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We have discussed at length the Lakers looking to use the mechanics of the collective bargaining agreement to their advantage to keep cap space open. The key to holding that space open is Tarik Black and the difference between his cap hold and the contract the Lakers have agreed to with him, but the deals for Marcelo Huertas and Brandon Ingram also play a role in this.

With Ingram, though, the difference actually isn’t all that much. His cap hold, dictated by the collectively bargained and already established salary slotted to the the #2 overall pick is roughly $4.4 million for this upcoming season. Rookie 1st rounders can sign for anywhere between 80% – 120% of that amount with most picks getting 120% based on historical standard.

The difference between his cap hold and the 120% standard is roughly $820K. Not a small sum of cash in real world standards and certainly enough where it could be meaningful in any sort of deal which the team wants to leverage its cap space, but it’s also not a huge enough where it is likely to make a big difference.

Ingram, though, isn’t the only 1st round pick who is unsigned. He is, in fact, one of three:

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Moving on from Kobe Bryant is both difficult and exciting. For the first time in 20 years the Lakers will not have him in the lineup and that changes the calculus of how you build a roster, deploy lineups, and even talk about what to expect out of the season.

I, for one, will miss Kobe but will also look forward to the next chapter in Lakers’ basketball. We have already gotten a glimpse of what that will look like this past summer, but the real journey begins in earnest this fall.

Until then, though, I will happily take in some flashes of glory from Kobe’s final season. And thanks to @DawkinsMTA we get a taste of some Kobe’s best plays from his 20th and final campaign:

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About a month after Kobe Bryant’s last game and in the wake of the Lakers hiring Luke Walton as their head coach, Mitch Kupchak spoke about the hire, the direction of the team, what his expectations were for the upcoming season. It was, for me at least, a refreshing five minutes where Kupchak acknowledged his goals for this season were to play a fun brand of basketball and to see incremental improvement from his young players.

Of course, since that time a lot has happened to affect the outlook of the team.

In the two months since that interview to today, the Lakers found out they would keep their draft pick. They then selected Brandon Ingram #2 overall and Ivica Zubac — who ranked 16th on their draft board — fell to them in the 2nd round. They signed Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov as outside free agents and re-upped Jordan Clarkson, Tarik Black, and Marcelo Huertas. They also traded for Jose Calderon.

They really do have a new team now. So have expectations changed? If you listen to Luke Walton tell it, not really.  Continue Reading…

The Lakers find themselves in an interesting dilemma. Just three years ago, they as long-term asset poor as a team could be. They had shipped out potential draft picks in an attempt to build a superstar team then saw those would be franchise anchors either break down or walk away for no return. Their future outlook was as dour as any other in the league outside of the Nets.

Fast forward to today and things are markedly different. In consecutive drafts the team has drafted the following list of players:

  • 2014: Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson
  • 2015: D’Angelo Russell, Larry Nance, Jr., Anthony Brown
  • 2016: Brandon Ingram, Ivica Zubac

It’s not yet known how good any of these players will end up being. But if the glimpses we have seen of them is any indication (even if only from summer league), a strong percentage of them (upwards of 6) look to at least be rotation players down the line. Some of them have star potential and three just completed their 1st training camp as part of the Team USA pipeline as members of the Select Team.

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If you look at some of the raw numbers, Lou Williams played well last year. He had a PER of 17.7. He hit 34.4% of his 3 pointers and got to the foul line a ton. As a key rotation player who split time as a starter and reserve, Williams was the team’s 3rd leading scorer, was their 2nd best shooter based on true shooting percentage. Ultimately, he played exactly how one would expect Lou Williams to play. For the $7 million the Lakers paid him, I’d say he represented decent value.

All of the above is not all there is to consider with Williams, however. He does not play good defense. He has a tendency to highjack possessions, dribbling a lot and either looking for his own shot or looking to draw a foul. He had the third highest usage rate on the team and played more point guard than I imagined he would when he was first signed.

Don’t get me wrong, these are all things you can live with. In fact, when you have Williams on your team, these are the things you will have to live with. They are hallmarks of his game. Normally the trade off between what he brings offensively and how he goes about providing those things tilts enough in his favor where he can be viewed as a net positive. Last year that was mostly the case, though I know fans would have preferred to have seen some of his minutes go to D’Angelo Russell or Jordan Clarkson. That’s a coaching decision, however, and not the player’s.

Which brings us to this season. The Lakers have a new coach. They are expecting — or at least they should be — for D’Angelo Russell to make a big leap forward in his 2nd season. They also just signed Jordan Clarkson to a 4 year/$50 million contract. And then, of course, they drafted Brandon Ingram, signed Luol Deng in free agency, traded for Jose Calderon, and re-upped Marcelo Huertas. Suddenly, the backcourt and wing are much more crowded than they were when the season ended and Kobe Bryant retired.

This begs the question — where does Lou Williams fit? Honestly, I am having a hard time answering this question.

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Because I am a basketball nerd, one of the things which most interests me about the free agency period is how team execute their signings in order to maximize their cap space and get the most bang for their buck when building their team. Because of all the exceptions, triggers, and rules surrounding the execution of contracts, one of the things teams do is organize the order of how they execute the deals they agree to with players in order to ensure they operate within the confines of the collective bargaining agreement.

What does this have to do with the Lakers? Well, if you’ve been paying attention to the press releases, the Lakers haven’t actually executed all the deals they have reportedly agreed to this summer. Oh, you’ve seen the pictures of Luol Deng, Timofey Mozgov, and Jordan Clarkson signing their deals. They have even formally announced the acquisition of Jose Calderon via trade.

Other deals, however, have remain unannounced. And that’s because they technically have not yet been signed. I’ll let Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders explain:

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Summer league was successful in accomplishing a few things. One was showing off the Lakers’ young talent and how the returning young guys had improved while giving us a first glimpse at the skill of the newly drafted kids. A second was allowing us to somewhat forget about Julius Randle.

I know. I know. This is an exaggeration. No one really forgot about Randle.

But I do believe there has been a bit of “out of sight, out of mind” going on with Julius. After all, we got to see Larry Nance, Jr. play really well before his hand injury. Nance flashed an improved jumper, an emerging “grab and go” game off the defensive glass, and a sharpening of his already strong defense. Nance’s development was happening in front of our eyes while Julius’ was going on in private workouts.

That is no longer the case, though. Randle has joined the Team USA training camp as part of the Select Team. He’s practicing, going through drills, and scrimmaging. He’s out there for everyone to see and is looking like an improved player. Or, at least he is in the short glimpses the public has been exposed to. For example, here he is working in one-on-one drills:

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The Lakers famously spent a boatload of cash this past summer on free agents Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng. I have spilled countless words on those signings so I will not revisit the merits or drawbacks of either contract now. That said, one of the real consequences of those deals was how it impacted salary cap space for next season. 

It was always assumed that if the Lakers were unable to secure commitments from top flight FA’s this July, they would simply roll over a large chunk of space, combine it with the cap jump scheduled for next summer, and try to ink two top-tiered free agents in the summer of 2017. The Mozgov and Deng deals ended those assumptions with large cash commitments. Add in the guaranteed deals of their young core and Lou Williams’ (not to mention Nick Young’s) contract and the Lakers might be close to not even affording a single max contract slot.

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