Archives For Laker Analysis

With about another month to go before the Lakers open training camp, now is as good a time as any to take a quick review of where the team’s roster currently stands. With the recent signing of Jonathan Holmes, the Lakers have 15 players under contract:

Guards and Wings

  • D’Angelo Russell
  • Jordan Clarkson
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Lou Williams
  • Nick Young
  • Jabari Brown
  • Anthony Brown

Power Forwards

  • Julius Randle
  • Brandon Bass
  • Ryan Kelly
  • Larry Nance Jr.
  • Jonathan Holmes

Centers

  • Roy Hibbert
  • Tarik Black
  • Robert Sacre

Of the 15 players above, Tarik Black and Jabari Brown have non-guaranteed contracts for next year while Jonathan Holmes’ deal is only partially guaranteed. Per Eric Pincus, that partial amount is $100K on his two year minimum contract*.

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The NBA schedule was released on Wednesday and now every team knows the route they will travel on their marathon campaign. 82 games of ups and downs, wins and losses, and countless storylines will captivate us fans and players alike. We’ve already started this discussion with some of the games we are most/least looking forward to as well as some other general observations.

But, frankly, there is even more on our minds. With that, here are 10 more thoughts on the Lakers’ 2015-16 schedule…

1. I love that the Lakers open with the Timberwolves. It is by no means a glamorous match up pitting traditional rivals against each other, but there are a lot of match ups and intriguing stories worth discussing. On one end of the spectrum you have the #1 and #2 overall picks in Karl Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell facing off in their first regular season games. And, on the other end, you have Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant facing off on the opening night of their 21st and 20th seasons respectively. The rooks are the most recent high profile one-and-done prospects to grace the league while the veterans are the two players who ushered in the prep-to-pros era which graced us with some of the best players of a generation. Add in last year’s rookie of the year in Andrew Wiggins and the return of Julius Randle and there is no shortage of reasons why I’ll be excited about this game.

2. I love that the Lakers’ annual Grammy Road Trip is only going to be four games, but with it being so short they have to make up some of those road games somewhere. Enter a brutal December where only four of the team’s 17 games will be at Staples Center. Welp.

3. A few dates to circle on the calendar: February 19th, February 21st, March 10th, and April 3rd. In order, those may be the last times Kobe suits up in a game against Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol, LeBron James, and the Boston Celtics. There are other match ups worth mentioning, but I’d say those four opponents will carry extra weight.

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A good rule of thumb to live by is to never really expect much from a second round pick. While most of the guys drafted after the first 30 picks are surely talented, the NBA is filled with skilled players whose careers are hanging on by a lose thread. The churn at the bottom of NBA rosters isn’t quite like what you see in the NFL, but every year guys lose their jobs to similarly talented peers.

Depending on any 2nd round player for real contributions, then, is a mistake. If you strike gold — like the Lakers did with Jordan Clarkson — that’s great, but you cannot expect this to happen. The odds are just too low.

This brings us Anthony Brown, whom the Lakers selected with the 34th selection in this past draft. Brown showed strong play in the PAC 12 as both a Junior and Senior and looks to have translatable skills to the NBA level (more on this in a minute). The Lakers, hoping they’ve found another player who can be a long term piece, invested in Brown as such by signing him to a three year contract with the first two seasons fully guaranteed and a non-guaranteed third year*.

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Among a large sect of Lakers’ fans, Byron Scott is not held in the highest of regards as a coach. The former Showtime shooting guard is absolutely revered as a former great player who helped the team capture three championships as Magic’s backcourt mate, but when it comes to stewarding the ship from the sideline there are reasons to doubt him.

I have, admittedly, been one of these critics. There is no need to rehash it all in now, but his history in New Jersey, New Orleans, and Cleveland — especially how he exited those places — spoke a lot more to me than some of his early success in the first two of those stops or his knowledge of “what it means to be a Laker”. When he was hired, then, I spoke my mind on this. I still believe what I wrote at the time had merit and that is independent of the bad season he shepherded the team through last year.

Like any fair critique, though, one must look at the full picture and note where things were actually, you know, good. For all his faults, Byron did several things worthy of recognition, including getting players to play hard all year even with all the losses, getting some above expectations performances from more than one of his big men, and, of course, the management of Jordan Clarkson’s development from forgotten 2nd round pick early in the year to 1st Team All-Rookie by the end of the campaign*.

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Nick Young couldn’t possibly have felt great about his Lakers signing Lou Williams this summer. The redundancy between the two is fairly obvious if simplified down to layman levels. Young and Williams are both chuckers best used off the bench to bring an immediate scoring punch to whichever lineup they’re joining on the court.

So, Young took the type of measures any normal person would if threatened with replacement by their employer: get a Tupac tattoo on the arm previously reserved for buckets. In all seriousness, though, trying to figure out what to expect from Young this season is pretty difficult given the several variables at play heading into the 2015-16 campaign.

First, we need to understand how we got to this point. Two years ago, Mike D’Antoni’s system lent itself to success in the form of spot-up jumpshots in efficient parts of the floor and isolations against defenses spread thin by excellent spacing. As a result, Young enjoyed a career season and earned the contract the Lakers seemed pretty quick to want to shed this offseason.

So, the question begs asking: is Young the player we saw under D’Antoni or the punchline to the joke that was last season? The answer, as usual, is somewhere in the middle and, as such, he still deserves a spot on an NBA roster. But, Young has some roadblocks to overcome if he hopes to flip the narrative.

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We have officially entered the dog days of summer. With no NBA on the horizon, the type of news we’re left with is Kobe visiting China to mobs of fans, a 52 year old Hakeem breaking out a vintage move in the #NBAAfricaGame and players dunking off phunkeeducks. Not exactly stuff with any sort of shelf life.

For me, though, during this long slog of the off-season, my mind will almost always turn back to roster construction and team building. The draft and free agency was a chance for the team to reshape itself with new talent. The initial trade market offered similar chances, with the Lakers diving in to nab a starting big man. The Lakers have done well, then, and reflecting on that is worth some time.

However, just because things have ground to a virtual hault, it does not mean there aren’t decisions to still explore, regardless if they’re viewed as minor. The team still possesses a depth chart showing a real glut in the front court and needs on the wing and, potentially, at point guard. Filling the back of the roster isn’t something the Lakers are used to worrying about, but for an organization still looking to make a substantial leap forward, all decisions carry a measure of import.

This includes the 15th roster spot, a spot currently empty which the Lakers plan to fill eventually. The question, however, is how the Lakers should fill this spot. From my seat, I see four possible scenarios:

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For a good portion (probably a little too long, if we’re being completely honest) of the summer league in Las Vegas, I and a decent number of guys covering the festivities for SBNation tried to figure out a Lakers rookie. Not D’Angelo Russell. Not Julius Randle – who may as well be a rookie. Not even Anthony Brown, who impressed many that weekend. I wish I was exaggerating. There we were, in Las Vegas, a city literally built to distract people from their jobs, mired in conversation about who a late first-round pick reminds them of.

The rookie in question: Larry Nance, Jr. And the worst part: We never actually found an answer. Ah, to be an NBA nerd.

First, you have to figure out what Nance brings to the table. He’s a power forward in a large small forward’s body. He is decently skilled offensively but who hopes to earn his way through hustle, rebounding and defense. He doesn’t have three-point range and it’s hard to really envision him developing that aspect of his game with his shooting form. If that is the case, it’s hard to consider Nance a modern-day, NBA wing.

In many ways, he’s what a player from the 90’s and early 2000’s would look like if dropped into today’s NBA.

Yes, Nance has the physical tools guys like Trevor Ariza, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or even Al-Farouq Aminu (probably Nance’s closest modern comp), but as of right now, he lacks their skill defensively. Offensively, he has a little more to offer than those guys early in their careers, but not enough to make up for the considerable gap on the other side of the ball.

If Nance is more of a throwback player, who might he be?

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The 2016 off-season has long been on the mind of Lakers’ fans. This is the summer where Kobe Bryant’s contract is off the books, the summer the salary cap will jump to (potentially) $90+ million, and the summer in which a certain small forward currently living in Oklahoma City hits the open market. The Lakers have big plans for this summer so, while it is still a year away, it is not really too early to look ahead.

While we all look at the things listed above, however, one thing not often spoke about is the pending free agency of Jordan Clarkson. When Clarkson was signed by the Lakers after being the 46th pick in the 2014 draft, he inked a two year, non-guaranteed deal**. We all know what happened next: Clarkson, after starting slowly and getting minimal playing time, came on strong in the 2nd half of his rookie season and earned 1st Team All-Rookie recognition.

Now, heading into his second year, his summer league play showed continued development, he is slated to be a starter at shooting guard, and will end this upcoming season as a restricted free agent. In a recent article at ESPN, Kevin Pelton mentioned Clarkson as a player who could be in for a big payday come next summer (insider):

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