Archives For Summer Pro League

Notes from the Summer League

Kurt —  July 13, 2009

NBA: FEB 17 Hawks at Lakers
First, regarding the news on Odom that Mitch Kupchak said the Lakers are more pessimistic about a deal. If I were the Lakers and I went to Odom and upped my offer to $8.5 mil (the number I heard here at Summer League) and he took his sweet time making a decision, I would be a little disappointed. And I might well try a little negotiating through the media to get my point across. Simply put, Odom is not getting a better offer anywhere at this point, so if he wants to wait out the Portland/Utah thing, go ahead. I think the Lakers are done negotiating.


I spent the Lakers game sitting between David Thorpe and Mike Moreau (both of IMG and ESPN) so anything that follows and sounds vaguely smart, assume it came from them:

• The bottom line with Adam Morrison, I’m not sure he becomes the regular rotation guy some hoped.

When he just spots up and shoots from three, Morrison is deadeye. He has a very pretty little stepback shot from the baseline 10-feet out, and made that move other spots. When he plays within that role, doing those things, he was good.

When he put the ball on the floor though, it was an adventure. And he likes to drive. His decision making was spotty — he had Eric Gordon on him but consistently tried to go off the dribble and try to finish in the paint rather then use the step back to shoot over him and use his height. Morrison does not finish well off the drive. If he put on some weight, I could see him posting up some smaller threes then using the step back to shoot over them. But he is thin and could not move (the strong) Eric Gordon around.

The question is can Morrison mentally adjust and do the things he needs to at the NBA level? Can he spend a quarter and a half on the bench then come out and drain two threes in 45 seconds? Can he be a guy who can exploit specific matchups and just accept the minutes when he gets them? If he can, he will be fine as a10-minutes a night, off the bench gunner. I’m not sure he’s going to be much more than that. I’ll see him again tomorrow, maybe I will feel differently.

• The Clippers were a tough test — at one point they had a lineup of Eric Gordon and Mike Taylor in the back court, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan with just one guy you don’t know (Nik Caner-Medley, who has been playing in the Summer League since it was in Long Beach). That is a lineup they can basically run out comfortably in the season.

• Blake Griffin is the real deal. Amazingly strong and balanced in the post and in the air. He finishes strong at the rim. He drained a three and clearly has been working on his shot since the last public workout. He got a rebound, dribbled it coast-to-coast and finished with a spin move. He finished with 27 and 12 (although against suspect competition). I’d say there was no way they could screw this up if it were any other franchise.

• Chinemelu Elonu is not going to be playing for the Lakers.

• For those of you who were high on Rodrigue Beaubois — You were right. Much better in person than expected. Absolutely lighting quick off the dribble, can shoot the three, and most impressively made really smart decisions. Not just me saying that, I was standing next to a front office guy (not Lakers) who was saying “We didn’t know he could shoot like that.”

• The other underafted (he went 56th) guy on the Mavs roster I liked was Ahmad Nivins, who had a great season at St. Joseph’s but still flew under the radar. Great hops and energy, I could see him as a bench energy four in the Ronny Turiaf mold, but with less strength and better handles.

Summer League Stats, Thoughts

Kurt —  July 20, 2008

When you look at the Lakers roster heading into next season, it is very possible that two guys from this Summer League team could end up on the Lakers this fall (depending on free agent moves, of course, but bringing back Sasha, Karl and one free agent big puts the roster at 13, leaving room for one more we saw this summer).

So how did guys do on the score sheet this summer? As is tradition here, I give you some of the advanced stats for the key Lakers guys this summer.

Name eFG% 3pt % TS% Reb. Rate Ast. 40 Pts. P40 PPG
Karl 43.6% 37.9% 53.2% 5.5 % 2.2 18.8 13.8
Crawford 49.1% 45.5% 52.5% 6.2% 2.3 20 11.3
Caner-Medley 45.3% 25% 54.5% 15.2% 1.8 20.2 8.8
Ford 47.1% NA 50% 11.5% 0.8 16.6 8.4
Mata-Real 52.9% NA 48.5% 18.3% 1.1 10.1 4.8

Here’s a little guide to those stats for those that are new here:

eFG%: Shooting percentage combining two and three pointers
3pt.%: Shooting percentage from beyond the arc
TS%: True Shooting Percentage, think of this as points per shot attempt, it covers twos, three, free throws all adjusted to be a percentage.
Reb Rate: Percentage of available rebounds a player grabbed while on the floor.
Ast. P40: Assists dished per 40 minutes of playing time.
Pts. P40: Points scored per 40 minutes of playing time.
PPG: Points per game

You can only take away so much of what you learn from summer league games, it exists in a weird world about halfway between top college ball and the NBA. It’s a place you can sort players out and gain insights, not much more. Because a guy looks good in summer league doesn’t mean he will look that good the half-step up to the NBA level, but it means he has a chance. If a guy bombs out here…..

So, a few final thoughts on these guys.

Coby Karl shot lights out last summer league, but this time around he was the focus of the offense and that always means a shooting percentage drop. The shooting levels may be pedestrian, but the higher true shooting percentage shows he was getting to the line, which is a nice new wrinkle from his game. Also, he played good defense, something we had not seen a lot out of him. His game has progressed a lot in the last year, and it makes you wonder how far it can continue to grow. I think he’s proving he can play in the NBA as a solid bench guy with a little more development.

Joe Crawford played better and better as the Summer League went on. He shot about two from beyond the arc a game, and hit those at a nice rate. He can get into the lane. His decision making and defense need work, but the Lakers might keep him on the roster to see how he develops. Simply put, in two years the Lakers have some decisions to make at PG — if, as we hope, Farmar can step up and grab the starting job the Lakers will be looking for a solid (and affordable) backup to him. Crawford may be able to develop into that guy, and keeping him around and on the D-Fenders may give you a chance to make that happen.

Nik Caner-Medley was the guy fans fell in love with because he just wanted it, out worked the other guys on the floor and showed a few skills. His offensive game needs polish, but he put up 19 against Minnesota. Another guy I’d like to see how he develops in a year of playing professionally (here or maybe overseas, although his outside shooting appears to need work to play effectively in Europe). If the Lakers could get him on the D-Fenders for a year he might be a guy who can be an effective bench player in a couple years.

Sharrod Ford and Lorenzo Mata-Real round out the list. They are examples of guys who are going to get paid to play and likely will have nice careers in Europe (Ford is already doing that), but are just not quite NBA guys. There is no shame in that — getting paid to play basketball in Spain or Italy sounds pretty damn good to some of us.

Guys like Ford and Mata-Real are what make up most of the Sumer League rosters, and frankly what makes the league so much fun every year. These are good players looking for a chance. All the attention goes to the stars — Kevin Love answered some questions about his athleticism and if he can play pro ball; Mayo showed the tantalizing talent of major stardom in flashes but has a lot to learn; Jarryd Bayless may be very good, as if Portland needed more young talent — but that is just a few. It’s the “average” guy trying to prove himself that makes the Summer League. I guess for us basketball junkies, its back to the world of speculation and free agency. Well, at least for a couple weeks until the Olympics start.

UPDATE: It’s official, Ronny Turiaf is now a member of the Golden State Warriors. Good on him. He is going to get paid and he is going to be somewhere he will get court time and a chance to really prove he deserves those minutes. I hope he does that. I think I speak for a lot of Laker fans in saying that wherever Ronny goes, he will remain one of my favorites.

On AM 570 today Matt “Money” Smith (who has some contacts as the Lakers broadcaster) said something interesting — part of the delay with making a decision on Turiaf is that the Lakers brass started having more in depth and serious talks with Sasha Vujacic’s agent. The reason was they could only sign one at these prices, they wanted Sasha but they wanted to make sure his demands were not unreasonable. That line of thinking makes a lot of sense. We’ll see if that comes to fruition in the next few days.

Also, the Turiaf move begs the question: Do the Lakers need one more big on the bench? If so, who can you get at a cheap price?


• Coby Karl continues to be the best player the Lakers have in the Summer League. We tend to think of him as a spot-up shooter but in this league he has shown he can put the ball on the floor, get in the lane and draw the foul. And he’s big and strong enough to still get the shot off while fouled. Also, against Philly, he played some pretty good defense on Thadeus Young.

• However, in the game against Philly (and apparently against Minnesota, which I have not seen) Joe Crawford has started to improve. He just looks more comfortable, picking his spots on when to attack and pass, looking more relaxed when he shoots. He also can get in the lane and score or draw a foul. I still think he needs a year in the D-League, but the fact he is finding a comfort level says something about his hoops IQ and willingness to learn.

• David Thorpe of in his chat this week, re: Coby Karl: “Literally, he’s become one of my favorite players. Yes, he can play in the NBA.”

• Let’s not get ahead of ourselves with Coby, but in a couple of years he could be a good guy off the bench in the NBA, a guy who can shoot the three and play reasonable defense. He’s not yet what Sasha is for the Lakers, but you can see that potential.

• If I were a team with a few open roster spots I needed to fill cheaply (hello Clippers?) and wanted a guy who was going to bring energy off the bench and in practice, I’d take a long look at Nik Caner-Medley. He’s not going to get a lot of NBA minutes, but he’s the kind of guy you might want on the end of the bench (maybe spending some time in the D-League).

• I’ve watched some other, non-Laker games as well and at some point will put up some general thoughts. But you have to be careful, I watched only the first half of the first Knicks game, and Gallinari looked terrible. He wasn’t adjusted to the style of play or the athleticism, wasn’t setting his feet under his shots and just looked a mess. But, aparently, he had a very good second half of that same game.

• Personally I would not have given James Posey that fourth year, but I get why the Hornets did it. I think Darius summed it up well in the comments:

I’m sorry to say this, but the Hornets are stacked. They have scorers at almost every position, they have interior and perimeter defenders, they have post offense, and they have Chris Paul and that deadly high P&R. Can you imagine a crunch time line up of Paul, Posey, Peja, West, and Chandler? Who do you leave to stop penetration? I understand that Peja and Paul aren’t the best defenders (understatement, I know) but West is decent and Posey/Chandler are pretty strong for their positions. I’m not shaking in my boots or anything, but those guys are (mostly) young, hungry players that just got a ton of experience in a brutal conference and have a lot of confidence based off of last season.

• This is a nice breakdown of FG% vs. eFG% vs. TS%. Bottom line, I tend to use eFG% a lot around here, because it’s easy to calculate quickly, but I really should use TS% more.

Summer League and Other Thoughts

Kurt —  July 14, 2008

I’ve now watched both Lakers Summer League games (which makes me miss being there in person, back when this took place in Long Beach, a lot). So I’ve started off this post with thoughts there, and thrown in a few more along the way.

• Coby Karl has simply been the best Laker on the floor, both games. We knew he could shoot (although he was off from the outside against Memphis), but he showed a more rounded game and growth from last year. He has shown some determination and aggression trying to get to the rim, some good play in transition and some good hoops IQ. Early in the Grizzlies game Laker Bryant Dunston got a block then ran the floor, and Karl worked to reward his big with the ball in the paint. Karl’s passing has been good, he showed some ability to see the floor and get the ball to the player in the best spot (including some nice passes to cutters).

One thing Karl clearly has been working on is his defense, and he had some good moments matched up on OJ Mayo. Karl is a pretty long, big body who can get a hand up and bother shooters, which he did at times to Mayo, even blocking a Mayo jumper at one point. He even did a decent job on Crittenton, which is a bad matchup for him. Karl did a nice job getting back in transition to take away easy buckets on several occasions and getting a steal. He drew a charge on a big at one point on a down screen. Where he got in trouble was indecisiveness. At one point in the Grizzlies game Crittenton came off the high pick and roll and split the defense, and went to the rim. The rotations were poor, but welcome to summer league ball. What Karl did was start to leave Mayo in the corner to help, do it half-heartedly and allow Crittenton to kick-out to an open Mayo for three. A version of that happened a few times. He also needs to work on fighting through picks. That said, his defense is much better and he did a solid job on the very athletic Mayo.

• Recent draft pick Joe Crawford has been a mixed bag. A good example is two consecutive Laker possessions in the first quarter of the second game. On the first one he comes off a down screen, gets the feed at the top of the key and quickly spins and buries the shot, a nice bit of recognition and shooting. Next time down on the wing, he makes a poor post entry pass that gets picked off. Another point in that game he makes a nice crossover dribble on the wing and gets into the lane, then just runs over a big who rotates over and gives the charge. He’s sort of been like that through two games, a mix of nice plays and errors.

• I thought OJ Mayo looked professional. In the scattershot style of play in Summer League that is saying something. He handled pressure well when he had the ball, showed range with his shot, the ability to shoot with a hand in his face and some good athleticism (the dunk opening night, a pretty up and under against the three Laker defenders at the rim). He looked like a guy more than ready for the league. Three summer games is far from enough time to tell how good he is going to be, but I liked what I saw. Paired with Rudy Gay, that is going to be some athletic wings (and an entertaining team) in Memphis.

• Mike Conley has a very nice hesitation dribble.

• Memphis went with some three guard lineups — Conley, Crittenton and Mayo — and they should do that come the season. It was a fast, energetic group (which they will need without any post presence to speak of).

• Lakers Nik Caner-Medley and Sharrod Ford play hard on both ends of the floor. That is not going to be enough to get them a spot the Lakers or likely any NBA roster, but I see why they gets paid to play overseas. They probably are on their way to getting a camp invite.

• Two thoughts on the continuing Artest saga, a couple of these reiterations of things said in the comments:

1) Last year the Lakers made two trades, getting Ariza out of Orlando and Gasol out of Memphis. In both cases, there was no pre-trade leaks and discussion. However, last summer there was plenty of leaks and discussion about Jermaine O’Neal for Bynum and other trades that did not happen. Which category does this fall into?

2) To me and just about anyone else, adding Kenny Thomas would be a deal breaker. No way we are taking on $7.5 million this year and more than $8 mil next year, the same year we will have to pay Bynum, Ariza (and in this scenario re-sign Artest). Plus, if you haven’t noticed, Thomas has nothing left in the tank, he had a PER of 2.6 last year. For comparison, the Laker with the worst PER last year was Chris Mihm at 7.6.

Concerns from Spurs fans that I think are pretty valid. That said, they are still title contenders.

• There are some good teams in the final qualifying tournament to get into the Olympics. That includes Sasha Vujacic’s Slovenia team. Here is a breakdown.

Summer League Starts

Kurt —  July 11, 2008

With all the rumors floating around — from silly to serious — thank Buddha (or the deity of your choice) that there is some on the court hoops to discuss tonight.

Granted, you can’t read too much into Summer League play, and in the case of the Lakers this is a handful of guys competing for one (maybe two depending on free agency) spot at the end of the bench, and a winter playing with the D-Fenders.

Still, it is basketball. And it is a window into how these guys play and what they have worked on (and need to work on). Plus the competition, while not often pretty in terms of teamwork, is intense because these guys are trying to get noticed by scouts, NBA and International alike. These are guys trying to get jobs, and this is a big interview. So it matters a lot to them.

The Lakers tip off tonight at 5 p.m. against the Detroit Pistons. You can catch it on NBA TV (although my guide said they are not starting until 5:30) or you can watch it on streaming video on the NBA site.

What follows is the Lakers roster (with some pregame notes):

• Coby Karl, #11, 6-5, 210, guard out of Boise State. He was the guy at the end of the Lakers bench last year. This is his chance to show how much he has improved in that year, how much he has learned. If he does not show that, he opens the door for others to take his spot.

• Joe Crawford, #12. 6-5, 207, guard out of Kentucky. The Lakers second round draft pick is going to have to show a lot, both on defense and in shooting, or at least much more promise than Coby Karl (in whom the team already has an investment).

• Davon Jefferson, #23, 6-7, 215, forward out of USC. Those of us in SoCal saw a fair amount off him this year, and he has talent and hops. But, word on the street was he showed up out of shape to the Orlando camp, turning scouts off because of work ethic concerns. Can he prove them wrong here? If he played up to his potential….

• Lorenzo Mata-Real, #31, 6-9, 245, forward out of UCLA. A fan favorite because he was a bulldog defender, he is going to have to show that translates to the next level, and that he can develop some offense, to impress any scouts. Plus, he needs to crash the boards, hard.

• Pat Calathes, #25, 6-10, 210, forward out of St. Josephs. You may say “who” but’s David Thorpe called him one of two undrafted guys most likely to make an NBA roster. He averaged 17 and 8, shooting 40% from three, in the Atlantic 10 last season.

• James White, #10, 6-6, 195, swingman out of Cincinnati. Had a cup of coffee the Spurs but spent time in Austin in the D-League (Austin > Dakotas). Played last year with Fenerbahçe Ülker, the champs of the Turkish League. The good thing here — we could see a spectacular dunk or two.

• Marcelus Kemp, #9, 6-5, 210, guard out of Nevada. Led the Wolfpack with 20 points per game and could shoot the college three. The scouting report is great midrange game, has trouble finishing at the rim.

• Cedric Bozeman, #1, 6-6, 220 guard out of UCLA. He played last season in Poland with Energa Czarni Slupsk. He had a cup of coffee with the Hawks two seasons ago.

• Yi Li, #22, 6-9, 210, forward out of China. Probably the skinniest guy on the roster. He is not good enough to make the Chinese national team, he’s here to game some experience. And hopefully eat a burger or two.

• Nik Caner-Medley, #15, 6-8, 240, forward out of Maryland. He played last season with CB Gran Canaria in Spain. Maybe one of our Spanish readers can help us out here with some thoughts.

• Bryant Dunston, #26, 6-9, 250, forward out of Fordham. Apparently did some nice things at the Portsmouth camp. Draft Express thinks he’ll play overseas.

• Sharrod Ford, #20, 6-9, 235, forward out of Clemson. Plays for the Italian team Virtus Bologna. Had a cup of coffee with the Suns in 2005. Led Clemson is scoring and rebounding two consecutive years, back in the day.

• Taj Gray, #21, 6-9, 230, forward out of Oaklahoma. Expected to play for Chorale de Roanne in France next season, he has played overseas the last couple of years. Unless the OKC front office people want to impress the locals….

• James Hughes, #34, 6-11, 225, center out of Northern Illinois. Athletic with a lot of “upside” but that has not translated on to the pro courts well yet.

• Dontell Jefferson, #2, 6-5, 200, guard out of Arkansas. Spent the last two seasons with the Dakota Wizards of the D-League and last season averaged 17 and 5, although the shooting percentage will not impress. By the way, is playing for the Dakota Wizards basketball purgatory?

• Thomas Kelati, #4, 6-5, 210, guard out of Washington State. Played last year for Turow in Poland, where he helped lead the team to a surprisingly good finish.

• Sean Lampley, #24, 6-8, 230, forward out of Cal. He was MVP of the NIT back in the day. Now he is playing for the Melbourne Tigers in Australia, where he is averaging 17 a game. And you have to think Melbourne is better than the Dakotas as a place to live.

• Dwayne Mitchell, #3, 6-5, 210, guard out of Louisiana-Lafayette. He averaged 20 ppg for Iowa in the D-League last year.

• Brian Roberts, #5, 6-2, 175, guard out of Dayton. No, not the Baltimore Oriels second baseman (although he is hitting .291). He apparently had a very good camp in Orlando, looking very professional. He can shoot the ball from range, 45% from three in college. Defense is the question.

• Michael Southhall, #35, 6-10, 260, center out of Louisiana-Lafayette. This guy was a big-time recruit way back when (Kentucky), but eventually declared for the draft in 2003, pulled out and spent time in prison on a parole violation.

• Quinton Thomas, #6, 6-3, 185, guard out of North Carolina. I have no idea, the only guy I can find with this name is still in high school. Any help here?

• Martin Zeno, #14, 6-5, 200, guard out of Texas Tech. Averaged 16 points per game but shot 17% from the college three.


Clearly, not all these guys will play but that is the roster. Also, remember that in Summer League guards tend to dominate the ball, trying to get seen by shooting and making plays rather than just feeding the post. The best way to judge bigs is often effort on the boards.

Summer League Stats, Thoughts

Kurt —  July 18, 2007

Before we wave goodbye to Vegas, let’s take one more look back at the Summer League. (If you’d rather read my thoughts on Los Angeles’ mood about Kobe, read this post at True Hoop.) Let’s start with the stats — I’m only putting up the stats for four of the Laker players because, well, only two likely will make the team and only two others sparked any kind of interest. So, here are the numbers.

Name eFG% 3pt % TS% Reb. Rate Ast. 40 Pts. P40 PPG
Crittenton 50% 25% 53.7% 6.3% 4.2 23.8 17
Farmar 42.2% 33.3% 51.8% 9.5% 6.6 17.4 11.6
Karl 63.8% 47.1% 66.7% 5.1% 2.5 20.6 12.2
Turner 50% NA 55.2% 17.7% 1.5 13.5 7.4

Here’s a little guide to those stats for those that are new here:

eFG%: Shooting percentage combining two and three pointers
3pt.%: Shooting percentage from beyond the arc
TS%: True Shooting Percentage, think of this as points per shot attempt, it covers twos, three, free throws all adjusted to be a percentage.
Reb Rate: Percentage of available rebounds a player grabbed while on the floor.
Ast. P40: Assists dished per 40 minutes of playing time.
Pts. P40: Points scored per 40 minutes of playing time.
PPG: Points per game

Now a few thoughts. And from me, just a few because unlike past years I only got to see one game of the Summer League and that was online. So I will rely heavily on the thoughts and comments of Reed, who attended the majority of games live (at great risk to his marriage).

Javaris Crittenton stood out as a pleasant surprise, he was more athletic and seemed to shoot better than I had imagined. I think the stats showed what we all thought going in, that his shot needs to be more consistent, but his form looked good, which is a good sign. While I liked him, Reed loved his game:

I saw numerous games in person last week, and Crittenton has as much “wow” factor as anyone else I watched. He made fans buzz in the stands. Over the course of the week, my stance on him progressed from, “great trade bait pick,” to “maybe he’ll challenge Farmar for backup point guard minutes next year,” to “keep him at all costs, he is a star in the making.” To me, he’s a “type 1 player” – definite star potential…. Crittenton really doesn’t have any obvious holes in his game. He is the total package physically: tall, strong, quick, great balance, explosive leaper. He has a well-rounded offensive game. He combines speed, strength, and a great handle to get to the paint in a variety of ways – isolated on the weak side, splitting the defenders in the screen and roll, lightning fast cut off the elbow weave, etc. Once in the paint, he (unlike Farmar) has the strength to bull through defenders and absorb contact to finish effectively right at the rim (though, he seems to overly favor going right and finishing with the right hand). On the perimeter, he has a consistent, soft spot up jumper out to the college three, but doesn’t seem to have consistent nba three point range. He also seems to lose accuracy when pulling up off the dribble, but the footwork and mechanics are there, suggesting he’ll quickly improve there. Javaris also showed controlled, but effective playmaking, setting up big men for high percentage layups and avoiding turnovers (though his college numbers suggest we should expect a high turnover rate for a while). He played brilliantly off the ball, consistently making smart cuts and finding openings in his wheelhouse on the perimeter when Farmar penetrated. On defense, I think Crittenton has the tools and focus to be a lock down defender. He is long, quick, and strong. He struggled a big in knowing when to come over the top of screens and when to switch, but he took well to Brian Shaw’s constant instruction on the issue.
Now, I’m not suggesting Crittenton is ready to come in right away and start. I’m not even sure that he’ll be a valuable rotation player this year. But, the tools are there for him to eventually be a dominant point guard. And, sooner than I previously thought.

Jordan Farmar.
His stats for the Summer League won’t wow you, but he showed leadership on the floor with a young team, something you like to see from your PG. And, his three-point shooting wasn’t amazing but 33% is an improvement over last summer and last season. But then, we knew he’d get better, his work ethic is one of his strengths. Again, here’s Reed:

Farmar’s game is not tailored to summer league success. Roughly speaking, there are two types of basketball players: (1) stars, aggressors, those who drive the action and carry teams, and (2) role/dependent players, those who react to the situations created by stars and fill in the cracks. Farmar is a classic type 2 player. He is never going be a star or capable of carrying a team offensively; his success will be dependent on him feeding off of the stars…. when placed next to a mishmash of raw summer league teammates, most of whom don’t understand the offense and aren’t concerned with doing anything other than shooting as soon as they get the ball, Farmar is going to struggle a little. We saw that throughout the summer league.

However, we also saw a lot of bright spots. Farmar was at his best when Crittenton joined him on the floor, for then he had a talented finisher to capitalize on his playmaking and deft management of the triangle. Jordan repeatedly broke down the defense with penetration off the weak side screen roll or triangle weave, culminating in him hitting a cutting or spotting up Crittenton for an easy basket.

Coby Karl. The kid can shoot (43% from three, that’s amazing in your back yard, let alone in real NBA competition). And there is always going to be a payday for smart players who can shoot. That may be in Europe, Karl’s lack of athleticism (he gets that from his father) may hold him back in the NBA, but he will get paid to play. Again, Reed:

As I noted in Thursday’s post, he is an interesting case because he does not have the requisite speed or ballhandling skills to be an effective point guard or the size of a shooting guard. Despite those limitations, he played very well in spurts, particularly in the early games, and displayed a coach’s son’s feel for the game. He has deep range with a quick release, rare passing instincts, a keen understanding of floor spacing in the triangle, and a relentless work ethic on defense. The Lakers strongest lineup consistently featured him, Farmar, and Crittenton, with Karl providing spacing on the perimeter and creative passing from the high post (including a crafty between the legs pass to a cutting guard from the free throw line). However, despite these virtues, I just see too many limitations that are unlikely to disappear. On offense, Karl is really only a stand still shooter. If a defender closes down on him and forces him to pick up the dribble, he does not have the speed to create real separation or the leaping ability to rise up and get off a high % jump shot. Instead, he is forced to pass the ball out to the reset the offense, or, at best, bull his way into the lane in the hopes of creating contact for free throws (which he did effectively a few times).

Larry Turner. He’s a bulky 6-11 center out of Tennessee State who proved he could board with the best and showed good effort on defense. It’s a long shot he makes the squad, but he deserves a camp invite. Some final thoughts from Reed:

If the Lakers look to the summer roster to bring in a cheap big body for insurance frontcourt depth, I think it has to be Turner. He is a legitimate 6’11” and built like a chiseled mountain. Huge upper body and fairly mobile. In both the Wednesday and Saturday games, the Lakers made big second half runs to storm behind from big deficits and capture the lead (though ultimately losing on Saturday). During both runs, Turner keyed the defense with aggressive (but relatively foul-free), pick and roll trapping, solid low post defense, strong board work, and a nose for loose balls. He is ok on offense, capable of catching and dunking or throwing up a decent righty jump hook. I see him as a poor man’s Ronnie Turiaf or Anderson Varejao.

Summer League First Person

Kurt —  July 12, 2007

One of my favorite parts of this blog (and I think some of the better stuff) came from my first-hand reporting of the Lakers happenings at the Summer Pro League in Long Beach the last couple of years. But, the Lakers have joined most of the rest of the NBA in Las Vegas, and I couldn’t get out there this year. Fortunately, commenter Reed lives in Vegas and he provides a front-row view from the game against Portland. Enjoy.

I finally found my way to the NBA Summer League last night. I had high hopes to see Oden and Durant, but, of course, they were busy with tonsillectomies and the Espy’s. If you swing through Vegas this weekend, make sure to stop by. It is a really, really different NBA experience – very informal, unregulated, open, intimate. Everywhere you turn there are NBA coaches, GM’s, players, foreign scouts, recognizable media, etc. Sam Presti looks all of eighteen. Aaron Afflalo likes a lot of ketchup. Nate McMillan is very, very sober.

I sat right behind the Sonic’s bench for their game against Milwaukee. Robert Swift must have spent the summer with Scott Pollard — has a long red pony tail, tattoos up both arms, and an assortment of lip and ear piercings. He spent most of the game leaning over and whispering awkward jokes to Jeff Green, who tried hard to ignore him.

I also sat directly behind the Lakers bench during their game. Close enough I could observe the coaches and players, hear trash-talking, and read Tex Winter’s stat sheets. Thoughts on the game:

• Kurt Rambis is eminently likeable. He reminds me of Larry’s agent in Curb Your Enthusiasm – the kind of person you would enjoy being around. He spent much of the first half playfully making fun of the players to Brian Shaw. When Jabari Smith forgot to jump for the opening tip, he sarcastically yelled, “Great Jabari, way to just stand there, that’s just what we need.” Rambis also has “presence,” more so than Shaw. He seems to command the players respect. Though, that may not be hard to do with a roster of desperate journeyman and rookies. He never stops teaching the fundamentals during timeouts and dead balls. He’s an asset as an assistant coach.

• Coby Karl is an interesting case. He really is too small and unathletic to play shooting guard, and not a good enough ball handler or fast enough to play the point. Martel Webster (the sixth overall pick in 2005) ate him up on offense — just too big, fast, athletic, and powerful (Webster looked incredible, a real breakout candidate). Webster blew by him and rose up over him for easy jump shots consistently. Yet, Karl still managed to positively impact the game. He has a quick shot with deep range, sees meaningful passes before most players, and plays with real tenacity. At one point, after Karl’s over-intense defense on Webster led to a deflection, Webster turned to him mockingly and said, “You better save some of that energy Coby.” Intentional or not, I was happy when the two got tangled in transition a few possessions later and Webster took a nasty fall — destroying his rhythm for the rest of the game. Karl’s basically a smaller, better shooting Luke Walton. If he can be hidden on defense by tracking a non-threatening opponent, he can be a solid rotation player in the league. Smart, well-schooled, and fundamentally sound. But, he’ll get absolutely dominated by the league’s better wing players. Tough call. I think he’s worth signing and putting in the D-League.

• Besides Farmar, Crittenton, and Karl, no one else has any chance of making the team. The bigs are… big. Nothing more. Jabari Smith is long and he tries hard, but he makes Kwame Brown look like Kevin McHale on the block. Just no game. He’s the type of player that approaches every timeout by smashing something on the bench after picking up a cheap foul or blowing an easy putback, followed by the coaches gently encouraging him. High on intentions, low on results. Larry Turner is massive. He’s has a Kwame physique, yet is even less polished than Jabari. White, Graves, Patterson, Gay, and the rest have little to offer at the NBA level. It’s a three man show with the big men around to get rebounds and feed the guards.

• Farmar and Crittenton look fantastic. Although it is only summer league, they clearly got the better of two skilled first round point guards in Sergio Rodriguez and Petteri Koponen. The two combined for 43 points on 15-28 shooting, 7 rebounds, 3 assists (some statkeeper wasn’t counting diligently…), and, most significantly, zero turnovers.

• Crittenton is more impressive physically — taller, thicker, stronger. He covers all the point guard skills well: lightning fast penetration, great finisher, good spot up shooter, controlled playmaking. His jump shot gets a little sketchy when he is forced to pull up off the dribble, but that won’t be his role on the Lakers for a few seasons. He scored 26 efficient points in every possible way. Very, very impressive. Yet, you can tell he’s only 19. He seems a little in awe of the situation and doesn’t quite realize how good he is. That’s the difference between watching Randy Foye and him right now — same ability, but Foye knows he’s better than the competition. Javaris seems a little surprised every time he does something well. I’m skeptical he will be ready to contribute against the best teams or in the playoffs this year, but his potential is greater than Farmar’s.

• Farmar was the best player on the court. He got less minutes and didn’t put up the same stat line as Crittenton, but he was the better player. He has the confidence that he’s been there before and knows he’s “the man” (of the summer team, anyway). He has obviously put some time in the weight room, with a much thicker upper body. On the court, he was flawless — patiently running the offense, creating plays in the paint, hitting open jump shots, finishing difficult layups, setting up Crittenton’s finishes, etc. Although the box score only showed two assists, many of Crittenton’s baskets came via Farmar breaking down the defense. Jordan could have scored 25 or 30 without any trouble, but he reigned in his opportunities to control the game. Very encouraging.

• As a side note, Farmar carries himself with quite an attitude. He’s “that guy” we’ve all played with that dramatically smirks when his teammates are out of place, aggressively directs traffic, and pouts when he gets called for a foul. He’s constantly coaching his teammates, giving butt slaps, and chatting/arguing with the coaches. Maybe he’s just filling a needed leadership void on the team, but let’s just say if I were choosing teams for a pick up game, I’d probably go a different direction… Unexpectedly, Rambis started Crittenton over him (I think to try and get Javaris into the flow early after a lackluster game 2), and Farmar incredulously asked why. Rambis just gave him a mischievous shrug and grin, as if to say “You’re not all that yet, so go sit down.” He sulked, but then came in and dominated. (Ed. note: The Lakers have always mixed up the starters at the summer league, changing it from game to game with little apparent reason other than to give everyone a shot.)

• Portland is loaded with young talent. Although Oden and Aldridge didn’t play, they still threw out four recent first rounders (Webster, Sergio Rodriguez, Petteri Koponen, Joel Freeland) and a few underrated second rounders (Josh McRoberts and Taurean Green). Webster has the talent to be a star. Rodriguez and Koponen (two late first round point guards) both really know what they are doing. They are skilled ballhandlers, understand when and how to distribute, have nice range, etc. Portland will probably stash them overseas and bring them up in a year or two when they are really ready. Rodriguez in particular really controlled the offense. McRoberts was a steal. His upper body lacks any kind of definition (in sharp contract to almost every other big man I saw), but he has a great feel for the game. He consistently made impressive passes from the high post and hit nice fall away jump shots from the baseline. He’ll struggle for a few years, but once he fills out and develops the consistent 20 footer, he’ll be a nice power forward in the league.

Final thoughts:

After watching the Laker point guards this summer and tracking free agency, I think it would be a colossal mistake to sign Steve Blake, Mo Williams, or any other top tier free agent point guard to a full five-year midlevel contract. While Farmar and Crittenton are not ready man the point of a contending team this season, they both have the potential to quickly match or surpass the production of Blake/Williams. (I recognize Williams put up big numbers last year and do think he is talented, but I also think it was a case of an above average player putting up big statistics on a terrible, injury-depleted team. Remember, Ruben Patterson also averaged 15 points on that team last year.) Signing a free agent point guards to a five or six year deal makes no sense. What would we do with Steve Blake and his 6M for years 4-6 when Farmar/Crittenton has surpassed him? If we had cap room to pursue Billups that would be one thing, but there isn’t an impact free agent available to us. All we need is a veteran who can give us short term stability at the position while our young point guards are groomed. A placeholder that can immediately contribute. Learning the triangle and how to mesh with Kobe takes time, even seasons. Fisher is the one point guard out there who can seamlessly step in and fortify the position without jeopardizing the long-term growth of our young gems. Farmar and Crittenton are skilled, athletic, well-rounded talents with great instincts for the game. As none of the available free agents has any more upside than our two point guards, signing Fisher, who is ready to contribute now, to a shorter, smaller deal makes great sense. (For more of Reed’s thoughts on the Fisher signing and what it means, be sure to read this.)

Summer League

Kurt —  July 8, 2007

The Lakers start their Summer League play today, but this summer feels a lot different than the last couple.

The first, and most obvious, reason is the team chose to join the Vegas Summer League, which is now probably the hottest summer league going. (Pun intended.) The Lakers make it a lucky 21 teams that play their summer ball in Vegas, and that level of competition is hard to pass up (plus the reputation that the teams are treated better than they were in Long Beach).

But the other, larger reason is that the past couple of summers we got to watch a Devin Green or a JR Pinnock and say “I wonder if he can make the team?” The young “no name” guys playing along side Andrew Bynum and Jordan Farmar had a chance, albeit a slim one, to wear Laker colors come the NBA season. Not this year. The Laker roster is basically full and the team is not looking to take on more young projects in the spaces that are available. Farmar and rookie Jarvis Crittenton will be in Laker colors come October, and that’s it. There is no drama for us (there is for the other players as they try to get noticed by scouts and hook on, if not in the NBA, in Europe or the NDBL).

The Lakers start play at 7 p.m. tonight against the Nuggets, and you can watch the streaming video at this site. We’ll be following what happens in Vegas, but we’ll pine for the fun of the last couple summers while we do.