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So, it’s Kobe’s birthday. He’s 39 years young today and to celebrate the NBA posted this tremendous video of Kobe’s top play against every team he ever faced. What’s a nice touch is that we actually get multiple plays against some franchises who have moved or re-branded. So we get the Charlotte Hornets and the Bobcats, the Vancouver and Memphis Grizzlies, etc.

This thing is 11 minutes of pure fun. Seriously, sit back and enjoy.

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So, here’s what we know. The Pacers have asked the NBA to investigate the Lakers for tampering. This is related to Paul George who, after relaying to the Pacers front office that he intended to exercise his FA rights next summer and that his preferred destination would be the Lakers, was traded by the Pacers to the Thunder. So, Paul George is no longer a Pacer and is not (yet, at least) a Laker, but now the latter is being investigated because the former asked the league to do so.

Both the NBA and the Lakers have issued statements on this matter, but the can be summarized as such: The NBA says the Pacers asked them to do this, an independent law firm is handling the investigation, and no wrongdoing has yet been found; The Lakers are saying they’re cooperating, but cannot comment further on an ongoing investigation, and hope their name will be cleared soon.

So, that’s that, right?

Well, not so fast.

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With training camp a little over a month away, the Lakers are starting to fill out their roster with players they’d like to see more of over the course of camp and preseason. The team had already signed Vander Blue to a make good contract, giving him a $50K guarantee to come to camp and try to make the team. I don’t think Blue’s chances are great to do that, but he showed some flashes in Vegas and I’m happy for him to get this chance.

The team also has already inked Alex Caruso to a two-way contract. So he’s automatically at camp and, in theory, not competing for a roster spot. Caruso will get some time with the big team, I’m sure, but will spend most of his season with the SBL in the G-League, running the system and being used as insurance should the Lakers need an extra body in practice or on the bench for potential game minutes.

With Blue and Caruso, the Lakers had 16 players under contract for camp. They are allowed 20. So, more were coming. And, now, more are here:

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It’s been a minute since our last podcast, so Pete and I had a little ground to cover. In our latest, we talk some of the roster moves in the last couple of weeks — specifically wondering if Tyler Ennis is really going to be the backup PG and if Vander Blue can make the final roster.

We also get into whether Lonzo can truly be a culture changer on the floor, or if he might experience some culture clash with some veterans who’s style of play to this point might not jibe as much with how Lonzo will try to play. We specifically talk Randle, Clarkson, and Lopez and how used they are to being ball dominant players.

Lastly, we get into Kyle Kuzma and whether he should get minutes at SF considering the glut of guys who will need to see minutes at PF while also understanding how shallow the team is on the wing behind Ingram. It’s a good discussion and it was good to be back talking Lakers basketball with Pete.

Click through to give the entire show a listen.

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He is a power forward who does not shoot threes (not yet, at least). He’s not especially long and is not a classic “big” defender who patrols the back line as a paint protector. He is a power player who loves his face up game. A player who, though very much left hand dominant, loves to drive hard to his right hand on initial moves. He is 6’9″ 250 pounds of down-hill, runaway train who does his best work in the open court.

In other words, Julius Randle’s game is not what you would expect. Not from a “modern” NBA power forward. Not in general. He’s unconventional in most every preconceived notion of style and game for today’s NBA at the PF position. And I love him for it. Give me Tasmanian Randle in the bunker next to me any day and let’s go to battle.

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Near and at the end of the season, the Lakers lost several front office staffers to either resignation or by letting them go outright. Strength and Conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco and Assistant GM Glenn Carraro both resigned while Analytics Director Yuju Lee was outright let go. We learned that these moves were part of a larger front office reorganization, one that would restructure the scouting department as well.

A name that did not get a lot of press during the overhaul and shakeup was Rondre Jackson, the team’s Director of Player Development. From the team’s media guide:

Rondre Jackson begins his 10th year with the Lakers franchise and second as director of player development. He is primarily responsible for assisting General Manager Mitch Kupchak in the day-to-day operations of the team with a focus on the personal growth of the players on the roster, providing resources and assisting in the development of life skills off-the-court and outside of basketball. Jackson serves on the NBA’s Steering Committee for player development, and won the Dana Davis Award for best player development work in the NBA for the 2015-16 season.

So, that’s what Jackson did. And, based on him being recognized by the league for his work just a year prior, he was pretty good at his job. And he was let go at the end of the year.

Now, it seems, the Lakers are in the process of finding his replacement.

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We are roughly a month and a half from training camps opening and a 10+ weeks until the dawn of the regular season. A lot can change between now and then. Free agency (or what’s left of it at this point), trades, and injuries all can shape the trajectory of a team between now and mid-October.

We all understand this. Still, though, it’s always interesting to me to know what forecasting models and group-think projections say about how good or bad teams will be next season. I have participated in large sample group projections in the past for ESPN. I was part of the early iterations of the NBA Rank project (I stopped after the first two years) and I have offered win projections as part of their summer forecast series that has outperformed Vegas bookmakers.

This isn’t to pat anyone on the back. My point is to say that there is value in what these projections say, even if they’re not always right. And, to be clear, they’re not always right.

So, in saying all that, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton has released a stats only win projection for every team in the league for the 2017-18 season. It’s under ESPN’s Insider umbrella, so it is paid content. You can read the entire thing here, if you have a subscription. I do. So I read it. This article is actually free. So, better for you!

Before we get into the Lakers, piece, though, here’s Pelton explaining the model:

As in past seasons, I’ve put together projected playing time based on a formula that estimates games missed by taking into account the number missed over the past three seasons (adjusted for any offseason injuries/suspensions) and my own guesses at how rotations will shake out.

Most veteran players are rated using the multiyear, predictive version of RPM, adjusted for the typical aging curve. Newcomers to the league and players who played too little for an RPM rating are rated using their projected offensive and defensive ratings from my SCHOENE projection system, which incorporates translated performance in the NCAA and professional leagues besides the NBA.

For those who are not aware, RPM prefers to ESPN’s metric of Real Plus Minus — a sort of “all in one” stat which balances player production against the players he shares the court with (both teammates and opponents). It is supposed to wade through some of the noise which comes from various lineup configurations, strength/weakness of teammates and/or opponents, etc.

The top of the RPM metric often mirrors what most observers would say are the best players in the league. It also rates other players higher or lower than counting stats or the eye test might presume they should. You’ll find varying opinions on how good a metric RPM is. I have no hard opinion on RPM, but thought I should at least give a snapshot.

Now, to the Lakers.

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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):

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