The Lakers made another under-the-radar personnel move over the weekend with the signing of undrafted free agent Michael Fraizer. This is the team’s second UDFA signing of the offseason and just as we did with the signing of Jonathan Holmes, today’s links provide a month-old scouting report done by Kevin O’Connor of SB Nation, in which Fraizer is referred to as a potential “sleeper”:
Frazier has the talent to carve out a career in the league. All he needs is the right situation to give him an opportunity to get to that level.
Wesley Matthews, Bruce Bowen and Ben Wallace suffered the same disappointment of being undrafted, but went on to have productive careers. Frazier’s former teammate Scottie Wilbekin just signed a four-year contract with the 76ers after developing one year overseas and returning an improved player.
This is why Frazier is a prime candidate to be next in line.
Fraizer’s calling card at the next level is assumed to be his proficiency from three-point range. While O’Connor doesn’t discount the fact that Fraizer sticking with a team is contingent upon his ability to drain threes, he also goes on to detail Fraizer’s potential to be a multi-faceted player with a unique skillset that suggests he is more than a “specialist”:
Before the draft, Frazier worked out at Elev8 Sports Institute with trainer Cody Toppert to improve this area of his game. Toppert recently published an overview of the pick-and-roll. He preaches three keys: pace, poise and purpose.
“Cody Toppert and I watched a lot of film, then went straight to the court to try to replicate those same kinds of things,” Frazier said. “In today’s game, Chris Paul is the best player in the pick-and-roll, so I watch a lot of him. He’s the master of it.”
One of the players Fraizer will most directly compete against this summer is soon-to-be sophomore, Jabari Brown. This roster battle will certainly draw more attention as summer exhibition nears, yet there is still quite a while until preseason kicks off (45 days to be exact). Therefore, one of the ways players like Brown get in their on-court reps during the offseason is by participating in the various Summer basketball showcases throughout the country.
Josh Martin of Bleacher Report recently profiled the growth of these Summer Pro League Exhibitions (most notably the Drew League and Seattle Pro-Am), and the piece included a brief, yet telling, appearance from Brown:
Nowadays, audiences in the Bay Area often find themselves as awe-struck by the show-stopping shooting skills of a bona fide superstar like Stephen Curry as they are by the spectacular scoring exploits of a relative NBA unknown like Los Angeles Lakers sophomore-to-be Jabari Brown.
“It’s a big misconception [about the talent level in the NBA],” Brown, an Oakland native, told Bleacher Report. “A lot of people you’ll just hear like, ‘Oh, so-and-so’s not getting it done.’ I’ll be like, ‘Man, a lot of these people can ball. Just because their 2K rating isn’t 85 or something, the guys that you sleep on, they’re the guys that’ll give you 25 on that night’ and you’ll be like, ‘What happened?’ You know what I’m saying? Everybody in this league is capable.”
It’s a reminder that just about every player who fills one of the NBA’s 450 roster spots each year, even the ones who rarely suit up, were the best on their high school squads and were among the finest prospects at the collegiate level—assuming they didn’t skip that step entirely.
Brown fits that description to a T…
As someone who is a frequent visitor of So-Cal’s own Drew League, I can attest that watching NBA players perform on a lesser stage — in front of spirited communities, traditionally at a high school gym or local court — externalizes a more humanistic nature to the oft-glorified athletes. The atmosphere of such events can be indescribable, however Martin does a wonderful job capturing the scene in what is a very worthwhile read.
I know, all this talk about summer exhibition makes it feel as if we are even further entrenched in the grueling midway point of the NBA offseason — one where we are equally as far removed from Summer Free Agency as we are from upcoming training camp. However, if you recall, the Lakers did do some things during this year’s free agency period that warranted quite the buzz. And in a freelance piece for Nylon Calculus, Max Schimanski used a numbers-driven approach to gauge the true value of each free agency signing. For a better explanation of the exact methodology used in the experiment, I defer to Max:
For this exercise, three variables were used to enhance the model, alongside simple Win Shares, to predict “expected contract value”. The model accounts for age for 2015-2016, games played in 2014-15, usage in 2014-15, as well as Win Shares. With this additional information, the model is able to better predict durability, role, and where a given player might fall on the aging curve.
These variables account for over 80% of a newly signed free agent’s salary, far superior to Win Share totals alone. While this model allows us to see how much over or under prediction each new contract fell in total dollars, a more instructive way to interpret the data is to look at the differences between the two sets of in terms of percentages. “Missing” by a million on a max contract for Dwyane Wade is a far smaller benefit or loss than being off by that same million for a role player such as Leandro Barbosa.
In order to compare these deals a bit more comprehensively, the percentage point difference between predicted salary and real salary and a player’s real salary are then clustered, based on distance from each other, into five contract value categories: Bargain, Good, Average, Poor, and Overpaid. These clusters represent what kind of a deal a respective team got when signing a specific free agent. By grouping this data into clusters, we now can see which teams “won” free agency in terms of making smart, economical decisions with the money that they spent on players. In some cases, these clusters reflect financial flexibility not readily available to other teams, such as with Duncan and the Spurs. Those sort of factors must be accounted for when extrapolating from this analysis into “grading” signings. Some teams simply don’t have as many bargains available to them, and not grading on that curve is possibly an unfair evaluation of managerial performance.
So once you wrap your head around that, it should be noted that Schimanski’s experiment deemed the two Lakers signings, Brandon Bass and Lou Williams, as a “Bargain” and “Good” deal, respectively, with Bass being the biggest bargain of all free agents by a wide margin.
Of course, this has no way of gauging the potential for injury, decreased playing time on a new roster or an elongated adjustment to a new system. But it is nonetheless the most accurate prediction thus far of how the Lakers Summer signings could shake out if all goes well.
Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring or other, Kobe Bryant will continue to be the driving force of Lakers news. And with the NBA schedule-makers recently going about their schedule-making duties for the upcoming campaign, Andy Kamenetzky scribed a piece for LakersNation on how the 20-year vet could approach those ever-increasingly daunting back-to-backs during his (potentially) final season:
Unfortunately, gritted teeth are no longer a reliable option, but I have a feeling Kobe will still do his best to give road crowds their last show, even when the schedule places him in two different cities in consecutive nights.
Like November 10 and 11 in Miami and Orlando, respectively. Or December 1 and 2 when the Lakers visit Philadelphia, then D.C. Same deal nearly a week later when the Lakers hit Detroit, then Toronto. As part of that sizable November roadie, the Lakers play in Atlanta with just a day of rest after a back-to-back, plus their only tilt in Dallas. I imagine Kobe will try to suit up those days as well.
Even if he truly hasn’t made up his mind about retirement, the acknowledgement of its possibility means even more planning ahead for a season where methodical regimentation is necessary just to attempt staying whole. If Bryant prioritizes “last time” games the way I suspect he will, full participation in back-to-backs or the dreaded “four games in five nights” becomes unavoidable, even if for just 15-20 minutes in certain cases. 15-20 minutes might not seem taxing, but they add up, especially for someone of Kobe’s age and mileage. He’d almost certainly have to grab rest in different spots throughout the season. The “how” remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Kobe sat out a few more home games, the idea being there are more contests at Staples, and therefore he can, relatively speaking, “afford” to miss a few more contests in Los Angeles.
What’s been omitted in the above excerpt is a breakdown of the schedule’s specific back-to-back games and the piece is certainly worth a read if only for that.
Also of note in relation to NBA schedules, the folks at ESPN constructed their annual NBA forecast in which they use a crowdsourced method to project the records of each team for the upcoming season. The Lakers were ranked a disappointing 14th out of 15th in the West with a paltry 26-win projection. While there isn’t much of an excerpt to include in this particular post, Darius Soriano took a brief look into the forecast yesterday.
Regardless of record, in order for Kobe — and all the Lakers for that matter — to prevent this season from being drawn more closely drawn to that of recent years, preventing injuries will be key. As has been covered, long-time trainer Gary Vitti will be leaving the sidelines after this season, and with that, many hope that a new-age approach to injury prevention and greater investment into upgrading the medical staff as a whole will ensue. Apratim Ghosh recently advocated for such in a piece for Silver Screen and Roll:
The newest frontier of the NBA’s analytics revolution concerns injury prevention. Teams across the league are utilizing cutting edge technology to try and understand where a player is most vulnerable to injury and how to alter their habits to prevent it.
The Lakers franchise has suffered immeasurably from a scourge of injuries to key players, both young and old, over the last few seasons. During the ’14-15 season the Lakers topped the league for the second consecutive year with 339 games lost due to injury. This even surpassed the previous season when the team lost 319 games to injuries.
As legendary athletic trainer Gary Vitti steps away from the team at the end of the upcoming season, it is time for the Lakers to make a natural pivot into the modern era. Put simply, the team needs to take every measure it can to keep its roster healthy and on the court.
That has to mean reinvesting in payroll and the type of sophisticated training staff that used to populate the halls in El Segundo. That has to mean employing tools and analytics-based insights to help overloaded players protect themselves from injury. For the wealthiest franchise in the league, earning north of $158 million per year in profit, there can be no excuse for not taking this issue more seriously.
In the bulk of the post, Ghosh details the more common analytics-based methods used for injury prevention such as SportsVu and P3 Applied Sports Devices. If nothing else, the piece can serve as an informational read for those seeking more knowledge on the variety of data-driven tools available over the NBA landscape.
- Despite Recent Struggles, Lakers Still Top Clippers On Secondary Market Ahead of 2015-16 NBA Season … by Jesse Lawrence of Forbes Business
- D’Angelo Russel’s Vision Already Impressing Lakers Coaching Staff … by News Staff at Fox Sports
- Lakers Roundtable: Grading the Roy Hibbert Trade … by the Staff of Silver Screen and Roll
- Steve Nash on Jordan Clarkson’s Potential: “Sky’s the Limit” … by Serena Winters of Lakers Nation