Archives For Laker Analysis

Because I am a basketball nerd, one of the things which most interests me about the free agency period is how team execute their signings in order to maximize their cap space and get the most bang for their buck when building their team. Because of all the exceptions, triggers, and rules surrounding the execution of contracts, one of the things teams do is organize the order of how they execute the deals they agree to with players in order to ensure they operate within the confines of the collective bargaining agreement.

What does this have to do with the Lakers? Well, if you’ve been paying attention to the press releases, the Lakers haven’t actually executed all the deals they have reportedly agreed to this summer. Oh, you’ve seen the pictures of Luol Deng, Timofey Mozgov, and Jordan Clarkson signing their deals. They have even formally announced the acquisition of Jose Calderon via trade.

Other deals, however, have remain unannounced. And that’s because they technically have not yet been signed. I’ll let Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders explain:

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Summer league was successful in accomplishing a few things. One was showing off the Lakers’ young talent and how the returning young guys had improved while giving us a first glimpse at the skill of the newly drafted kids. A second was allowing us to somewhat forget about Julius Randle.

I know. I know. This is an exaggeration. No one really forgot about Randle.

But I do believe there has been a bit of “out of sight, out of mind” going on with Julius. After all, we got to see Larry Nance, Jr. play really well before his hand injury. Nance flashed an improved jumper, an emerging “grab and go” game off the defensive glass, and a sharpening of his already strong defense. Nance’s development was happening in front of our eyes while Julius’ was going on in private workouts.

That is no longer the case, though. Randle has joined the Team USA training camp as part of the Select Team. He’s practicing, going through drills, and scrimmaging. He’s out there for everyone to see and is looking like an improved player. Or, at least he is in the short glimpses the public has been exposed to. For example, here he is working in one-on-one drills:

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The Lakers famously spent a boatload of cash this past summer on free agents Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng. I have spilled countless words on those signings so I will not revisit the merits or drawbacks of either contract now. That said, one of the real consequences of those deals was how it impacted salary cap space for next season. 

It was always assumed that if the Lakers were unable to secure commitments from top flight FA’s this July, they would simply roll over a large chunk of space, combine it with the cap jump scheduled for next summer, and try to ink two top-tiered free agents in the summer of 2017. The Mozgov and Deng deals ended those assumptions with large cash commitments. Add in the guaranteed deals of their young core and Lou Williams’ (not to mention Nick Young’s) contract and the Lakers might be close to not even affording a single max contract slot.

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I know the caveat. It’s only summer league. I’ve been saying it myself since before the games started and continued echoing the point through every performance by every player. Here’s the thing, though. While it’s easy to dismiss any strong (or poor) performance with that mantra, evaluations from the summer aren’t completely useless.

Summer will never tell us the entire story, but if you watch intently enough, it can give you hints as to what is possible for a player. Especially when what you see isn’t so much based on athleticism or eye popping numbers, but innate skills or traits which will carry forward regardless of the competition level.

This brings us to Lakers’ 2nd round pick Ivica Zubac. The Bosnian by way of Croatia had a really strong showing in Vegas and looks as though he might end up being a steal of the draft. His all-around play showed glimpses of high level two-way play and hinted that he might be more ready than assumed for a 19 year old Euro big man who missed most of last season dealing with injury and contract issues.

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Heading into Friday night’s summer league finale, Brandon Ingram had done lots of things well but not had a singular strong performance. His best game in the four previous contests to that point was the Lakers’ Vegas opener where he scored efficiently and played a nice all-around game. But even that game was just sort of a let-the-game-come-to-me sort of performance rather than one where he actively tried to take control.

That approach changed on Friday against the Jazz and, boy, was it fun to watch. Ingram finished the night 22 points on 13 shots, grabbed 5 rebounds, and dished 4 assists. Down the stretch he made key plays, but more than that showed a certain assertiveness throughout that was great to see. Just watch the highlights:

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We have officially hit a lull in the roster construction portion of the off-season. The Lakers had an eventful stretch from late June through the first week of July, adding players who will be key contributors to next year’s team.

For summary purposes, let’s run down the transactions:

  • Drafted Brandon Ingram
  • Drafted Ivica Zubac
  • Signed Timofey Mozgov in Free Agency
  • Signed Luol Deng in Free Agency
  • Re-signed Jordan Clarkson
  • Traded for Jose Calderon
  • Re-signed Tarik Black
  • Re-signed Marcelo Huertas

While not all of the contracts associated with these deals are officially signed (we’ll discuss this more in a bit), all of these agreements have been reported by credible sources. Add the players listed above with those who were already under contract and the Lakers have commitments to 14 players.

The question is, are they done?

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I have long assumed Young will not be on the opening night roster. This idea has been backed up with reports the Lakers would either trade him or release him outright at some point this summer. After the off-court/locker room drama and additions to the roster at SF, it’s difficult to see how Young fits moving forward.

Actually ridding themselves of Young, however, isn’t quite as simple as anyone would like it to be.

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Anthony Brown was selected with the 34th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. While not a 1st rounder, his draft slot is one where real talent can be mined. Players who go that early in the 2nd round are usually either high upside players, Europeans who can be “draft and stash” prospects, or seasoned college prospects who are deemed “more ready to play”.

Brown fell into that latter category, or at least that was the assumption. A 5th year senior out of Stanford, Brown as an All-Conference performer and deemed one of the better 3-and-D prospects in the draft. In Brown’s rookie season he oscillated between DNP-CD’s and major rotation player when Kobe sat out games due to injury or for rest.

On the season Brown’s individual stats were not very good, but the team was better than its season’s metrics when he was on the floor. The Lakers’ offense was .2 points per 100 possessions better and their defense was 7.3 points per 100 possessions better when Brown was in the game. These numbers still represented an overall negative net-efficiency rating, but the Lakers were a bottom-two team in both categories so that is expected.

While these numbers reflect Brown’s inclusion in somewhat workable lineups, they are also only one piece of the puzzle. Should Brown want to become more than a fringe rotation player, his individual production must rise to a point where he’s having a positive impact on the floor — especially offensively.

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