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I don’t know the right word to describe the Lakers’ off-season, really. Maybe a single word doesn’t do it justice.¬†There’s been lots of noise — an incredible number of innuendo, rumors, and outright leaks — but not a ton of action. However, when things have happened, they’ve been fairly big.

The D’Angelo Russell trade came somewhat out of left field even though there were rumors in the days prior saying the Lakers were open to dealing him. The Kentavious Caldwell-Pope signing was on everyone’s radar the minute the Pistons pulled his qualifying offer, but when the news ultimately broke it was still surprising. These moves, along with the drafting of Lonzo Ball, have remade the roster and have fans excited.

Realistically, though, the work for the front office is not done. Here is their current depth chart (*note, some of these guys are swing/combo players — more on that later):

PG: Lonzo Ball, Jordan Clarkson
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Corey Brewer, Josh Hart
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr., Luol Deng, Kyle Kuzma
C: Brook Lopez, Ivica Zubac, Thomas Bryant

That’s 13 players. The Lakers also have Alex Caruso signed to a 2-way contract with the South Bay Lakers (SBL), so, in theory, he could find some minutes on the big team throughout the year at PG. But, leaving him out of the mix for now, the Lakers clearly have some roster imbalance right now.

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There has been a lot of fawning over Lonzo Ball lately and…I’m going to keep the trend alive today. Ball’s summer league wasn’t just impressive because he put up good numbers or that he ended up winning the MVP. It’s not even that the team won the Vegas championship. Of course those things matter, but it being the summer, what was more important to me was the process of how those things came about, not necessarily that they came about at all.

Which brings us back to Lonzo and the small things he was doing on multiple possessions a game which ended up helping his team.

A quick tangent, I don’t watch much soccer anymore, but I was a junkie when I was a kid. I played all the time and watched the game a ton. Soccer helped me understand basketball better, especially the concepts of counter attacks and creating advantage by passing into space. While soccer helped me with hoops in other ways too (angles, understanding foot work and quick ball movement), it was these ideas of taking advantage of spacing with passing and countering your opponent which stuck with me for a long time.

This brings me back to Lonzo and his summer league play. My podcast partner Pete Zayas of Laker Film Room fame recently made a video that he describes as a compilation of “any pass that Lonzo Ball made in summer league which gave the Lakers an advantage”. Pete adds that the pass did not need to lead to an assist directly, but was just a pass which looked like it gave the Lakers an edge on any given play. You should watch it:

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In this episode of the Laker Film Room podcast, Pete and I recap the Lakers summer league, specifically looking at Lonzo Ball’s play, the revelation that was Kyle Kuzma, and then forecast out what, if anything, can be taken from Vegas and transplanted into the regular season.

We also get into the construction of the roster, discuss potential veteran point guard options, and take an early look at projecting style of play with the group that currently exists.

Click through to give the entire episode a listen.

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The Lakers may have won the summer league championship on the strength of Kyle Kuzma’s championship game performance (30 points, 10 rebounds — which fell in line with¬†his strong play this summer overall), but Lonzo Ball was the MVP of the Las Vegas league.

The Lakers rookie PG averaged 16.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 9.3 assists and dazzled fans nightly with a combination of his basketball IQ and feel as a passer. We wrote about how special Lonzo is, but sometimes words just don’t do it justice. Only seeing what this kid was doing — especially as a passer — can give you the appropriate appreciation.

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With the 27th pick in the NBA draft, the Lakers selected Kyle Kuzma, PF out of Utah. The analysis at the time said the Utes big man had an intriguing mix of skill and smooth athleticism all in the body of a 6’10 dude. After the draft, in what has become typical Rob Pelinka fashion, the GM said that they were “doing backflips” that Kuzma was still there when the team made their selection. Meanwhile, fans were…well, I don’t know what, exactly.

Kuzma wasn’t exactly a well known college player to me. Maybe I’m not the best barometer of these things (I don’t watch much college ball), but I was fairly familiar with Josh Hart (who the Lakers took at pick #30) and was aware of several other prospects who were supposed to be selected in the range where Kuzma ended up going (fwiw, Kuzma was ranked #43 by Draft Express before the draft). Whenever I don’t know anything about something, I dive in and see what I can learn. What I saw from Kuzma was a player with some skill (I liked his passing), some good athletic ability (I liked the way he changed ends), a guy who showed some promise as a shooter, and someone who would compete defensively.

In other words, Kuzma checked a lot of boxes. I thought he might be someone who could develop over time, but someone who would have trouble cracking the rotation because of the dept the team already had a PF. Julius Randle and Larry Nance are established rotation players. Luol Deng will likely need minutes at PF if he’s going to get minutes at all. There’s even the hope that Ingram can moonlight some at PF in certain lineups. So, yeah. Kuzma was a nice pick, but “backflips” he was still on the board? For a guy who might not play?

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It can be a hard negotiation with yourself, summer league.

You see the numbers, but you also want to discredit them. I mean, I was listening to the Basketball Analogy Podcast and ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh rattled off the top scorers from the Vegas league dating back to 2005. The list had some impressive names (including Damian Lillard and Kawhi Leonard), but also a bunch of other random dudes who carved out fine enough careers, but never turned into franchise altering players.

Lonzo Ball isn’t on the list of Vegas’ top bucket getters, but he’s putting up other types of numbers. He’s leading all of Vegas in assists. He’s rung up two triple-doubles in his last three games and had a 36 point, 11 assist contest sandwiched in the middle of them. Even though his outside shot isn’t falling, the numbers pop. I so badly want them to matter, but understand any weight I want them to carry comes with a caveat of this being Las Vegas in July, not STAPLES Center in May or June.

The eye test can be funny, too, because the human brain can be funny. It has a way of attaching value to things to create a lasting memory; a way of ascribing importance to things that verify what you already want to believe while diminishing the things which don’t quite fit into your pre-established outlook.

As I negotiate that in my head, though, a realization starts to seep in. I don’t care if it’s only summer league, Lonzo Ball is special.

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In the latest Laker Film Room Podcast, Pete and I talk Lonzo Ball’s impressive play and breakdown what we’re seeing in his game that has us questioning the last time we saw such a unique player. We get into his transcendent passing, how he thinks the game, and how he’s having such a huge impact even though his outside shot isn’t falling. If you’re looking for Lonzo love, we’ve got you covered.

In the latter part of our conversation, we get into the Kentavious Caldwell-Pope signing, how we think he’ll pair with Lonzo in the backcourt, what he skills he brings to the table, and where we think he can take a step forward in his own game for this Lakers team. Really fun conversation in this one. Click through to listen to the entire post.

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Early this morning, it was reported that the Lakers would be signing Alex Caruso to a contract. This was the first report I, personally, saw:

Ramona Shelburne is reporting further details, noting it will be a 2-year contract and one of the NBA’s new “two-way” deals which allows a player to shuffle between a parent club and their G-League affiliate. In this case, then, Caruso will likely spend most of his time with the South Bay Lakers, though could get an opportunity with the Lakers for stretches.

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