The preseason rolls on, but we are nearing the end of the ride. In more ways than one, too.
Today the Lakers face the Trailblazers in their 6th preseason game of the exhibition season. They will only play this game and one on Thursday before their first regular season game in a little more than a week. Monday also marks the last game before cuts are likely to be made. After Saturday’s win over the Warriors was cut short due to a slippery court, Byron Scott lamented that he didn’t get a chance to play a unit he wanted to see in the 4th quarter. Implying he wanted those minutes as a way to further evaluate bubble players.
For tonight’s game, Kobe Byrant has already been ruled out. And there are strong hints Kobe may not play in Thursday’s preseason finale either. Lou Williams may or not play tonight with a sore groin. Everyone else is available. I’d imagine everyone else will play, too. The cuts are coming and we need to see who’s going to stick. I have my guesses, but we’ll save those for another day.
As for the game itself, we are at the point where there’s actually little left to learn for the guys most likely to make the team. Jordan Clarkson has looked good. Randle has clearly taken a step forward from where he was a year ago. Hibbert is as advertised. So are Lou Williams and Brandon Bass. Nick Young looks more engaged this year than last, maybe because of the real threat that if he wasn’t he would not play. D’Angelo Russell has looked okay — his shooting has not been great, though his passing mostly has.
The next steps are, then, for this team to start to learn more about each other rather than what we can learn about them. The prospect of them doing anything meaningful this year will rely on them being better than the sum of their parts. That typically comes from a combination of chemistry, coaching, and some luck. I’m not sure about the second, while the first and the third will just need time to play out.
Back to tonight, it will be interesting to see how Byron handles the bubble guys. By my count, there are 7 players fighting for the final two to three spots on the final roster: Metta, Jonathan Holmes, Robert Upshaw, Robert Sacre, Jabari Brown, Tarik Black, and Michael Frazier. Within that group some likely have a slight leg up, but I’d imagine the all of these guys still have a chance. Tonight’s game will offer another data point in sorting some of this out.
With that in mind, I am especially interested in seeing how Upshaw and Frazier play. Those two have direct paths to making the roster by showing more potential than the incumbents ahead of them. They also offer what few other players on the bubble do — real potential as two-way players in the future. It could be argued the same is true of others (specifically Black and Holmes), but Frazier and Upshaw also offer good size for their positions and specific skills (shooting for Frazier, shot blocking for Upshaw) in their respective toolkits which aren’t so common among end of the roster guys.
As for the Blazers their tear-down of a playoff team who will build around youth and high upside young veterans is complete. They boast a reworked roster around Damian Lillard and promise to be more of a pace and space team than the years when now Spur LaMarcus Aldridge monopolized the mid-range. How many wins this translates to is up for debate (some see the Blazers falling to the bottom of the conference, others are high on their analytically friendly young players), but they’ll be fun if nothing else.
This can also be said about the Lakers. Hopefully, then, it translates to a game worth watching tonight.
lil pau says
(repost from last thread, sorry…)
I can’t go to tonight’s game against the Trailblazers at Staples. Since it’s preseason, I’m selling my tix at 2 for 1! Tickets are in Sec 205, row 2. Both tickets combined price is $94 ($47 each). If interested, please email me at email@example.com. Face value is $94 EACH, which is what I paid as a season ticket holder.
Kev The Bold says
Smart assessment Darius.
I’d like to add shooting and craftiness, to Upshaw’s arsenal.
Regarding the others, I’m interested to see more of Holmes, as the brief glimpses showed powerful athleticism around the glass.
My argument: Upshaw, Black, Kelly have upsides
Sacre does not
HIbbert Upshaw Black
Randle Bass Kelly
Bryant A.Brown Nance
Clarkson Young J.Brown
Russell Williams Huertas
World peace & playing at NBA level seems past to me – Bass should be a good Randle mentor from now on
Sacre has 3 years and reached the ceiling as “good third center” which means nothing on a double-tank team.
Great D-fenders candidates in the “fridge” like Jabari last year:
Frazier – might still have a shot at taking Jabari’s spot, so the minimum is to keep him close
Holmes – would have loved seeing more (perhaps at the 3 too) – interesting to keep around
Keeping 4 unprotected salaries (Huertas, Upshaw, Black, J.Brown) means extra flexibility – the team needs assets and a nucleus to start fitting together – we shouldn’t expect too much (playoff), but at least have something enjoyable starting…
Randle & Clarkson should blossom, and with extra young players you get multiple shots at getting something oustanding.
Trades are always possible… We might realise big gaps in the rotation early on – say at the 3 (Nick Young as SF is blasphemous – not enough effort on the court for that).
I’m a believer in Mitch’ mid-season trade, at first under-rated and within time praised (J.Hill, S.Brown, Ariza as of ‘late’).
Time will tell.
If we want to win ges metta is arguably the best 3 we would have on the roster … a brown is small and young and kelly is too weak … i say metta makes the team along with upshaw … black is meh to me, undersized and only does rebounding kind of well
Renato Afonso says
Are we sure that Kelly isn’t fighting for a spot with those guys? Has he progressed enough during this Summer to prove himself as a valuable asset at the eyes of the coach? Were there any indications on him? Really interested on your take on him.
MWP, Really just loved that guys ability to defend at a high level so many different positions when he was younger. Watching him switch from 2 guards to Power Forwards and still playing lock down D, that’s so rare to find, a guy so strong, yet with foot speed/athleticism. Unfortunately, those days are far behind in the rear view mirror.
Mind you, I still don’t mind seeing Metta play a bit this year, only b/c I find this to be a purely developmental year for the young guys, we aren’t going to be hitting the win column too hard this season.
Kelly has a history of pre-season hustle, which fades away after the cuts are behind him.
There are many players like that I understand, however this season marks a fork in the road where we need to leave mediocrity behind, so I’m truly hoping the staff will make the hard choices, not allowing “good guys or good cheerleaders” or as some say, “The Walton Syndrome” to be a factor in their decision making this year.
Myers Leonard would be a great forward to pair with Randle. Myers is a RFA this summer — just thinking out loud.
Is it just me or does it seem that our second unit isn’t going to get blown off the floor this year?
What an amazing pickup Huertas is, how did Lakers get him and not a contender? He’s golden. And a coach on the floor. If you hustle, he’ll get you the ball.
Holmes could be out with that dislocated shoulder. Unlucky, now they need to think who will be the 3 players that needs to be cut.
Huertas can do some things. I can’t believe that I’m getting this excited over preseason games.
I know that it was only preseason…That was a really fun ending to watch and to see the team get that excited was pretty cool. I think this team wins more games than anyone thought possible this year.
Craig W. says
I don’t care what Stu Lance says – his comments are mostly obvious anyway – Clarkson had a relatively bad night. Too much one-on-one for his own shot. It was as if he was taking lessons from Young.
Sacre is a good and stable player, but we don’t need any young good-and-stable players on this year’s team. Keep Upshaw and let him play the first half of the season in the D-League.
From tonight’s game it looks as if Byron is going to let Nance play both 3 and 4 – because he can defend both places.
Fun fun game with an even better ending with Kelly posterizing Vonleh i jumped off my seat when he did that, really smart play, i seen Huertas play internationally and i would put him in the starting lineup at least at the start of the season, solid dependable veteran pg with great court vision, just a thought, i think Rusell needs to start the season running the second unit…
Congrats to Xavier Henry for getting picked up by the World Champs even if it may be for the D league!
Good game by the Lakers.
Been a while since I last posted here. Anyway, great to see the enthusiasm of the players in general, more than the victory tonight. With that, I’m going to give my 2 cents worth on who should make the final roster as well as possible rotation players:
PG – Clarkson/ Huertas/Russell
SF – MWP/ Young/Kobe
PF – Randle/ Bass/ Kelly/Nance
C – Hibbert/ Sacre/ Black
Cuts: (4 assigned to D-League)
The (good) problem that I see is how Coach Scott will manage the rotation, especially with the emergence of Huertas as the possible backup PG. (He just makes everyone on the floor so much better). That role was initially for Russell/Lou Williams to share, but we have seen how fluid the offense is running with Huertas in control. Where does that leave Russell with in the 2nd unit, since Nick Young and Lou Williams will take the 2 and 3 spots in the rotation. It will be interesting to see how Scott rotates Clarkson, Kobe, Russell, Lou Williams, Huertas, and Young. We may see a lot of small ball lineups early in the season.
For the front court, HIbbert and Randle seem to have a lock as the starters. Bass, and the emergence of Nance is also a good problem to have. For the backup C, I was hoping Upshaw would make it, but for now, I give my vote to Sacre. For small ball lineups, Bass or Black can play center. Kelly also deserves spot minutes in the 2nd unit. Nance is a welcome development, but I think he needs to spend the 1st half of the season getting a ton of minutes in the D-League.
Speaking of D-League assignees, Anthony Brown still needs a lot of burn there, as well as Nance, Upshaw and Frazier. Jabari Brown needs to learn how to play team ball, and I don’t know if he’ll be able to do that in the D-League. I wouldn’t be surprised also to see limited minutes from Russell to start the season, and some games played with the D-League squad, much like how Clarkson did in the first half of the season last year.
Overall, I think the Lakers have a great mix of young talent and veterans, and it will be a matter of how quickly they can come together as a unit to be competitive throughout the season. I say play the vets more in the first half of the season, then slowly integrate the young talent (Russell and Randle) with more responsibility and playing time by mid season. Clarkson is ready for primetime, but I can’t say the same for Russell.
Huertas has earned the backup PG spot IMO. Russell isn’t ready for primetime yet, let him spend first half of the season on the bench, playing D-League major minutes like Clarkson did last year. Kobe will be overmatched by big, strong SF’s, so I think MWP should still start, and let Kobe play SF vs lesser talent, and Young with the 2nd unit. MWP to start, then Kobe to end games as SF. Upshaw isn’t ready for prime time NBA talent as well. Let him develop in the D-League together with Russell, Nance, Frazier, A. Brown and J.Brown. Let them earn their way into the rotation by midseason or when Kobe has to sit out games
Huertas must start. He brought excitement back to the lakers. I thought first unit was absolutely awful.
I say let Russell start from day one. Huertas will be better on the second unit not losing leads that the first unit manages to get.
pat oslon says
Fun game that we almost let slip away. Now it’s cutting time. I hope the FO has the wisdom and foresight to make the correct decisions. Let the chips fall where they may. Go Lakers!
Im back off the upshaw bandwagon, he looked lost again, did not fight for position on offense, its like he was trying to space the floor or who knows maybe thats what he was coached to do, it just looked like the rest of the team was frustrated with him on the floor, at least sacre gets inside, tarik black looked good paired with bass, and tarik works well with our point guards, there was a good alley oop. The only value i see in upshaw is developing him for possible trade bait.
The other thing i thought about was with the addition of the crazy looking white guy at guard, who is fantastic, we are now overloaded at guard, russell,clarkson,kobe,williams,young and now huertas
I understand kobe and young will play small forward but they are guards … that makes 6 guards on a 12 man team
KSwagger: To retain the rights to a player sent to DLeague, they must take a roster spot on the NBA team. If you want the Lakers to be able to call up Upshaw, Russell, Nance, ABrown, JBrown and Frazier then they need to be on the Lakers roster which means that the NBA team would have only 9 players. Not going to happen.
Plus, if the Lakers sent the #2 pick in the draft to the D League, Mitch would be fired.
Regarding our veterans (Bass, Hibbert, Williams and Huertas) I think they are all not good enough or not young enough to be major pieces by the time the Kids reach their potential.
I think Mitch got them this summer were to fill two roles: provide support for the youngsters while they get their sea legs and as trade bait at the deadline. Bass, Williams and Huertas can all add value to a playoff team’s efforts. They may fetch a youngster or a draft pick in return.
The only player that might not be le to be moved is Hibbert who has a large contract and would likely require the Lakers taking back something bad as well.
J C says
there is no way Russell doesn’t start.
they have to play this guy after picking him at number 2.
huertas is a great backup and can start if Russell goes down w injury.
Fun game last night. Highlight for me has to be Huertas. He really is the “Brazilian Nash”, at least with his passing and being a floor general. Loved how vocal he was throughout the evening, always explaining guys where they needed to be. Players had an extra pep to their steps playing with him. Great pickup, especially for an off the bench PG.
In the hoopla surrounding Ryan Kelly’s game winning dunk (and also his bone headed turnover the play before), what was kinda forgotten was how Russell quietly took control, at least offensively, in the last 4-5 mins of the game. He scored 8 smooth points, three mid range jumpers and two free throws. I particularly liked the play where he used his big body to back down his defender deeper into the post and calmly sink a jumper over him. Whether he can do this against top tier NBA talent remains to be seen but it was still nice to see the young fella take charge at the end of the game like that, especially on the offensive end.
Sacre fouling a 3 pt shooter at a crucial time of the game was absolutely horrendous. He had some nice moments last night, but all too often he seemed to make bone headed plays at the most inopportune moments. Sacre and Kelly should have been the “veteran” presence in that lineup at the end but instead, it was them who made the biggest mistakes that almost gave the game away. At least Kelly redeemed himself with that dunk at the end.
If Larry Nance Jr can consistently hit that 3 pt shot as well as his mid range Js, watch out! Really like his hustle, attitude and calm confident swagger. Always great to have a guy like him in the team who can bring the roof down with a dunk any moment, a la Shannon Brown from the days of yore.
Nick Young is fun to watch occasionally (emphasis on ‘occasionally’) but he could be a potentially bad influence on Jordan Clarkson. I didn’t like Clarkson’s way too much dribble happy one on one tendencies instead of moving the ball more on offense.
Wish there was a more innovative, and perhaps a more modern coach than Byron Scott at the helm but oh well. I suppose we gotta make do with him for now. I’ll be looking very carefully at his handling of the rotation once the season starts.
Missed watching Randle more but glad he got some rest, which I’m sure is nice given Byron Scott’s primitive back breaking practices.
Until next time. Go Lakers!
@Kswagger, How can you can A. Brown and have Russell in the third spot of both guard positions? And Metta is only on the team as a mentor to Randle. He is not playing much. He wasn’t good two years ago when he was with the Lakers. Old age has gotten to him. Maybe you don’t understand that if you cut them any one can pick them up. For that reason alone you keep Brown and Upshaw regardless of how they play right now. If Brown turns into Bruce Bowen and Upshaw in Whiteside, you are racing against the clock to get them.
Russell should play at least 20 minutes a game. You aren’t winning anything this year. Players develop faster by playing actual games not just practice. If he doesn’t start he needs to play major minutes.
Drinking Laker Coolaid JC?
best players in pre-season are.
Is what they is guys
Jury still out
Bad, D-League or release
A.Brown/ wasted pick
Frazier. No purpose
Sacre. Nice guy bad player
Leaves 1 spot
If they want to win more then 35 this year
start Huertas. If they want to validate 2nd pick or look like fools start Russell. Playing aganist league of top PG as a starter he will get killed. Play off bench vs 2nd teamers he could progress. Too many holes and lack of experience to start this year.
I of course am all knowing as I picked them to win 40 last year?
@KO Do you really think the jury is still out on Russell? From what I have seen he looks amazing and just very young. Reminds me somewhat of Mike Conley in his rookie year (not play style, but showing flashes and looking lost a lot of the time). Go rewatch Conley in his first year, people were calling him a bust. He had tons of 5 point games. He didn’t get major playing time until half way into the season and ended the year averaging 9ppg and 4 apg. People seem to think 19 year olds are ready for the NBA, but true PG especially have a slower transition. I don’t expect him to much better than Conley, but I expect to flashes. Heck I have already seen them. He is so impressive with his passing. I have watched a lot of really young players over the years and he has impressed me more than anyone. His feel for the game is uncanny. I would say in the last decade only Anthony Davis impressed me as much as a rookie (of the guys that at 19). Russell needs experience and getting in a flow with the players around him. I really believe that. (Only my opinion though).
I also thought Russell should come off the bench,but now I see Huertas is better with Nick and Williams on 2nd Unit. JC will have to defend the PG`s. The starters seem to lack cohesion on offense.
Dude Huertas will get destroyed even worse than Russell against the starting pgs in the league. Start Russell and let him run with the first team. Let Huertas run the second team where he can play like Nash and have very little downside. First teamers don’t need a guy like that IMO.
Ok ok. I. Will wait before making anti Russell comments. Remember thus was 2nd pick not 10th.
J C says
You know how much I love koolaid.
I agree with Justin, Russell’s passing combined with his size and rebounding ability – and his shooting stroke – make him a real gem w tons of upside.
Huertas will enjoy a more positive transition to the NBA playing against other teams’ second units.
In the meantime, Russell will progress more quickly being challenged by the best – the opponents starters – and by playing alongside our best players – our starters – he’ll look better as well. It’s always easier to look good playing with good players.
The team’s focus is and should be developing its young assets as quickly as possible. I don’t think we bench our future superstar to “bring him along slowly.” If Byron leans that direction I think Mitch will set him straight rather quickly.
And yes, like Ko, I’m also all-knowing.