Archives For Laker Analysis

Writing about this year’s Lakers’ summer league team brings a bit of a strange feeling. In a normal Lakers’ summer session, there might be one or two key players worth watching; players who we think might end up being a rotation player or someone with a bright future. This season, though, is radically different and offers fans a chance to see players they will be fully invested in come October.

Despite Kobe returning and the additions of Roy Hibbert, Brandon Bass, and Lou Williams to the main team, there are at least four players — D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Tariq Black — heading to Vegas who can expect to have a key role when the regular season rolls around. Add to this group Anthony Brown (who, as it stands today, is probably 3rd on the depth chart at SF behind Kobe and Nick Young), Larry Nance Jr. (who, as a first round pick, may also see some minutes this year as deep reserve/energy player), and Robert Upshaw (a project big man who has first round talent with undrafted free agent baggage) there are a lot of reasons to be excited.

This is a talented group of players — almost surely the most talented summer league team the Lakers have ever fielded — and I’m interested in seeing what they can do against other touted rookies and second year players. After all, it’s one thing to play 5-on-5 in practice where the guys on the opposite side are teammates, know all your plays, and have seen all your tendencies for the last week plus. It’s quite another to face off against a fairly stacked T-Wolves team (like they will on Friday) that includes this year’s #1 overall pick and last year’s slam dunk contest winner.

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As I write this article, I’m operating under the view the Roy Hibbert trade will take place later today. Given the DeAndre Jordan fiasco yesterday, it’s important to present this caveat, as all deals mentioned in this article are no more than verbal agreements at this time.

We live in a world where Steve Nash’s trophy case has as many MVP awards as Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant combined. Don’t get me wrong, Nash is a surefire Hall of Famer, but no GM in their right mind would choose to start their franchise with him over Kobe, let alone Shaq. Gregg Popovich and Phil Jackson, who share 16 NBA Championships between them only combine for four NBA Coach of the Year awards. The reason for those apparent injustices: expectations.

We expect the seven-foot- tall behemoth, gifted beyond measure athletically, to dominate the sport. Same goes for the geniuses who have figured out the game of basketball to depths few can only imagine. The scrawny white guy who overachieves gets extra points because we can’t quite understand how he’s so good. Those coaches who drag mediocre teams to the playoffs are honored because we don’t know how they do it. In this case, it’s beneficial to be dealt the tougher hand. None of that has anything to do with how deserving the actual winner might be, only the circumstance under which the award was given.

But sure, Nash and Allen Iverson were obviously more valuable than the most dominating presence the NBA has ever seen.

Our perception of everything is skewed by expectations. We think of movies differently given what we hear about them from friends. Have you ever said something along the lines of “no, don’t tell me how good it was” to someone who just saw a movie you’re interested in? You’re managing expectations.

The same applies to the offseason facelift the Lakers just underwent. We gauge success on a curve based not only on the franchise’s history, but on tidbits we see heading into free agency. Think of it this way: Would fans have been more or less impressed with the Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams and Brandon Bass acquisitions had we not heard the Lakers had meetings with LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan?

They’d be more impressed, right? That’s not even debatable.

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Just when all the Lakers’ free agent chips were down, they managed to get back in the game with their trade for Roy Hibbert. Considering the Lakers’ roster needs, their approach in free agency, and the fallout from missing out on all their top targets, acquiring Hibbert in the manner and at the juncture they did comes as more than just a bit of a relief.

The optics of the move aside, though, the true analysis of this deal comes on what Hibbert brings to the court, not as a reprieve from the early free agency fallout. And when it comes to fit, Hibbert seems to be a mixed bag, providing some things the team certainly needs while grating against some of what they hope to be.

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Anthony Irwin is a lifelong Lakers and, by extension, NBA fan. The league is in a great place and he joins Forum Blue & Gold as the Lakers seem to be turning things around. In his inaugural post here at FB&G, he looks at the team’s young core and the pressure they face to be impact players right away. You can follow Anthony on twitter @AnthonyIrwinNBA.

Think back on NBA history. Try to remember rookies who stepped in and immediately altered their franchise’s outlook.

Prospects who had early success like James Worthy, Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant joined at least borderline title teams. Tim Duncan may have to a certain extent, though he did so mostly because of some pretty ridiculous luck. Some might mention Michael Jordan, though he didn’t reach the second round of the playoffs until his fourth year, enduring two sweeps along the way. Even LeBron James failed to make the playoffs in his first two seasons and was eliminated early in his third trip to the postseason before finally famously taking the world by storm in his fourth.

The lesson: entrusting the entire organization’s outlook to a rookie without much help from elsewhere on the roster isn’t ideal and rarely works out for either side.

Next season, the Lakers’ young core of D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle look forward to something no Lakers rookie has ever gone through before: the pressure of immediately altering the course of an entire organization. Will the pressure make diamonds, or crush an exciting group of kids under it completely? The Lakers desperately hope for the former as all season, you can imagine potential free agents will be watching from afar.

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If you remember last summer, after the Lakers missed out on Carmelo Anthony (and the rest of the big name free agents) they quickly moved on to signing other free agents, inking deals with Nick Young and Jordan Hill (and eventually Ed Davis). Well, this summer seems to be playing out quite similarly.

After it was announced yesterday LaMarcus Aldridge would sign with the Spurs, the Lakers have moved with accelerated pace in the market, agreeing to acquire Roy Hibbert in a trade and sign Lou Williams away from the Raptors as a free agent. They are not done, however, as it is now being reported they will ink another veteran free agent forward:

The Lakers have also released a statement on the ongoing negotiations with Brandon Bass (and Williams):

Los Angeles Lakers have engaged in negotiations with free agent guard Lou Williams and free agent forward Brandon Bass and intend to enter into player contracts with them at the conclusion of the NBA Moratorium Period, it was announced today by General Manger Mitch Kupchak.

A key part of the statement, of course, is “in negotiations with” as the exact terms of these deals are not yet determined — at least with Bass. For more on how the money might work for Bass, let’s turn to Eric Pincus of the LA Times:

The “room exception” makes sense for Bass as that is the cleanest way to sign him without having to make any additional roster adjustments. However, if it were as simple as Bass signing for the $2.8 million that exception would offer, we would likely have that information right now. Instead, then, might we see more roster moves to help clear space to sign Bass (as well as create more space to take on Hibbert’s large deal)?

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Now that it is official LaMarcus Aldridge will sign with the Spurs (which was the presumed outcome when free agency started), the Lakers have officially missed out on every player they have (reportedly) targeted in free agency. To summarize, they met with Aldridge, Greg Monroe, and DeAndre Jordan. The latter two signed with the Bucks and Mavericks respectively while other “players of interest” like Robin Lopez (Knicks) are now also off the market.

This leaves the Lakers as the team standing up in this free agent game of musical chairs. And, with that, here are 10 thoughts on where the Lakers are now, how they got here, and what comes next:

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So far, free agency has not been going well for the Lakers. Beyond the optics problems with taking meetings and having reports label them as unimpressive, the bigger issue is having top targets decline offers from the team while the speed of the market has taken most other viable options to other teams for more reasonable deals. (Ed Davis bolting for Portland is a perfect example here — while the Lakers broke bread with LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Monroe, DeAndre Jordan, and Aldridge again, Davis decided he could wait no longer and signed with the Blazers for a very reasonable deal.)

Again, stripping away all the optics from this, a more tangible problem has surfaced. Who is actually left on the market for the Lakers to sign? The answer is, well, not many people. Since we last discussed this on Thursday, Robin Lopez can likely be removed from any list as reports have him signing with the Knicks should Jordan choose the Clippers or Mavericks (as he is expected to). For big men, then, this leaves a list looking like this:

  • Kosta Koufos
  • Bismack Biyombo
  • Jordan Hill
  • A bunch of other middling guys like Chuck Hayes, Ryan Hollins, Andrea Bargnani, Greg Smith, Jeff Withey, etc

Of that list, the top three options are all useful in one way or another. If the Lakers signed any of them to help fill their hole in the middle, I’d give a polite clap and go on my way. There’s nothing inherently wrong with taking on any of those guys. It’s not exciting, but chasing excitement is probably what got the Lakers where they are in free agency to begin with.

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The Lakers haven’t been idle in free agency, but the results have still made them out to be spectators. When free agency opened on Tuesday night, they met with LaMarcus Aldridge in Los Angeles, on Wednesday morning they flew to the east coast to meet with Greg Monroe, then returned back to Los Angeles to meet with DeAndre Jordan. If you’re scoring at home, though, Aldridge will reportedly not sign with the Lakers, Monroe has chosen the Bucks, and DeAndre Jordan will choose between the Mavericks and the Clippers.

Looks like the team did all that zigzagging across the country for nothing. I guess John Wooden was right, do not mistake activity for achievement.

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