After trimming the roster by 3 last week, the Lakers’ roster currently stands at 17 players. That means they need to make 2 additional cuts before the start of the season — which is rapidly approaching. Who will those final cuts be? If you were hoping Luke Walton would know, well, you would be disappointed:
Luke Walton on 2 upcoming LAL cuts: “Honestly, no idea right now who those two will be”
Said everyone has worked hard & been great teammates
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) October 17, 2016
This could be Luke just not wanting to tip his hand while also handing out some praise to the guys competing for the final spot. If there is one thing I have noticed with all the guys in the mix for the final spot, it is that they seem to be genuinely good guys who all, in their own way, have something to add to the final roster.
Of course, none of that gets us any closer to who will actually make the team. And, to be honest, I don’t have a great feel for that anyway. As I wrote in the aforementioned post discussing the 3 cuts, I think the final spot will come down to one of three players — Yi Jian Lian, Metta World Peace, or Thomas Robinson. Below was my quick argument for each guy:
- Robinson has shown the most on the court. He has rebounded well, has done enough defensively, and has shown he can score inside.
- Metta is a good locker room presence, is another veteran to for the youngsters to learn from, and can play some SF/PF in an emergency if needed.
- Yi is the only true “floor spacing” big man on the roster and has shown some skill on offense. His contract has unique escalating guarantees which could make him an interesting trade chip.
My thoughts on this are practically unchanged. If only going on who has done best in their limited minutes, Robinson should have a leg up. Ultimately, though, these decisions aren’t just about what happens on the court. Yi’s contract and Metta’s mentoring can (and should) factor into the final decision. General roster construction, asset accumulation, and team building demand this be the case.
The only other even slightly viable scenarios worth discussing is whether the Lakers decide to enter the season with only 14 players on their roster or if they decide to cut a guaranteed contract.
Starting with the latter first, I just don’t see this happening. I suppose the Lakers could explore waiving Marcelo Huertas or Anthony Brown, but there’s little to support either decision. Huertas may end up being a 3rd string PG and Brown may now be behind Nick Young on the depth chart on the wing, but if you’re going to pay both guys, you might as well do it to continue to compete in practice and serve as bench players who can soak up some minutes if needed.
As for going into the season with 14 players instead of 15, this would certainly give the Lakers more roster flexibility on the surface. But is that flexibility more important than Yi’s potential salary ballast in a trade, Metta’s presence in the locker room, or how Robinson can serve as a viable approximation for Tarik Black should injury or trade move him out of the lineup? If I’m in the Lakers’ front office, I’d say now on all counts.
Ultimately, then, my (tepid) bet would still be that Yi makes the team. That said, if Walton is really still unsure, I reserve the right to change my mind on that.