We have officially entered the dog days of summer. With no NBA on the horizon, the type of news we’re left with is Kobe visiting China to mobs of fans, a 52 year old Hakeem breaking out a vintage move in the #NBAAfricaGame and players dunking off phunkeeducks. Not exactly stuff with any sort of shelf life.
For me, though, during this long slog of the off-season, my mind will almost always turn back to roster construction and team building. The draft and free agency was a chance for the team to reshape itself with new talent. The initial trade market offered similar chances, with the Lakers diving in to nab a starting big man. The Lakers have done well, then, and reflecting on that is worth some time.
However, just because things have ground to a virtual hault, it does not mean there aren’t decisions to still explore, regardless if they’re viewed as minor. The team still possesses a depth chart showing a real glut in the front court and needs on the wing and, potentially, at point guard. Filling the back of the roster isn’t something the Lakers are used to worrying about, but for an organization still looking to make a substantial leap forward, all decisions carry a measure of import.
This includes the 15th roster spot, a spot currently empty which the Lakers plan to fill eventually. The question, however, is how the Lakers should fill this spot. From my seat, I see four possible scenarios:
1. Follow through and sign Robert Upshaw. Way back after the Lakers’ first summer league game, it was reported the Lakers had agreed to a contract with Upshaw. That contract, however, has seemingly not been signed and the status of the agreement remains a question mark. Upshaw would still be a very good addition to the roster as a young player with good upside who, at worst, spends a year in the D-League getting in shape, adding to his game, and doing it in an environment with less pressure to live up to his first round talent right away. Upshaw’s massive size and valuable skill set must be balanced against his history of off-court issues, of course. But, if the Lakers see enough upside, the type of contract he was rumored to be signing — two years, partial guarantee in year one — is the type of low risk investment worth making.
2. Sign a veteran big man. For the same reason the Lakers would sign Upshaw, the team could also look to sign a more NBA ready big man. One name which has consistently been floated is Kevin Seraphin, a C/PF who is still only 25 and his coming off his original rookie contract with the Wizards. Seraphin doesn’t have the “upside” of Upshaw, but he does have a proven NBA level game. That last point is meaningful since the Lakers could actually use a player to soak up some minutes at back up C — especially if that player can prove to be better equipped to fill that role than Tarik Black or Robert Sacre. Remember, while a major priority is the development of the team’s young players, the goal is still to win as many games as possible this upcoming season. Mitch Kupchak has spoken openly about the team wanting another big man who can back up Hibbert to help that goal.
3. Sign a SF. If I’m reading the tea leaves, the Lakers probably do not see SF or PG as glaring needs. You could manipulate the depth chart in any number of ways to give the team options at either spot — Lou Williams, for example, could be listed at PG; Jabari Brown could be listed at any of the three perimeter positions — which limit the on paper vulnerability at either position. But the games aren’t played on paper and one has to figure the Lakers would be better off signing someone on the wing who could, in theory, play NBA level defense while not being a high usage player offensively. There aren’t too many players like that still on the FA market, but Dorell Wright is one of them. As it stands, the Lakers SF depth is Kobe, Nick Young, and Anthony Brown. Wright would seem to be excess to that group, but if Brown ends up spending a lot of time in the D-League (a real possibility) and Young finds himself in Byron Scott’s doghouse (ditto), the SF spot doesn’t look so deep anymore.
4. Do nothing. The Lakers front office has tossed the word “flexibility” around a lot in the last few years and it’s not just lip service. They continue to keep their books relatively clean in the hopes of landing a top tier FA and after years of mortgaging the future for a chance to win now, they have mostly avoided the types of moves (whether by their own doing or not) which would negatively affect their ability to win in the future over the past two seasons. Following this train of thought, not signing a 15th player in order to keep an open roster spot makes a fair amount of sense. The open spot allows them to make a waiver claim should a player they like hit the open market (like they did with Tarik Black last year), it allows them to sign a FA into the season, or it keeps more trade options on the table should a viable 1-for-2 opportunity with a player or players they like (remember the RadMan for Ammo and Shannon Brown deal?). Keeping these avenues of improvement open might just be more valuable in the short term than what any of the options above are in the long term.
If it were me making this decision, I’d probably just go with option one and then, if I still wanted an open space I would try to address that with another move. Where I’m sitting, Upshaw’s upside is worth the nominal investment and if that means, down the line, trying to make a deal involving Sacre, Kelly, and/or Young or waiving Black or Jabari Brown (both of whom have non-guaranteed deals until January 10th) to create an open spot, it is something which can be explored down the line.
I don’t think there gonna anything I think that spot is for just in case I would just waive sacre and try to get a second rd pick for kelly he’s still a good player if used right
David B says
I would be interested to read a post of your thoughts on Upshaw’s upside. I heard/read all the stuff about him when we signed about how good he was in college, but I thought he looked pretty slow and not very skilled during the summer league. I know its just summer league, but thats really all we have to go off of at this point, so I would love to hear what you think.
Sign JaVale McGee with the room exception 2-3 years and let him form a shot blocking rotation with Big Roy
waive Sacre- Tarik Black can hold down back up Center duties, and sign Upshaw (upside with low risk contract too good to pass up) and Dorell Wright (legitimate 3 size and skill)
What is the status of Upshaw’s contract? If he hasn’t signed is that an indication that his agent is: a) still negotiating with Mitch or, b) is looking for a better deal elsewhere?
Seems to me that the original contract terms weren’t too player friendly. Per ESPN on July 11, 2015: “Baxter Holmes of ESPN has confirmed the report with additional details: the contract includes a partial guarantee on the 1st year, while the 2nd year of the deal is non-guaranteed.’
Personally, I thought it was a low ball offer and if that 2nd year was not guaranteed I could see him bolting to another team that might show a little more financial commitment. The Lakers offer also brings up the concern that there are additional red flags which warrant Mitch’s very conservative approach.
Getting back to Darius’ post, What to do with the Lakers 15th roster spot? The snarky response is that the real problem with the Lakers roster is spots 1 through 10,. But given where we are, firmly at the front end of a major rebuilding project, I’ll say that it should go to a player that is young and has upside. However, I don’t think there are many options right now.
The Lakers might benefit from holding the spot until camps open and players are cut. I’d especially look at players released by teams like the Spurs or Warriors as they do a good job of identifying players with skills to bring into camp but have the enviable problem of too much talent on their current rosters. I’d also look at players released by bad teams as they tend to not realize what they have even when they have watched players practice/play for a few weeks
Well maybe we can keep that top 3 pick after all. From ( ESPN) Kevin Pelton’s Friday Chat:
Gregory: Do you think the Lakers can compete for a playoff spot ?
Kevin Pelton: No, I don’t see a realistic scenario for that. I think they are more likely to end up with the worst record in the West than make the playoffs.
Stacy: Hi Kevin- Have you ever seen a team constructed with so many ISO/ one on one players as this current Laker roster? Kobe of course is the king of ISO play. Nick young and lou williams have to be close behind. Julius Randle looks like he’s going to need the ball a lot too. Don’t forget Russell tends to dribble around for days. This could be one guy at the top with the ball and 4 guys watching. Your take?
Kevin Pelton: And Roy Hibbert standing in the post with his hand up, waiting for a pass that never comes? It doesn’t seem to be a set of personnel optimized for offensive success, that’s for sure.
I think the early decision to keep Sacre has somewhat bitten LA in the butt. They could have two roster spots to play with instead of one… Especially since they don’t seem to think he can provide much more than he has previously.
I think an NBA level 3 and D wing is a bigger need than a backup center, especially if the plan is to go small sometimes.
As far as who should be brought to the Team I think D. Wright isn’t bad choice not a lot out their to pick from plus Ridinuor who no one wants would be a good cheap 3rd PG for us.
Plus with Batum is not funny in his new home & maybe Hornets will be willing to trade him if he makes it a very ugly fit & problem with team & maybe Lakers could slid in & get a trade of for Batumm vs all Lakers most notably Scare, Kelly & Young ( there is a chance to they might trade J.Brown & Clarkson ( (Last resort they if they trade him) that would be a great trade & would help the Lakers at wing for a long time & he fits very well on this Team
In a perfect world you can find (a) taker(s) for Kelly and Sacre and sign Upshaw, JaVale and Dorrell and roll as long and hard as you can. Depth at the weakest positions accomplished.
Damon M. White says
I agree with option 1. This seems like a No Brainer to me! Sign Robert Upshaw!
I think our biggest concern heading into the year is the SF position. I know Kobe is a sacred Lakers treasure but I don’t think there are too many SF matchups that he will physically dominate. We don’t really have a SF on the roster as Young and ABrown are also more glorified SGs. In the West, here are the SF’s that will likely be starting against Kobe, et al:
– Golden State: Barnes, 6’8” 230
– LAC: Pierce, 6’7’ 235
– Sac: Gay, 6’9” 230
– Dal: Parsons 6’9” 230
– Hou: Ariza 6’8” 220
– Mem: Green, 6’9” 235
– NO: Pondexter, 6’7” 220
– SA: Leonard, 6’7” 230
– Den: Gallinari, 6’10” 225
– OKC: Durant, 6’11” 240
– Port: Aminu, 6’9” 225
– Utah: Hayward, 6’8” 225
– LAL: Kobe, 6’6” 210 / Young, 6’7” 210 / Brown, 6’7” 210
If we were rolling out vintage Mamba Kobe I wouldn’t mind. However, that isn’t the case and the Lakers will not have the advantage from that position on most nights.
Robert Fisher says
First, I am writing this as if this is a development year and not worrying about making the playoffs, which would leave us with the outside chance at that top 3 draw in the draft.
Sacre. With only Hibbert and Black, Sacre is that 3rd string backup center, at least until Upshaw gains form. If they sign Upshaw and he gains enough from playing with the D-League to backup Hibbert, then that frees Black to play his natural position of PF. Sacre then is still the 3rd string BU center. However, once Ushaw is in the mix, then Sacre is tradable with Black as the 3rd string BU center.
PG or bringing the ball up options – Russell, Clarkson, Jabari Brown, Lou Williams, Kobe – yeah we have that covered for this year.
SF – Kobe, Young, Anthony Brown, and I don’t see why Nance and even Randle couldn’t play there, so yeah we have that covered for this year.
SG – Kobe, Young, Williams, Clarkson, Jabari Brown – yeah we have that covered for this year.
PF – Randle, Bass, Nance, Kelly, Black – yeah we have that covered for this year. Regarding Seraphim, We don’t need yet another 5’9 PF/C when we have so many 5’9 players already.
As a development year, not only do we get to see how the Russell/Clarkson dual combo guard unit is going to work, we get to see how Jabari Brown will do, and Kelly in his third year should prove to become that stretch four he should be, or not. That leaves option number one as the best way to go. Let’s take the year and see if along with the others, how Upshaw will do.
In short, the emphasis should be on player development over winning games, and remember the top 3 protected 2016 pick. Therefore, maybe it might be an interesting thing to see the veterans, Williams, Kobe, Young (or Young, Kobe – 2-3), Bass, and Hibbert start, and then have Russell, Clarkson, Anthony Brown, Randle, and Black at first, then Upshaw come in as the second unit, which would leave Jabari Brown, Nance, Kelly, Black after Upshaw arrives, and Sacre as the reserves.
Yeah, I don’t think the Lakers need to add anyone else. People here have made a big deal about Anthony Brown and Larry Nance Jr. being mature and ready, etc. I would just roll with Kobe/Young/ABrown at the 3 for now.
439 PM is me.
Rick in Seattle says
Enjoyed your informative assessment: Going the option 2 route with Seraphin seems is a much safer option than #1. Upshaw has potential but there is a reason why 30 teams passed on him. Risky. And, the team already has a slew of young players to develop. Like Anthony Brown, Upshaw would need to spend most of the year in the D-league to get his game into NBA condition. His missed a lot of college ball because.of his off-court issues. Did he ever play a full college season? A bird in the hand (Serahin) is worth more than two in the bush (Upshaw)!
Changing subject: Today, word out of Detroit is they may possibly release a couple players. including SF Danny Grainger. He is on the final year of a contract for slightly above $2 mil.)(less than the Lakers $2.8 mil exemption) If he still has anything left in the tank, he could be the type of veteran SF that Kupchak might be interested in. In this order the lakers need a veteran SF, a defensive minded veteran PG, and a player like Seraphin to replace Sacre.
Although I like Dorell Wright a lot, I’m sure that as the off-season progresses toward opening night, there will be opportunities to pluck more than a few veterans off the waiver wire to fill in the remaining roster. I doubt if they can trade Kelly. He has little value.
Ryan P says
I think that we will and should sign Upshaw. I just think that everyone has agreed to make it until training camp without any incidents. His deal is similar to Brown’s which was a good deal for a high second round pick.
We will roll with this developmental season and if we need to sign a SF during the season for injuries, we will.
I think having Kevin Seraphin come in would be an bad choice for an option at the center position. The Los Angeles Lakers would be wise to look for a paint defender.
I don’t see why we haven’t let go of Robert Sacre. Just swap one Robert for another. People know him for his sideline cheers/celebrations, but I feel like the most he’s contributed has been his seldom seen turn around fadeaways in the post.
… was that too harsh?
I’d like to see the Lakers have Robert Upshaw on the active roster by the start of the season.
The Lakers have versatile players in the backcourt right now, but lack a proven backup center in frontcourt depth. Tarik Black, like the other rookie and second-year players, will need to see time on the court to be able to prove he’s the guy to take over that role.
A battle between two young bigmen like Black and Upshaw would be something I’d like to see play out. I see Black as more of a rebounder, where Upshaw seems to have some post moves to go with his defensive prowess.
As far as depth at small forward, I’d like to see both Larry Nance Jr. and Anthony Brown given a shot. Both athletes seemed fairly active at times during Summer League, with Nance Jr. having a couple of highlights (Jahlil Okafor block).
C- Roy Hibbert/Tarik Black/Robert Upshaw
PF- Julius Randle/Brandon Bass/Ryan Kelly
SF- Kobe Bryant/Anthony Brown/Larry Nance Jr.
SG- Jordan Clarkson/Nick Young/Jabari Brown
PG- D’Angelo Russell/ Lou Williams
For the final roster spot, Upshaw would be my choice. There are many players who can play multiple positions so there is no need to fill out a so-called balanced roster. Give in to the development movement of the youth.
Could it be the front office wants a more experienced player for the final spot on account of winning one or two more games? It sounds like the FO is more concerned about pleasing the stock owners than anything else. Most fans are onboard with signing Upshaw instead of Seraphin.
Baylor Fan says
Success with Upshaw would be a feather in the Lakers’ FO cap. It makes more sense to me to offer a two year contract guaranteed with a third year team option. Get him in LA and on a workout schedule and diet now. If there still are concerns about his behavior, then go ahead and leave the last spot open.
My bigger concern is that the Lakers are trying to make this year all about Kobe and not about developing the team. That is why they are trying to stock all positions with veterans who can step in immediately. PG is the only position that would be manned by a first or second year player and the Lakers already tried to get Lawson. Clarkson and Russell need to get the chance to take over the team and learn on the job. Getting another PG would only stunt their development.
Damon M. White says
Option 1 is not only the very best option? It’s the best option when it comes to cost!
Craig W. says
It is important to please the ‘stockholders’. Simply letting the fans run the joint is a sure path to ruin. Of course fans forget this.
You just described difference between before Dr. Buss and after.
Dr. Buss never let the fans run the joint.
I’ve liked what I’ve seen of Upshaw since before the draft and I still believe he is one of the best options for the Lakers. I love his shot blocking and all the little things he does on offense like set screens.
I had read that not being drafted actually raises the tax costs of salary. So a 2nd round draft pick actually is cheaper than an undrafted rookie. I’m not sure how much this would or should factor in though.
Bring in a Center – dump Sacre and leave a space empty for Upshaw
Bring in a SF & PG – deal Kelly & Young (we have way too many PF & SG) – only replace Young if you find an impact SF.
I would love to see both Brown & Black back so I hope they stick to the team.
Craig W. says
Dr. Buss was a unique individual and he bought the Lakers at a unique time – Kareem and Wilkes were here and he bought conditional on Cooke’s drafting Magic, over Jerry West’s recommendation. He had a 10yr window before salary caps, the NBA was faltering. He was a natural ‘huckster’ looking for flair in a city of ‘glitz and glamor’. The NBA era of individual accomplishments over team efficiency hadn’t quite begun.
There is simply no way to recreate this and we shouldn’t be attacking people because they can’t fill these shoes or recreate this time. Jeannie had some of his flair, and it didn’t hurt that she was a sexy woman. Jim naturally avoided the limelight; something that Jerry Buss was simply incapable of doing. But Jim also avoided his father’s rather ‘gross’ personal habits – we seem to forget this because it isn’t basketball and doesn’t fit the narrative.
We are very unlikely to get another owner whom we can put on a pedestal, a coach drawn from the broadcasting booth, or an NBA logo who is a genius as a GM – certainly we won’t see them all at the same time.
The NBA has changed, the CBA has changed, the ownership/broadcasters/coaches/GMs have changed, the player cycle has turned, and our luck run out. No one is going to say this front office has done a great job, but it is time we accepted that we are one of 30 clubs – still with notable advantages – and we can’t entirely control our own destiny. We need some luck, along with good management, to climb back into contention.
Maybe we sign a great free agent, but most of the time clubs can only do this after they have completed the foundation. We have a reasonable start on this process, but nothing is guaranteed. We need to win some now to keep people in the seats and advertisers on board, but our eyes need to be a couple of years down the road.
Craig W. says
I’m in the group that thinks the smart long-term plan is to sign Upshaw and let him play in the D-League. The only caveat would be if the front office knows, or has seen, something that we fans aren’t yet privy to. Good defensive big men simply aren’t very plentiful – and we may have one starting for us next year. They don’t insure championships, but they do form a base/foundation to build from in the defensive half of the game – not flamboyant, but necessary.
J C says
Considering the Lakers signed Upshaw immediately after his first summer league game, I thought it was a done deal.
I hope they sign him – his upside is at least as high as Hibbert’s.
Re-signing Sacre was an insurance move. He’s a known commodity that can give 5-10 minutes per game as needed without hurting you too much, and is probably a positive vibe in the locker room.
I don’t think we should dump Kelly – KO would be heartbroken.
Simply letting the fans run the joint is a sure path to ruin. Of course fans forget this.
Unfortunately, the Lakers record these past few years opens the door for much warranted criticism. What fan wouldn’t think they could do better than 27-55 and 21-61?
This of course is snarky (love that word, George) way of saying that this is indeed an important year for the Lakers. Regardless of record, the core of Randle, Russell and Clarkson have to prove they belong and can truly be the foundation of something great.
Luc mbah a moute
10 point per game and 5 rebounds per game
the fans run the joint because somebody has to
norman colwell says
I think the Lakers should resign Carlos Boozer. He was one of the most consistent offensive players and he had a great team attitude. With Roy Hibbert in the post, that should help Boozer on defense. With Kobe Bryant at small forward, Boozer will be looking for the pass and vice-versa.
Signing Upshaw is the final peace of the puzzle! Now we have owners, players, and a origination that all have something to prove. So, Upshaw have issues huh ??? All the above have issues? Not the same issues but never the less issues. ALL THE ABOVE HAVE A GREAT UP SIDE INCLUDING “ROBERT SHAW”. The lakers have done a good this off season considering all the” HATERS ” SO LET’S ADD UPSHAW AND PROVE EVERYBODY WRONG! GO LAKERS GO!
Kind of Crazy that boozer cant even get onto a team …. he was still effective … if he is around better players he could be worth it coming off the bench he could be good … hed be good in miami
Sign Dorell Wright! Lakers need a “3 & D” option. He’s another guy who can take some pressure off of Kobe.
I would like it if the Lakers go after Michael Beasley. He is a small forward, with NBA experience. He would make a good pick up.
Rick in Seattle says
Looks like the Knicks outbid the Lakers for Seraphin. But, at least it showed that the Lakers FO is still looking for veteran players. That’s a good sign. Every team needs a good mixture of veterans to mentor their young players–something the Lakers have a lot of! It’s also easier to win a few more games when there’s a good mix of veterans. Lakers need to focus on winning more games this season. I would give Dorell Wright a shot, as well as Donald Sloan, a veteran reserve PG who played some good first unit minutes last year with Indy. And if Upshaw is signed, then three new players mean that two existing players will have to go. Nick Young is not a long term solution for this team,and I think he could become a bad influence for this young group. He was a gamble signing by Kuphsak that did not work out. Finally, I am worried about Kobe staying healthy. That is another reason why an extra veteran SF (like Wright) is even more important. Upshaw is a longer term project than most fans think. He could end up spending most of the upcoming season in the D-league to bring his game up to NBA level. Might need to keep Sacre until Upshaw is ready to produce, but only 15 roster spots to do all this. FO needs to remove anyone not producing. Tough choices coming up. Sacre and Kelly are on relatively small expiring contracts, so what’s to lose by waiving them (if they cannot be traded)? Lakers FO has gotta keep improving this team. If Kupchak can swing a couple good trades to clear some space and pick up a few more quality veterans, this team could sneak into the 8th seed. If not, at least they should be fun to watch.
Lonnie love im a diehard lakers fan I think they should sign Robert Upshaw and dorell Wright and do away with Ryan Kelly and Robert Sacre one thing I know that’s the lakers Mitch if you read this make it happen I tell you this you be printing playoff tickets thats for sure
Lonnie Bradley says
Just signed dorell Wright and Robert Upshaw end of story then you’ll know what you have to do its not a whole lot to that I know we won’t look back
Big brody says
Sign that boy ray ray aka Jesus shuttlesworth
Rick in Seattle says
Sorry, but option #3 makes no sense. During interviews, Kupchak has said he would like to find a backup center, as well as a veteran guard (probably to use behind Russell). When Serphin went to NY, they moved their attention to JaVale McGee. As far as PG’s, the Lakers are currently scheduling open tryouts, which makes it appear that finding a veteran backup PG is still sort of a priority. Unfortunately, it does not appear that Wright and Upshaw will make this roster.