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We have officially hit a lull in the roster construction portion of the off-season. The Lakers had an eventful stretch from late June through the first week of July, adding players who will be key contributors to next year’s team.

For summary purposes, let’s run down the transactions:

  • Drafted Brandon Ingram
  • Drafted Ivica Zubac
  • Signed Timofey Mozgov in Free Agency
  • Signed Luol Deng in Free Agency
  • Re-signed Jordan Clarkson
  • Traded for Jose Calderon
  • Re-signed Tarik Black
  • Re-signed Marcelo Huertas

While not all of the contracts associated with these deals are officially signed (we’ll discuss this more in a bit), all of these agreements have been reported by credible sources. Add the players listed above with those who were already under contract and the Lakers have commitments to 14 players.

The question is, are they done?

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I have long assumed Young will not be on the opening night roster. This idea has been backed up with reports the Lakers would either trade him or release him outright at some point this summer. After the off-court/locker room drama and additions to the roster at SF, it’s difficult to see how Young fits moving forward.

Actually ridding themselves of Young, however, isn’t quite as simple as anyone would like it to be.

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Anthony Brown was selected with the 34th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. While not a 1st rounder, his draft slot is one where real talent can be mined. Players who go that early in the 2nd round are usually either high upside players, Europeans who can be “draft and stash” prospects, or seasoned college prospects who are deemed “more ready to play”.

Brown fell into that latter category, or at least that was the assumption. A 5th year senior out of Stanford, Brown as an All-Conference performer and deemed one of the better 3-and-D prospects in the draft. In Brown’s rookie season he oscillated between DNP-CD’s and major rotation player when Kobe sat out games due to injury or for rest.

On the season Brown’s individual stats were not very good, but the team was better than its season’s metrics when he was on the floor. The Lakers’ offense was .2 points per 100 possessions better and their defense was 7.3 points per 100 possessions better when Brown was in the game. These numbers still represented an overall negative net-efficiency rating, but the Lakers were a bottom-two team in both categories so that is expected.

While these numbers reflect Brown’s inclusion in somewhat workable lineups, they are also only one piece of the puzzle. Should Brown want to become more than a fringe rotation player, his individual production must rise to a point where he’s having a positive impact on the floor — especially offensively.

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I don’t care if it’s summer league, winning is fun. And since the Lakers haven’t done much winning in recent years, I’m going to enjoy the W’s in any environment, thank you very much. The Lakers are now 3-0 in Las Vegas and after struggling in their 2nd game on Saturday, the team was back to playing well in game 3, controlling the matchup with the Warriors for most of the game to win comfortably 78-65.

The star of the night was D’Angelo Russell. After hitting a game winner vs. the 76ers two days earlier, Russell dominated the Warriors to the tune of 26 points on only 13 shots to go along with 5 rebounds and a single assist. He also had 4 turnovers, and so if you want to nitpick, I guess you can complain about the lone dime to his 4 giveaways, but…well I don’t care.

Russell was clearly the best player again and his confidence is sky high right now. He was making shots all over the floor and punishing the defense no matter what strategy they took. When his man went under screens, he simply hit a long jumper. When they tried to chase him over the top of a pick, he kept his man on his hip and hit a lean-in mid-range shot. When working in isolation he used a tight, low handle to create space. Russell simply looked fantastic all night offensively and had all the answers.

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Steph! Durant! Draymond! Klay!

Wait. No. None of them. Sorry.

The Lakers play the Warriors tonight in Las Vegas and will play an interesting mix of young guys and veterans the defending world champs (oh that’s right they blew a 3-1 lead) Dubs will throw out there. You might even recognize a few names — including former Laker Xavier Henry.

But we’re not really worried about those guys, are we? No, tonight I’ll be watching the Lakers’ young guys very closely. These guys are 2-0 and had a nice comeback win against the 76ers on Saturday. That game saw some tired legs and good pressure defense bother the Lakers, so here’s hoping tonight they have recovered some and can put forth a cleaner game.

With that, a few other things I will be watching for:

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With Julius Randle not participating in summer league, Larry Nance Jr. has taken on the starting role for the Lakers’ in Las Vegas. Over the first two games, he’s played 68 out of a possible 80 minutes and racked up some pretty good stats in the process.

Against the 76ers, Nance as a key performer in helping the Lakers come back from a big 2nd half deficit, playing strong defense and throwing down some highlight dunks. These are things, of course, Nance is already known for. Coming out of Wyoming and through his rookie season, Nance made his noise as a ferocious finisher above the rim and a guy who took pride in his defense.

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Even in summer league the 2nd night of a back to back matters. The Lakers dealt with some heavy legs and strong ball pressure from the 76ers and looked the part of a team struggling. After having everything work out for them against the Pelicans on Friday, Saturday brought a slog of a game which looked very much like a contest the Lakers would not win.

Until, well, they did.

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What a difference a year makes. Last summer in Las Vegas, the Lakers were somewhat of a disappointing team. D’Angelo Russell did not look as good as many hoped he would, Julius Randle looked strong and healthy – but also rusty, and team didn’t look too much like a team when running some of Byron Scott’s offensive sets which didn’t inspire much ball or player movement.

On Friday, the Lakers opened up their summer play and looked far removed from those circumstances which plagued them a year ago. Yes, it was only one game and yes it was summer league. These caveats are real and should be remembered at all times. Still, though, the Lakers came out and looked like a new team who will play a new brand of basketball which does not remember the last couple of seasons.

The highlights from the game reflect that:

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