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Pete Zayas

Lonzo Ball Summer League Passing Compilation

Lonzo Ball Lakers Summer League Passing Compilation from Laker Film Room on Vimeo.

 

Lonzo Ball was named MVP of the 2017 Las Vegas Summer League, leading the Lakers to the championship behind a dominant performance that permeated the team’s style of play. In this video, I take a look at all of the passes that Ball made that created an advantage. Not just assists, but hockey assists, free throw assists, and potential assists where he created a good look but the shooter missed the shot.

Laker Film Room Podcast – Lonzo is The One

In this episode of the Laker Film Room Podcast, Pete channels his inner Morpheus to describe Lonzo Ball’s Summer League performance, as Darius takes a more even-keeled approach, along with their reactions about Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, and Ivica Zubac.

Lakers Summer League Preview

Summer League is a ton of fun. Diehard fans from across the league converge on Las Vegas to give an enthusiastic welcome to their teams’ latest 1st Round picks, in a convention-style atmosphere that brings every component of the basketball world to the same place. You’re just as likely to stand behind a current or former NBA player/coach in line to get a beer & hot dog as a fellow fan. Last year, I got to shake Nick Van Exel’s hand and tell him that he was my favorite player growing up before scurrying away in starstruck embarrassment. I laughed as I listened to an overzealous Toronto Raptors fan sing “I’m In Love With Caboclo” at the top of his lungs to the tune of the O.T. Genasis hit “CoCo” until the perpetually two-years-away-from-being-two-years-away Bruno Caboclo acknowledged him with a laugh. How often do you get to watch games with the fans of dozen different teams who are so rabid that they know pretty much every player on YOUR team’s’ roster? This environment, combined with getting together with friends, both old and new, amidst the usual fuckery of Vegas makes Summer League a necessary pilgrimage for any hardcore fan.

But how much does the basketball matter?

Lonzo Ball & the Rookie Class

Lonzo Ball will surely be greeted with raucous enthusiasm as he makes his Lakers debut on Friday night, as the purple & gold take on the Clippers at 5:30pm PST, with no less than face of the franchise expectations and a stacked supporting cast. Lonzo has doubled down on this hype, expecting the Lakers to “win the whole thing“.

But he has a few obstacles to overcome if he wants to achieve this. The prospects at the top of the draft rarely compete in 1-on-1 settings leading up to it, much less in 3-on-3 or 5-on-5 situations. The scrimmages during the Lakers’ week-long Summer League practice schedule represent Ball’s first competitive 5-on-5 play since March, against much tougher and older opponents, with unfamiliar teammates, and a new playbook. Ball’s game is so predicated on having synergy with his teammates while being the most savvy player on the court that I expect him to struggle a bit, particularly in half court situations. The PGs who tend to thrive in Summer League are those with athletic advantages and the ability to drive to the basket against largely disorganized defenses. Kris Dunn was a future all-star at this time last year, as was Emmanuel Mudiay two years ago, and as such I expect guys like De’Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith, Jr. to look better in Summer League than Ball does.

Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma should have smoother transitions, both as older players and guys who mostly thrive off of the shot creation of others. Kuzma in particular may raise some eyebrows, as he will be able to show off his passing and improved pick & pop ability amidst spacing that he never enjoyed at Utah, as noted in my recent video on how he fits in with the Lakers. Despite his rookie status, Hart is older than six of his teammates on the Lakers Summer League roster, and has a 3-&-D + fill the wing type of game that shouldn’t be impacted much by this unique environment. Both Kuzma & Hart thrive in transition as well, so that may be the recipe for a Lakers Summer League title. If the rookies are able to get the requisite defensive stops that they’ll need to get out and run alongside their more experienced teammates, they’ll be in business. (Ssidenote: I will be making a drinking game out of how often Kuzma falls down while in Vegas. His tendency to do so is Hibbert-esque)

Thomas Bryant should be a bit more of an adventure. He’s capable of picking & popping in a way that’s simpatico with Ball’s tendencies and runs the floor well, but he has questionable defensive awareness and decision-making that may be exacerbated in a Summer League setting.

The “Veterans”

Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac have the most NBA experience on the Lakers Summer League roster, making them the seasoned pros of the team at the ripe, old ages of 19 and 20. As such, the expectations on them are rightfully much higher. Last year, I heard an NBA Front Office executive mention that you start to worry about your 2nd year guys if they don’t look like the best players on the court in Summer League, under the premise that they’ve had the benefit of a full year in the NBA, with access to all of the strength, conditioning, knowledge, and coaching that it provides. While that is a bit reductive,  players like Devin Booker & D’Angelo Russell thrived, while Jaylen Brown has made quick work of the Utah Summer League this year.

It is fair to expect Brandon Ingram to be the best player on the team, after a season in which he played 2,279 NBA minutes, easily the most in his rookie class and the rest of this roster combined. I’ll be looking for him to continue the prowess that he demonstrated in attacking the basket toward the end of the year, while expecting an improved shooting stroke from 3-point range and the free throw line, as well as more disruption on the defensive end with his considerable length.

Zubac should be the primary beneficiary of whatever shot creation that Ball can muster, and I’d like to see him extending his range beyond the 3-point line. He is capable of hitting that shot, but it was under-utilized last year during the regular season, and the Summer League provides an excellent opportunity to get his feet wet in that respect. This, along with improved defensive awareness in pick & roll situations would constitute a successful Summer League for the big fella.

This week could be a bit of a coming out party for David Nwaba, whose defensive abilities can help the Lakers get out in transition, where he can fill a wing with the best of ’em in Vegas, and his feel for back-cut opportunities jives very well with the passing prowess of Ball and Kuzma. It may be too much to ask him to demonstrate a competent 3-point shot at this point, but that’s the only thing that stands in the way between him and a 10-year NBA career.

R-E-L-A-X

This is going to be the first time we’ll see the “Lakers” in any incarnation since April 12th, a stretch of nearly 3 months. We’re champing at the bit to get our first look at Lonzo, Kuzma, Hart, & Bryant, and see what improvements Ingram & Zubac have made. As a result of our eagerness, both the good and bad of Summer League are inevitably over-analyzed to an absurd degree. Every. Single. Year. Summer League is ultimately a mix of talented kids and journeyman veterans who just met each other, with a week’s worth of practice, with an assistant coach, all trying to showcase themselves for various leagues around the world. It barely qualifies as organized basketball.

So I’d suggest that you get out to Vegas this weekend if you can, set your DVR if you can’t, and treat any success that the young guys have as found money, while brushing off any struggles. But I know you won’t, and I’ll be arguing with someone about why Lonzo Ball isn’t the next Kendall Marshall at some point in the next week.

And that’s why I love you guys.

Why the Lakers Will Be Quiet in Free Agency

By: Joe Rudin

On July 1, 2016, the Los Angeles Lakers, led by Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss, offered Timofey Mozgov an offer he could not refuse – a 4-year, $64 million contract.

On June 20, 2017, the Los Angeles Lakers, led by Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, decided that Mozgov’s contract was one they could not accept.

Johnson and Pelinka traded Mozgov and his absurd contract, along with D’Angelo Russell and his icy veins, to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for former All-Star Center Brook Lopez and the #27 pick in this year’s draft, which they used to select Kyle Kuzma, a forward out of Utah.

On July 1, 2017, Johnson and Pelinka take the next step toward implementing their vision.

Player Age 2017-18 2018-19
Brook Lopez 28 $22,642,350 $0
Luol Deng 31 $17,190,000 $18,000,000
Jordan Clarkson 24 $11,562,500 $12,500,000
Corey Brewer 30 $7,600,000 $0
Tarik Black 25 $6,655,325 $0
Brandon Ingram 19 $5,519,400 $5,757,120
Lonzo Ball 19 $5,238,800 $6,218,300
Julius Randle 22 $4,149,242 $5,564,134
Larry Nance Jr. 24 $1,471,382 $2,272,391
Ivica Zubac 19 $1,312,611 $1,544,951
David Nwaba 24 $1,312,611 $1,744,951
Kyle Kuzma 21 $1,186,300 $1,408,200
Josh Hart 22 $1,162,100 $1,379,300
Thomas Bryant 19 $815,615* $0
P.J. Dozier 20 $815,615* $0
TOTAL GUARANTEED $80,347,296 $39,505,800
Salary Cap $99,000,000 $102,000,000
Cap Room $18,652,704 $62,494,200**
Red = Team Option Purple = Non-guaranteed Orange = Qualifying Offer Green = Projected
*Bryant & Dozier projected at 0-year minimum salary

**Note: The Lakers will likely exercise their Team Options on Brandon Ingram and Larry Nance Jr. for the 2018-19 season. Accounting for that, the cap holds for having fewer than 12 guaranteed players (each empty space, 5 in this case, creates a cap hold equal to a 0-years-of-experience minimum salary), and Julius Randle’s cap hold as a Restricted Free Agent, the real amount of cap room projects to be $37,898,107.

The Lakers currently have about $18.6 million in cap room, with 3 roster spots to fill:

PG: Lonzo Ball / Jordan Clarkson / EMPTY

SG: EMPTY / David Nwaba / Josh Hart

SF: Brandon Ingram / Luol Deng / Corey Brewer

PF: Julius Randle / Larry Nance Jr. / Kyle Kuzma

C: Brook Lopez / Ivica Zubac / EMPTY

The Lakers really only have one rotation spot up for grabs – that starting SG spot – and will be looking to fill the other two spots with injury insurance, veteran leadership, and guys who will compete in practice.

The Lakers can also use 2 Two-Way contracts, which don’t count against the salary cap and allow a player no more than 45 days with their NBA team during the Regular Season. The Lakers use one on 2nd Round pick Thomas Bryant, and the other on P.J. Dozier, who they offered a non-guaranteed contract on draft night.

The Lakers will likely only offer 1-year contracts to prospective Free Agents. These contracts might have 2nd-year Team Options attached to them, but since the Lakers will be treating their cap space as “sacred,” they will almost certainly be committing to only 1 year of guaranteed money.

The Lakers also have some Exceptions at their disposal, namely the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception and the Bi-Annual Exception, which will allow them to go over the Salary cap if they choose to use them. However, since they probably won’t be going over the cap by signing contracts that are more than a minimum salary, they won’t need a special exception for minimum contracts.

What the Lakers Can Do

Option #1: The Lakers offer all their cap space on a 1+1 deal to whomever they think is the best Unrestricted Free Agent 2-guard out there.

  • If they get their target, they’re done! That’s it! The other two spots will remain open for competition through Summer League and training camp.
  • If they don’t get their target, move to step 2

Option #2: The Lakers guarantee Tarik Black’s $6,655,325 by July 4th and offer the remainder of their cap space to whomever they think is the best 2-guard out there. That leaves the 3rd string PG spot open, which again will remain open through Summer League and training camp.

A couple of notes:

  • The Lakers can offer all their cap space to one player because the remaining spots will almost certainly be filled by players on minimum contracts; it is always permitted to sign players to minimum deals, no matter how far above the Salary Cap a team is.
  • The Lakers should be smart, though, and not use ALL of their cap space; flexibility is key and a little cap space could go a long way when it comes to a mid-season trade
  • The Lakers could use the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception to fill the 3rd string spots with above-minimum contracts if they need to. They can use up to $8,406,000 in this way.

Some players they can target are: JJ Redick, Patty Mills, Dion Waiters, C.J. Miles, Jodie Meeks

Joe Ingles and Otto Porter would be great fits, but they’re both Restricted Free Agents, so you can’t offer them deals that only have 1 year guaranteed (unless their teams decide not to extend a Qualifying Offer, thereby making them Unrestricted Free Agents).

The Free Agent market for shooting guards is pretty bleak this year. And as Pete Zayas and Darius Soriano mentioned on the latest episode of the Laker Film Room Podcast, it’s highly unlikely that the Lakers will be able to find someone who is both 1) capable of significantly helping the Lakers win games and 2) willing to take only 1 year of guaranteed money. To really get a worthwhile Free Agent, the Lakers will have to offer far more money in that one guaranteed year than what is available to them in each year of a multi-year deal elsewhere.

This is why the Lakers should explore their trade options, where they don’t have to convince a quality player to take a 1-year deal, since they’re already on one.

Here are some players whose contracts can or will expire after the 2017-18 season that the Lakers might target, listed in order of 2017-18 salary:

Player Age 2016-17 2017-18 2018-19
Dwyane Wade 29 $23,200,000 $23,800,000 $0
Arron Afflalo 31 $12,500,000 $12,500,000 $0
Danny Green 29 $10,000,000 $10,000,000 $10,000,000
Cory Joseph 25 $7,330,000 $7,660,000 $7,945,000
Trevor Ariza 31 $7,806,971 $7,420,912 $0
Devin Harris 34 $4,228,000 $4,403,000 $0
Seth Curry 26 $2,898,000 $3,028,410 $0
Doug McDermott 25 $2,483,040 $3,294,994 $4,510,847

*Blue = Player Option                                             **Green = Qualifying Offer

There’s no clear home run here, either. Danny Green would be a great fit, but his $10 Million player option in 2018-19 could be detrimental to the Lakers’ 2018 Free Agency plans. Cory Joseph has a similarly problematic Player Option for 2018-19 as well.

The drawback of a trade, of course, is that you have to give up assets in the process. But if the Lakers are already planning to give up assets next summer in order to make room for 2 max-salary Free Agents (they’ll have to give up something), it makes sense to use those assets to acquire a high-quality starting 2-guard for this year.

Given that the Lakers only have one significant roster spot to fill and need to preserve their cap space for next summer, they will most likely sign one player to a 1-year deal and sit the rest of Free Agency out.  They may try to execute a trade, but it will take good timing and a willing partner to do so. The real fireworks will happen at this time next year.