We recently told you the Lakers had upped their training camp roster to 18 via the signing of 3 players. Well, their camp roster is now up to 20 after the additions of Metta World Peace and Thomas Robinson according to Shams Charania of The Vertical.
Before we get to the merits of each player, I think the best way to look at both signings as a continuation of the major theme of the Summer. After Luke Walton was hired, almost every soundbite coming from him or his staff has been related back to two central themes — competition and culture.
Walton has openly discussed wanting to establish a culture where players wanted to come into the gym and work hard. He wants players to have fun, but he wants that fun to come out of competing every day and cultivating an environment where players can improve.
The Metta and Robinson signings are an extension of these ideas.
At this stage of his career, Metta is more mentor than major contributor. He is good in the locker room, good in the film room, and a great sounding board on the bench. Last season several of the young players noted he was a positive resource for them and Julius Randle, specifically, noted he wanted him to make the team when the coaching staff was in the process of determining the final roster composition.
While a cynic might point to this signing as the Lakers not learning from past mistakes of signing older players who end up stealing minutes from young guys, I think it’s important to point out that 1). Metta has not made the team yet and 2). Should he make the team, he would clearly be slotted behind Luol Deng and Brandon Ingram on any theoretical depth chart. In other words, let’s not jump to any conclusions just yet.
As for Robinson, he is no longer the “young” player with “upside” he was when he was drafted 5th overall 4 seasons ago, but he keeps getting chances in the league (he’s already played for 5 teams) because he plays hard and talent evaluators are still intrigued by his skill-set. The Lakers are already quite deep at PF/C, but bringing in another athletic player to bang around in practice and push the guys already on the team can be viewed as a net positive.
I don’t really look at Robinson’s signing any differently than I do Zach Auguste’s. Both guys are energy players who have a specific skill-set which can translate to today’s NBA. Both guys will work hard and both should bring a positive attitude to practices, scrimmages, and pre-season games in order to try and make the best impression possible. If they can push Julius Randle, Larry Nance, Tarik Black, and Ivica Zubac to take strides forward in the process, they have done their jobs.
In other words, I don’t expect Robinson to make the team. And, at best, I’d call Metta a toss up to survive the final cuts. I guess I could imagine a scenario where Nick Young is waived and Metta is kept, but I could also envision a scenario where the Lakers only keep 14 players on their roster (cutting Young, Metta, and every other non-guaranteed player not named Yi) to give themselves some added flexibility for future moves.
Lastly, I fully expect both Metta’s and Robinson’s contracts to be fully non-guaranteed or only partially guaranteed at the minimum salary for each player. Charania’s reports do not include this information, but history tells us the Lakers do not commit real money to players who would project to have fringe roles and a limited future on the team. You can go back to Metta’s contract last year as an example of this or even look at Yi’s incentive laden deal which offers a tantalizing cap figure but little meat to the deal should they decide to move away from him early in the season.
So, the Lakers look to have their full roster for camp. It should be one full of competition where all the guys are looking to prove they belong (either in the starting lineup, in the rotation, or on the roster in general). It should also be fun. Based on Luke Walton’s comments this summer, that’s exactly what he’s after.