Archives For Laker Analysis

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:

Continue Reading…

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?

Continue Reading…

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.

Continue Reading…

The Lakers’ quiet off-season is now officially over. After having discussions with several free agents (George Hill, Dion Waiters), the team has found its man (and someone to take their money) in former Piston Kentavious Caldwell-Pope:

First, it’s important to note how unlikely this exact signing would have been a week ago.

KCP entered this summer as a restricted free agent with the Pistons. It was not until the Celtics secured Gordon Hayward in free agency and needed to off-load some salary did things shift. Danny Ainge executed a trade with the Pistons, sending Avery Bradley to Detroit for Marcus Morris. Adding Bradley meant that Stan Van Gundy found his “shooting guard of the future” and it made KCP expendable. Gone went his qualifying offer and with it his restricted status. He could now go to any team he wanted.

And he chose the Lakers and their one-year deal. Excuse me if I seem shocked. I am. Caldwell-Pope surely had longer term offers on the table. To eschew those to sign with the Lakers for one year seems almost unfathomable to me. Credit to the Lakers’ front office of Magic and Pelinka for getting this done. They got a young FA, about to enter his prime, to sign in LA for a single season. Yes, the dollar amount is high, but that seems irrelevant to me at this stage. Again, he could have made much more on a longer deal.

As for fit, KCP instantly slides into a thin backcourt at SG and can be slotted between Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram rather seamlessly. He’s a good (not great, but good) shooter from distance, hitting 35% of his 3’s — but he did so on nearly 6 attempts per game. That volume from distance is what intrigues me more than his percentage as it shows me a player who is comfortable taking the long ball and someone who, because of that volume, teams will defend him more seriously out on the arc.

Continue Reading…

What you find out at NBA summer league is almost always dependent on what it is you’re looking for. It is the nature of this environment where, coming off the heels of the draft, most people have preconceived notions about who or what a prospect is and then go about confirming those when seeing them on the Thomas and Mack hardwood.

Go back a couple of years. You think D’Angelo Russell is going to be a bust? Well, that’s confirmed via a poor shooting night and the lack of drives and finishes at the rim. You think Jahlil Okafor is going to be a stud big man? Well, that’s confirmed with him beasting dudes in the post and showing some deft face up moves from 18 feet an in. Even if those things aren’t really true in the aggregate, if that’s what you’re looking for, it’s pretty easy to get there through some surface observations.

Thing is, finding what you’re looking for isn’t the point of summer league. In fact, it’s hard to really decipher what the point is at all.

Continue Reading…

Fans love summer league. Lakers fans, especially. The proximity of Las Vegas to Los Angeles makes the trek to sin city worthwhile for fans of the forum blue and the result is a packed Thomas and Mack center with fans chanting for Larry Nance Jr. or damn near rushing the floor when my favorite exiled guard hit’s a game winner. It’s a great environment and if you’re a fan of any NBA team — but especially a Lakers fan — making this trip at least once is worth your time.

This is even more true this year, when the Lakers will have a buzz surrounding them due to the arrival of Lonzo Ball and the return of Brandon Ingram. Add in Ivica Zubac and David Nwaba also returning along with Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma making their rookie debuts, the Lakers have six young players every fan is excited to see play — and one the players themselves should be confident in to do some damage.

That said, I’d also like to pump the brakes on printing your “Lakers 2017 Summer League Champs” shirts.

Continue Reading…

July 4th has come and gone and, with that, some dominoes have started to fall. Gordon Hayward is a Celtic. George Hill is a King. As is Zach Randolph. Otto Porter signed a max offer sheet with the Nets and several other lower tiered free agents have also agreed to new deals. Of the eight players I covered in my free agency primer, only KJ McDaniels (#7) and Tyler Ennis (#8) remain unsigned.

This leaves the Lakers in an interesting, though not unpredictable place. Anyone with some foresight could have seen this exact scenario playing out.

The Lakers, strapped with good, but not great, cap space (a little over $16 million) and armed with only 1-year deals to offer voluntarily put themselves in a corner when negotiating with any target. JJ Redick signed a 1-year deal, but it was for $23 million — or about $7 million more than the Lakers have in total cap space. The team spoke with Hill about a 1-year deal, then he signed with the Kings for three years with an annual salary of $19 million. Even second tier targets like Justin Holiday and Darren Collison signed for two years. Omri Casspi was a player I wanted and he signed for 1-year for low dollars but did so with the world champion Warriors.

You see where I’m going with this. There’s really not a deal signed by FA’s to this point where the Lakers had any sort of an advantage in negotiations or where the final deal signed lined up at all with what the Lakers could offer.

So, what should the Lakers do with their cap space now? Let’s look at a few options:

Continue Reading…

As we outlined in our free agency primer and our podcast on potential plans once July 1st hits, the Lakers’ plan to chase stars in the summer of 2018 impacts what they can do in free agency this summer. When you need every spare penny to sign two max salary players a year from now, whatever you spend now needs to be carefully counted for then.

Even if this wasn’t simple math, the front office came out and told us as much on Thursday. Mark Medina has the intel at the OC Register:

“We’ll be very strategic to keep the cap space in 2018,” Pelinka said after the draft. “We’ll be very sacred about that. We worked very hard to get into that position. So we’ll be smart in free agency.”

To be smart in free agency, the Lakers also have set their eyes on two realities. The Lakers are not expecting to acquire George from the Indiana Pacers amid their insistence on keeping Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram. With their hopes set on George becoming available next summer, the Lakers want to pursue players who fit specific criteria that would accelerate the young roster’s development…

…But at what cost? The Lakers want to minimize multi-year contracts, but they are open to spending a bit more as a way to compensate for a one-year deal. As much as they want to attract elite stars again in 2018, the Lakers are also intent on acquiring veterans who will have a positive influence on their young roster.

First, let’s talk Medina’s last point about limiting 1-year contracts. As we’ve discussed plenty, this is to be expected.

The Lakers simply do not have the financial flexibility on their roster to add salary which runs through the summer of 2018 without having to cut that same money (and more) to open up the space needed to chase the stars they covet. Taking this approach will impact their negotiations and reduce the number of viable targets they can sign, which many in the local media are taking to mean the team simply will not be very active when the bidding opens at midnight eastern July 1st.

Continue Reading…