Archives For Laker Analysis

Lakers’ training camps opens on September 29th in Hawaii. We already know Jordan Clarkson will be there after it was determined he would not play for the Philippines at the FIBA Asia Championships which overlapped with the start of camp. We also know the names of the 16 other Lakers who will be there with Clarkson.

What we do not know, however, is what the rest of the camp invite list will look like. Per Brad Turner of the LA Times, however, we do know they are looking to add more players:

Based on recent reports, it would seem Metta World Peace might be one of those players. Another, if you take his word for it, might be Robert Upshaw. If the Lakers add another player to the camp roster, I’d imagine it would not be a player of consequence as they’re likely already going to have some difficult decisions to make on who to cut and who to keep on the opening night roster. As we’ve discussed, the training camp battles will be worth the price of admission to camp (if, you know, they actually sold tickets to camp).

Going into camp, my gut tells me the Lakers would still be open to exploring trades in order to try and find the right mix of veterans who can help on the court (and off) and young players who they think could be a part of the future. One thing to remember, though, is that the Lakers can assign as many as three players who are cut from their training camp as “affiliate players” to their D-League team.

Based on that, it would not surprise me if Jonathan Holmes, Michael Frazier, and Robert Upshaw (should he come to camp) end up getting cut and being those affiliate players who end up on the D-Fenders. They are the kind of guys who fit the profile of players who need seasoning to refine their games and figure out what type of players they would be at the NBA level.

In any event, we’re less than three weeks away until the start of camp. Expect the Lakers to add a few more guys to the list of invites to Hawaii.

(h/t to Pro Basketball Talk)

As part of a new series here at Forum Blue & Gold, we’re examining a single skill to keep an eye on with players this season. It could be their best quality or an aspect of their game that, if successful, will help the most. The two sound similar, but aren’t exactly the same. For this part of the series, I’m looking at D’Angelo Russell’s pull-up jumper.

D’Angelo Russell’s greatest talent is arguably his passing. He sees the court insanely well and can pull off passing angles few would even consider. That being said, whether or not Russell can develop a consistent shot to keep defenses honest will go a long way in opening up those passing lanes.

To a certain extent I liken it to how Kobe Bryant would guard Rajon Rondo in those classic match ups and playoff series from 2008-10. When guards would defend Rondo with more standard tendencies (going over the top of screens, sticking to his hip, etc.) Rondo would regularly torch them. So, Phil Jackson employed Kobe as more of a general shadow, simply staying in front and daring Rondo to shoot. The strategy changed what the Celtics were trying to do, and was the best way to manage such a supremely talented ball-handler. The video below is great at displaying this technique.

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Welcome to a new series at FB&G where we will take one player on the Lakers’ roster and discuss one specific skill they possess. Sometimes it will be something very subtle, others it will be more straight forward. We’ll try to shed some light on how this skill can help the team in the coming season. Our first entry was on Jordan Clarkson’s midrange jumper. Today we take a look at Julius Randle’s first step off the dribble.

Julius Randle is a player who is trying to evolve his game in order to become a more versatile threat. He’s talked about sharpening his midrange jumper and, eventually, expanding his range out to the three point line. Improving his handle to be even more of a perimeter threat is another potential growth area. In college he was a bull in the post and he’ll surely want to continue to refine his back to the basket game at this level as well.

But, every player has a foundational move in which their entire offensive repertoire is grounded. Whether you’re a post player who loves going over your left shoulder for a righty jump hook or a sharp shooting wing man who is deadly at the catch and shoot slithering off a screen, a player needs an initial strength that flummoxes defenses even when they know it’s coming.

For Randle, this move is his first step, off the dribble, to his left hand where he gets into the lane. It’s this move that, even when the defense knows it’s coming, he unleashes to great results.

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Welcome to a new series at FB&G where we will take one player on the Lakers’ roster and discuss one specific skill they possess. Sometimes it will be something very subtle, others it will be more straight forward. We’ll try to shed some light on how this skill can help the team in the coming season. First up in our series (or, second up, if you count Roy Hibbert’s boxing out) is Jordan Clarkson and his mid-range jumpshot. Enjoy.

The NBA is an ever changing game. Go watch tape of the 1980’s or early 1990’s and compare it to the version of the game you see today. The game of my youth only bares a slight resemblance to the version played today.

Efficiency is the buzzword of the 2010’s, with teams striving for offensive possessions to end with a shot at the rim, a three point attempt, or a free throw. These are the shots that optimize offensive output so they are the shots sought after.

But every shot cannot come from those places. The NBA halfcourt is 2,350 square feet and the offenses which can threaten defenses from the most amount of that space are going to find themselves the most difficult to defend. And while more and more teams cut out the mid-range shot from their arsenal, the players who can thrive in this area can not only exploit defenses by making the shots opponents are most willing to cede, but they can open up opportunities for their teammates.

Jordan Clarkson is one such player. Here is a simplified shot chart for Clarkson from the games after the all-star break (when he became a key part of the rotation):

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Lakers’ fans have legitimate reasons to be excited this season. Whether it’s the prospect of watching a healthy Kobe, finally getting Julius Randle back, seeing if Jordan Clarkson can make another leap in his growth, or watching D’Angelo Russell develop there’s a newness and fresh feeling heading into this campaign. And because the last few seasons have been such horror shows, the light at the end of this particular tunnel seems even brighter.

The sense of optimism really is palpable. The fans are ready for this team to take a step forward and the players, coaches, and front office seem to all believe they will do just that. Remember, it’s not just the players mentioned above, it’s the additions of veterans Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams, and Brandon Bass who add to this feeling the team can improve by a fair amount. This group, more than the last few season’s outfits, feels like a team. Yes there’s redundancy and there are depth questions at a couple of positions, but overall, you’d be hard pressed to find any fan who doesn’t feel better about this team than the one last year or the year prior.

Include me in that bunch, too.

Now is where I remove the blanket from the puddle of water on the floor and place it right on your shoulders. If you polled experts, the Lakers are still slotted to be one of the worst teams in the league. When stating this team will be better than last year, they agree it will be — just not by very much. And when the bar to clear is as low as a 21 win dumpster fire, improvement is a relative term. Especially when placing it in the context of the rest of the league.

While I do not know if the #ESPNForecast prediction of 26 wins will be accurate, I do have my own concerns about issues that could plague this team. Even if I forget for a moment my long held concerns with the head coach, there are several issues I’ve been mulling over that I cannot seem to escape as being issues worth diving deeper into.

And since I love bullet points, here we go…

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A favorite refrain from Jalen Rose is how positions were added to the analysis of basketball to help the more casual fan understand where certain players belong on the court. It’s an interesting premise that might hold water if plays weren’t designed around players fitting roles based on their skill sets and size (you know, positions). There has, however, been a move toward positionless basketball – a more free-flowing, offensive predicated on versatility and individual skill.

Granted, “free-flowing” is not what you think of when Byron Scott’s crossed arms pop up in your head, but the Lakers do have the pieces – especially in their starting five – to make this work, at least for stretches.

The first player most point to when they think of positionless basketball is LeBron James, which makes sense as he should be the guy anyone thinks of first in terms of any style of basketball. He’s really, really good. When considered in this scenario, though, it’s because of his versatility. He’s a Ferrari in a semi’s body, Karl Malone, but as a point guard. Being so athletically dominant and so skilled makes any offense built around him otherworldly.

While the Lakers may not have LeBron on their team, they do have plenty of guys who are more than capable of playing a few positions or stretching the boundaries of what their position typically demands.

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The Lakers didn’t have the type splashy signing off-season they hoped to have in the lead up to the July 1st opening of free agency, but they recovered nicely in building a roster that addressed many of their needs. In signing a quality group of veterans — including, reportedly, international point guard Marcelo Huertas — and flanking them with a crop of young players eager to make inroads as contributing players, the Lakers have taken a step towards becoming more competitive.

Before that competition begins against other NBA teams, though, there will be a lot of competition just to sort out who the final players on the roster will be. I touched on this briefly on twitter, but as of today, if including Huertas, the Lakers have 17 players on their roster heading into camp. Of those 17, 13 have fully guaranteed contracts (this would include Huertas). Of the four remaining players, two have partial guarantees (Jonathan Holmes and Michael Frazier) and two have non-guaranteed deals (Tarik Black and Jabari Brown).

For the sake of argument, let’s also include Robert Upshaw as a player who will end up getting an invite to Lakers’ camp. Let’s also assume he’ll get a partial guaranteed deal, similar to the ones Holmes and Frazier recently signed. Heading into camp, then, the Lakers would have 18 players (and maybe more) competing for, at most, 15 roster spots.

While it’s fair to assume the Lakers would probably keep all the guaranteed guys on their roster, that’s not a foregone conclusion. While Ryan Kelly and Robert Sacre are both well regarded by the Lakers and have team friendly deals, neither should be considered “locks” to make the final team. I’m not saying they would be cut (that seems unlikely to me), but it’s very possible both could be looked at as possible pieces to trade away should a deal bring back a better prospect or generate flexibility.

In other words, expect there to be as many as seven players — Sacre, Kelly, Black, Brown, Frazier, Holmes, and Upshaw — to be competing for the final three to four roster spots. What gives this competition even more interesting is that those seven players represent exact position battles between an incumbent (or two) and a guy who, theoretically, is fighting to fill that same role for this team:

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With about a month left until the start of training camp, the Lakers continue to add talent to their roster. The most recent addition, according to Adrian Wojnarowski, is Brazilian Point Guard Marcelo Huertas:

Free-agent guard Marcelo Huertas – one of the Euroleague’s most accomplished playmakers – has agreed to a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Huertas also provides some background as how he believes he can be successful in the NBA:

“There’s so much more space in the NBA,” Huertas told Yahoo Sports in April. “It’s not like Europe now, where you have one guy full-time in the paint. Space is harder to come by. One of my strengths is playing in the pick-and-roll, finding open guys and making shots in the mid-range game off the dribble.

“I think that part is harder to find now, because you mostly have guys who get all the way to the hole, or they’re three-point shooters. And if I’m open, and I can get my feet set, I’m going to make a lot of those kind of shots.”

Huertas believes he can make a difference in the locker room, too, by mentoring young players and meshing with veterans. For the Lakers, Huertas could give them an ideal partner as Russell is groomed to become the franchise’s cornerstone.

“If you look at NBA rosters, there are unbelievable starting point guards, but maybe not as many guys who can come off the bench able to run the team, score the ball, as well as being able to be a leader for young players,” Huertas said. “Those are things I know I’ll be able to bring with me.”

Mitch Kupchak and Byron Scott have both mentioned their want for another point guard — preferably a veteran — on the team and it seems they have found him.

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