With training camp a little over a month away, the Lakers are starting to fill out their roster with players they’d like to see more of over the course of camp and preseason. The team had already signed Vander Blue to a make good contract, giving him a $50K guarantee to come to camp and try to make the team. I don’t think Blue’s chances are great to do that, but he showed some flashes in Vegas and I’m happy for him to get this chance.
The team also has already inked Alex Caruso to a two-way contract. So he’s automatically at camp and, in theory, not competing for a roster spot. Caruso will get some time with the big team, I’m sure, but will spend most of his season with the SBL in the G-League, running the system and being used as insurance should the Lakers need an extra body in practice or on the bench for potential game minutes.
With Blue and Caruso, the Lakers had 16 players under contract for camp. They are allowed 20. So, more were coming. And, now, more are here:
Free agent guard Briante Weber has agreed on a partially guaranteed deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, league sources tell The Vertical.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 8, 2017
7-foot Stephen Zimmerman, 20, will sign for a partial guarantee to join Lakers training camp, league sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 9, 2017
Notre Dame forward V.J. Beachem has agreed to a partial guarantee with the Los Angeles Lakers, league source tells ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 9, 2017
Let’s take these one by one.
Briante Weber was in the league last year, closing out the season with the Charlotte Bobcats as a backup PG. Weber’s bounced around the league and the D-League over the past two years after coming out of VCU in 2015 (shouts to Shaka Smart).
Weber is a PG by trade, but if I said I knew much more about him I’d be lying. I can tell you he shot 43.5% from the field in 13 games for the Hornets; I can tell you he didn’t shoot many 3’s (7 total, and 15 in 27 career NBA games). Weber can defend some (this a trademark of VCU/Smart teams), but beyond that, well, your guess is as good as mine. In other words, I don’t see Weber making this team, if anything the Lakers are looking for more PG depth and/or are looking for affiliate rights on him so he can play for the SBL.
Regarding Stephen Zimmerman, he’s a name that intrigues me. A year ago, we looked at him as a potential pick for the selection that became Ivica Zubac. Zimmerman ended up being selected 41st overall by the Magic, nine slots behind big Zu. After one year in Orlando, the former UNLV big man was released. This doesn’t speak well to him as a prospect, but the Magic have been a mess so who knows how much stock to put in that.
What I do know is that Zimmerman is still young (he’ll be 21 in September), he has good size (7’0″), and can still be considered a guy with some upside to tap into. He only appeared in 19 games (108 minutes total), so I don’t think anyone really knows if he can really play or not. So, in that respect, if you’re the Lakers, why not take a flyer on him in camp and see what he can do?
He’ll get exposure against a similarly young player or two (Zubac, Thomas Bryant) and a veteran in Brook Lopez. If he can hold his own and compete in practices, maybe show some ability in limited game minutes, the Lakers could offer him a two-way contract. Or, at the very least, get his affiliate rights so he can be assigned to the SBL. I wouldn’t call his signing a low risk-high reward play, but taking a chance on a player this young is worth a shot. And, I would guess, the Lakers college scouts/Jesse Buss had some input on this since Zimmerman was just in last year’s draft. Considering their track record on mining some talent later in the draft, why not take a longer look?
The last add is V.J. Beachem, a wing from Notre Dame who went undrafted in June. Beachem has good size at 6’8″ and nice length with a wingspan over 6’10”. After a nice junior season at ND, though, he did not elevate his game as as senior, which likely led to him not being selected in the draft.
However, per his scouting report at Draft Express, he might have the type of skill set the Lakers would like to nurture:
He’s been a strong perimeter shooter in his career, converting 39.2% of his 582 total three point attempts. While his mechanics on his release are relatively clean, his shot trajectory has a tendency to be a little flat, which has led to some streakiness at times and raised questions about his potential to translate his jumper to the NBA three point line. He did see his accuracy dip a bit on catch and shoot opportunities from 46.8% on 171 shots as a junior to 36.9% on 176 shots as a senior, as he seemed to struggled with the added offensive responsibility he was asked to shoulder. Perimeter shooting will be his most important offensive skill at the next level and he will need to make some tweaks to his mechanics to be a respected shooter from NBA distance, something that is not difficult to project him doing in time.
As with most guys who project to be 3-and-D players, how Beachem adjusts to the longer NBA arc is what’s most important. I would not expect to see Beachem be anything more than a spot up player who benefits from the attention his superior teammates require, so I am less concerned about his senior numbers dipping due to “increased defensive attention”. As a role player, he’ll likely spot up in either corner or circle back to the top of the key, relocating to receive passes. If he hits shots, he’ll find a way to stick in this league somewhere eventually. If he doesn’t, he’ll be Anthony Brown.
All in all, I like this crop of guys if for no other reason they offer some positional variance with some potential upside across the board. I don’t think any of the three latest additions have a chance of making the final roster, but all three could be useful on the SBL and one could even end up being the team’s 2nd two-way contract (though, I would imagine Blue has the lead for that already). In any event, the Lakers still have one more player they can add and, if I had my choice, it would likely be another wing.