobe, finally getting Julius Randle back, seeing if Jordan Clarkson can make another leap in his growth, or watching D’Angelo Russell develop there’s a newness and fresh feeling heading into this campaign. And because the last few seasons have been such horror shows, the light at the end of this particular tunnel seems even brighter.

The sense of optimism really is palpable. The fans are ready for this team to take a step forward and the players, coaches, and front office seem to all believe they will do just that. Remember, it’s not just the players mentioned above, it’s the additions of veterans Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams, and Brandon Bass who add to this feeling the team can improve by a fair amount. This group, more than the last few season’s outfits, feels like a team. Yes there’s redundancy and there are depth questions at a couple of positions, but overall, you’d be hard pressed to find any fan who doesn’t feel better about this team than the one last year or the year prior.

Include me in that bunch, too.

Now is where I remove the blanket from the puddle of water on the floor and place it right on your shoulders. If you polled experts, the Lakers are still slotted to be one of the worst teams in the league. When stating this team will be better than last year, they agree it will be — just not by very much. And when the bar to clear is as low as a 21 win dumpster fire, improvement is a relative term. Especially when placing it in the context of the rest of the league.

While I do not know if the #ESPNForecast prediction of 26 wins will be accurate, I do have my own concerns about issues that could plague this team. Even if I forget for a moment my long held concerns with the head coach, there are several issues I’ve been mulling over that I cannot seem to escape as being issues worth diving deeper into.

And since I love bullet points, here we go…

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To call the time between August-September a hotbed of NBA news would be a gross understatement (things like this are making headlines). Nevertheless, the Lakers continue to make minor roster additions as training camp nears and their most recent acquisition is 32-year old Brazlian point guard Marcelo Huertas. Darius covered the Huertas signing here, but as we did with the signings of Holmes and Fraizer, we offer a bit of background on the newest Laker. The following excerpt is from a July piece by Kirk Henderson of Mavs Moneyball:

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A favorite refrain from Jalen Rose is how positions were added to the analysis of basketball to help the more casual fan understand where certain players belong on the court. It’s an interesting premise that might hold water if plays weren’t designed around players fitting roles based on their skill sets and size (you know, positions). There has, however, been a move toward positionless basketball – a more free-flowing, offensive predicated on versatility and individual skill.

Granted, “free-flowing” is not what you think of when Byron Scott’s crossed arms pop up in your head, but the Lakers do have the pieces – especially in their starting five – to make this work, at least for stretches.

The first player most point to when they think of positionless basketball is LeBron James, which makes sense as he should be the guy anyone thinks of first in terms of any style of basketball. He’s really, really good. When considered in this scenario, though, it’s because of his versatility. He’s a Ferrari in a semi’s body, Karl Malone, but as a point guard. Being so athletically dominant and so skilled makes any offense built around him otherworldly.

While the Lakers may not have LeBron on their team, they do have plenty of guys who are more than capable of playing a few positions or stretching the boundaries of what their position typically demands.

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The Lakers didn’t have the type splashy signing off-season they hoped to have in the lead up to the July 1st opening of free agency, but they recovered nicely in building a roster that addressed many of their needs. In signing a quality group of veterans — including, reportedly, international point guard Marcelo Huertas — and flanking them with a crop of young players eager to make inroads as contributing players, the Lakers have taken a step towards becoming more competitive.

Before that competition begins against other NBA teams, though, there will be a lot of competition just to sort out who the final players on the roster will be. I touched on this briefly on twitter, but as of today, if including Huertas, the Lakers have 17 players on their roster heading into camp. Of those 17, 13 have fully guaranteed contracts (this would include Huertas). Of the four remaining players, two have partial guarantees (Jonathan Holmes and Michael Frazier) and two have non-guaranteed deals (Tarik Black and Jabari Brown).

For the sake of argument, let’s also include Robert Upshaw as a player who will end up getting an invite to Lakers’ camp. Let’s also assume he’ll get a partial guaranteed deal, similar to the ones Holmes and Frazier recently signed. Heading into camp, then, the Lakers would have 18 players (and maybe more) competing for, at most, 15 roster spots.

While it’s fair to assume the Lakers would probably keep all the guaranteed guys on their roster, that’s not a foregone conclusion. While Ryan Kelly and Robert Sacre are both well regarded by the Lakers and have team friendly deals, neither should be considered “locks” to make the final team. I’m not saying they would be cut (that seems unlikely to me), but it’s very possible both could be looked at as possible pieces to trade away should a deal bring back a better prospect or generate flexibility.

In other words, expect there to be as many as seven players — Sacre, Kelly, Black, Brown, Frazier, Holmes, and Upshaw — to be competing for the final three to four roster spots. What gives this competition even more interesting is that those seven players represent exact position battles between an incumbent (or two) and a guy who, theoretically, is fighting to fill that same role for this team:

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With about a month left until the start of training camp, the Lakers continue to add talent to their roster. The most recent addition, according to Adrian Wojnarowski, is Brazilian Point Guard Marcelo Huertas:

Free-agent guard Marcelo Huertas – one of the Euroleague’s most accomplished playmakers – has agreed to a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Huertas also provides some background as how he believes he can be successful in the NBA:

“There’s so much more space in the NBA,” Huertas told Yahoo Sports in April. “It’s not like Europe now, where you have one guy full-time in the paint. Space is harder to come by. One of my strengths is playing in the pick-and-roll, finding open guys and making shots in the mid-range game off the dribble.

“I think that part is harder to find now, because you mostly have guys who get all the way to the hole, or they’re three-point shooters. And if I’m open, and I can get my feet set, I’m going to make a lot of those kind of shots.”

Huertas believes he can make a difference in the locker room, too, by mentoring young players and meshing with veterans. For the Lakers, Huertas could give them an ideal partner as Russell is groomed to become the franchise’s cornerstone.

“If you look at NBA rosters, there are unbelievable starting point guards, but maybe not as many guys who can come off the bench able to run the team, score the ball, as well as being able to be a leader for young players,” Huertas said. “Those are things I know I’ll be able to bring with me.”

Mitch Kupchak and Byron Scott have both mentioned their want for another point guard — preferably a veteran — on the team and it seems they have found him.

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We are deep into the doldrums of the NBA Summer. We’re a month past summer league and have a month to go until training camps open. This part of the year is the off-season version of a mid-Wednesday night game in the beginning of March. What better time, then, for a nice big list of rankings for NBA players?

Sports Illustrated has obliged us fans and kicked off their annual Top 100 for the upcoming season. You can find their list of players 100-51 here.

Anytime this list (or one like it) is released, Lakers’ fans look for one name: Kobe Bryant. Many do this just to see how upset they can get — I mean, Kobe might do this too — as they find the right amount of outrage in response to where the pundits have placed him in contrast to his peers.

Well, this year, Kobe has come in slotted in spot #54. Here, Ben Golliver, explains the ranking:

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The Lakers currently have 16 players under contract, but will look at to add anywhere from two to four more players to their roster for training camp. Among the players they have shown interest in is former Kings Forward Eric Moreland. From Shams Charania of Real GM:

Free agent Eric Moreland has multiple deals to compete for a roster spot in NBA training camp, with the Detroit Pistons as frontrunners, league sources told RealGM. The Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings are strong under consideration for Moreland, sources said, and their front offices expect the 6-foot-10 forward to settle upon a destination once the final offers are presented. The Kings waived Moreland on July 29 before his contract guarantee date for the 2015-16 season.

After having a good summer league with the Kings (6.4 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 20 minutes a game), Moreland is looking to catch on and find a more permanent role with a team. That said, any contract and camp invite from the Lakers isn’t likely to bring that security.

The Lakers are already very deep at PF with no fewer than 5 players who could draw consideration for minutes at that spot. There might be more flexibility if Moreland could play C, but with a listed weight of 218 pounds, that’s an unlikely solution.

Ultimately, then, I’d not expect Moreland to stick even if he did choose the Lakers. There are simply too many players he’d need to unseat to earn a regular season roster spot, nearly all of them players the team has already invested in. He would likely just be camp fodder who could compete with the other Lakers’ bigs in practice and provide an extra body as insurance should injury occur or if a player needs a day off for rest.

Whether that situation is enough to entice him would likely depend on how he and his agent view the opportunities with the Kings and the Pistons. Detroit currently has more guaranteed contracts than roster spots and will need to make cuts to get down to the maximum roster size. The Kings offer familiarity, but also just drafted Willie Cauley-Stein and added Kosta Koufos and Quincy Acy in free agency.

Whichever team Moreland chooses, then, offers an uphill climb to a roster spot. We’ll see if the Lakers end up being that team.