Lakers’ training camp opens in 15 days and, with Monday’s signing of Robert Upshaw to a two-year contract, there’s no better time than now to provide an update on the team’s roster. As it stands the Lakers now have 18 players under contract:
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The Los Angeles Lakers have signed center Robert Upshaw to a multi-year contract, it was announced today by General Manager Mitch Kupchak. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not released.
The still unknown terms of the contract are important, but likely not a huge difference maker here. My assumption is that Upshaw’s deal is either fully non-guaranteed like Marcelo Huertas’ or has only small, partial guarantees like those given to Jonathan Holmes and Michael Frazier. In either case, Upshaw will have to prove his worth in training camp to crack the final 15 and earn a roster spot. (UPDATE: Baxter Holmes of ESPN is reporting Upshaw’s deal has a partial guarantee in the 1st year and is fully non-guaranteed in the 2nd year. While not outright stated, I am assuming his contract is for the minimum both years.)
(UPDATE II: Eric Pincus of the LA Times is reporting that $35K of Upshaw’s first year salary is guaranteed. The 2nd year, as Holmes also reported, is non-guaranteed. The totals for the contract are (roughly) $525K in year one and $875K in year 2.)
The fact that we’ve gotten to this point, though, should not be ignored. Yes, Upshaw said he’d be joining camp (while adding he thinks he’ll make the team), but the rhetoric coming out of the Lakers’ front office did not make any such assurances. Those statements were likely just the carrot the team was hanging out in front of the big man as motivation to do what was needed of him, but the chance he wouldn’t was always there.
Earlier today we told you about how, after the Lakers announced some front office promotions, Mitch Kupchak went on the record with Sam Amick from USA Today to discuss the moves. Well, Amick also brings us updates from Kupchak on the team’s interest in Metta World Peace:
“We’ve got a couple more weeks (until training camp). Our roster’s not complete. And we’ll just take it from there. Nothing’s imminent in terms of a signing anytime soon, but it’s hard not to watch a guy when he’s in your gym every day going up and down the court, working with young guys, playing hard. Part of me says he can still play, so I don’t know where we’re going to end up on it. But that’s kind of where it is.”
For what it’s worth, Kupchak isn’t the only front office decision maker in town who has positive things to say about MWP. In a recent interview with Colin Cowherd, Clippers head coach and president echoed sentiments of Metta’s good form:
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:
The Lakers plan on signinng one to three more players before training camp opens in Hawaii Sept. 29. They have 17 players signed now.
— Brad Turner (@BA_Turner) September 9, 2015
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)
The Lakers announced several front office promotions on Friday, officially naming Ryan West Director of Player Personnel, Jesse Buss Assistant General Manager/Director of Scouting, and Clay Moser Assistant Coach/Director of Basketball Strategy.
We originally touched on the West promotion in this space, so this is not necessarily new news. Investing in West, in my opinion, is a smart move as he brings both youth and experience to the table and is, seemingly, well regarded around the league.
The Moser move was also expected, as reported by Bill Oram back in July. From Oram’s report:
Assistant coach and advance scout Clay Moser is expected to transition from the bench to the front office in a sort of liaison position, which previously did not exist within the organization. A team spokesman confirmed Monday that the move is in the works.
The responsibilities of the role have been among those heaped upon assistant coach Mark Madsen. The plan with Moser, however, is to facilitate a pipeline of ideas with a basketball person in the front office.
Having Moser in place to help bridge the gap between the analytics staff and the coaches is an investment worth making — should it translate to actual implementation and/or affect strategy by the coaches. I have my doubts Byron Scott will suddenly turn around 180 degrees on his views towards the usefulness of analytics (read the full Oram piece above for more background), but it’s worth a shot.
The Jesse Buss promotion is the only other front office change that wasn’t on the radar before. He’s had “Assistant GM” added to his title (he was already the Scouting Director), but it’s unclear if his duties are actually changing. The Lakers already have an Assistant GM in place — Glenn Carraro was appointed to that role in 2012. This isn’t to minimize the impact of Buss’ promotion, rather it’s meant to provide more context and background.
When it was reported the Lakers signed Marcelo Huertas, part of my analysis focused on my thoughts that his contract was likely to be fully guaranteed and, thus, his roster spot was basically set in stone. Well, it turns out that is not the case. Not at all, in fact:
I hear Lakers' deal with Marcelo Huertas is just a summer contract, non-guaranteed rookie minimum at $525k with limited injury protection
— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) September 9, 2015
Huertas taking a fully non-guaranteed deal is a bit of a shocker to me. Considering he could have more than likely continued his career in Europe with guaranteed money, coming to the NBA on the equivalent of a make-good training camp invite is not something I saw coming.
This leads me to two conclusions. First, Huertas really wanted to come to the NBA this season. When he told Yahoo! Sports in April that “now is the right time”, that was clearly not him just blowing smoke. He put his money where his mouth was, putting his desires to come stateside over what were surely more fruitful guarantees overseas.
Second, Huertas likely sees himself as having a good chance to make the Lakers’ final roster. Training camp invites, much like Summer League choices, are all about finding a team where 1). adequate opportunity to play exists and 2). a path to a potential roster spot is clear enough to inspire a fair shot at making the team. The Lakers, for what it’s worth, look to offer both to Huertas.
While D’Angelo Russell is clearly the PG of the future and Jordan Clarkson played well at that spot last season, the team does not currently have a veteran signal caller who could play behind either player. Add to this Byron Scott’s affinity for veteran players and Mitch Kupchak’s on the record comments about wanting to add a veteran signal caller and Huertas’ chances only increase.
With all these variables working (at least somewhat) in his favor, Huertas is taking his chance. Now all he has to do is play well enough in camp to make the front office want to keep him around.
When we last discussed Jordan Clarkson’s desire to play for the Philippine National Team in the Asia Championships the focus on him being named to 24-player pool and his status was tied more to is ability to play as a “natural born” player. The Philippine basketball federation was said to be getting FIBA the paperwork they were requesting to clear Clarkson and, thus, opening the avenue for him to play in the end of September tournament whose winner would earn a berth to the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Well, while we are still waiting for a final word from FIBA, there seems to be a more pressing question about Clarkson’s availability and it is tied to the Lakers, the start of training camp, and the timing of the tournament in China. Kurt Helin at Pro Basketball Talk has the story:
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.