Lakers drop opening contest of summer league to Cavs, 70-62

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

In a game not exactly brimming with big offensive numbers, a number of players on the Lakers' summer league team managed to distinguish themselves.

It should be emphasized that the end result of the game in summer league usually doesn't matter in most cases. We're not here to evaluate how a bunch of guys thrown together over the course of the past few weeks and with only a handful of practices under their belt perform as a team, but rather evaluate individual prospects and see how they could fit into the parent team. All that said, the Lakers were remarkably crisp in their execution, as wing pick-and-rolls seamlessly transitioned into post-ups, roll men were constantly looking for open shooters, and there was surprisingly little of the glorified pick-up ball feel that summer league tends to degenerate into. The players in general deserve props for trying to work in a team concept even if it wasn't necessarily leading to them getting their own numbers.

Now, most of the team could hardly hit the broad side of a barn, a familiar problem for the Lakers last season, but the fact that their execution was decent this early in summer league is a good thing for the squad as a whole, especially considering how wonky the rotations were. Dan D'Antoni was substituting in players hockey-style, four or five at a time, and played crunch time with a lineup that had three guards and two forwards when they had to check a bona fide center in Tyler Zeller. This certainly isn't necessarily a bad thing by any means: it's the first game and they're trying to see how everyone performs under fire with new teammates. The small lineup could also have been an effort to see how the players, particularly Elias Harris, who had to man the five in this case, would respond when pushed out of their comfort zone.

And for the most part, there was a lot of good things to say about the Lakers on the defensive end, as the bigs were actively hedging and trying to recover well, switches were frequent, and players were flying at shooters whenever they had the opportunity. There were naturally breakdowns that occur when a team who has gotten only a few practices in will incur, but very few were due to a lack of effort. If anything, many of the breakdowns were caused by players being overly aggressive and too generous in their help, which is hardly a bad thing at this juncture.

Onto the individual performers, the standouts have to be Marcus Landry and Michael Snaer, both of whom acquitted themselves well in extended minutes. Landry, the Lakers' leading scorer with 14 points, was an efficiency maven's dream, shooting a lot of threes and getting to the line, as we see in his 63.2 TS%. He looked very fluid running off screens to get open jumpers and proved he wasn't one-dimensional by making nice drives to the rim to draw fouls. Neither was he a slouch on defense, as Landry was active and had a great weak side block when working in help. He definitely made the biggest impression today and while we don't want to overreact to one game, appears as if he fits the mold of what the Lakers want on the wing.

Snaer on the other hand was in effective in a number of different areas, as he was showing off his ballhandling skills while getting to the rim or nicely rounding picks and using the available space to hit jumpers. His athleticism also was on display, as he was getting offensive rebounds around the rim and was a step away from having a highlight dunk earlier in the game. We still have to see whether he can be a consistent playmaker, but he was doing a solid job in that regard for the Lakers this game. As with Landry, Snaer did a good job on defense in line with his reputation from Florida State, although he was a bit too aggressive in certain situations.

The rest of the players were more of a mixed bag. Chris Douglas-Roberts, who we anointed from the beginning as the guy most likely to make the parent squad, started off splendidly, getting to the rim and making nice passes out of the pick-and-roll, but played poorly after tweaking his ankle. There will be plenty of opportunities for him to get back on track in future games and this will probably be a blip on the way to a training camp invite assuming his ankle doesn't hinder him. As for Elias Harris, he played the most minutes for the squad and kept on bringing constant energy on both ends, especially on the offensive glass. He had some trouble converting around the rim and he'll definitely need to hit more of those spot-up threes, but you have to like the way he approaches the game, even when he was asked to play out of position at the end of the game at the five.

Speaking of the Lakers' frontcourt players, Robert Sacre, who we know will be on the squad, displayed a new jumper going nearly out to the three-point line, so one hopes that he will become a factor in the pick-and-pop from this point forward. He was also part of a generally very solid defensive effort from the Lakers' interior players, as there was a lot of good hedging and weak side rotations going on. This was especially the case for Sacre's frontcourt companion in Mitchell Watt, who was living up to reports on his athleticism by hedging and recovering with great alacrity. Watt also might be the most natural roll man on the team, as he was catching the ball in mid-stride without a hitch and consistently found open shooters while in motion, a critical skill for a guy who is going to be involved in those sets in Mike D'Antoni's offense.

The Lakers' point guards had good moments, notably Josh Selby when he made a great pass in transition to Harris for a dunk, but Selby didn't get a lot of time as the primary ballhandler, an opportunity he will likely be afforded at least once in summer league. Altogether, they were so-so and weren't actively making plays, although the amount of ballhandling that Snaer and CDR were doing no doubt played a role in this. Lester Hudson resembled a caretaker point guard than the more attacking type he's known to be and he wasn't particularly good running the offense. Finally, D.J. Seeley was able to show his midrange game off, but never felt like a factor in the overall offense.

Everyone else was constrained by the lack of minutes they received for the most part; however, Lazar Hayward, Jordan Williams, and Selby will all get their chances in more extended playing time as summer league continues. We doubt this will be the case for the likes of Travis Hyman or Renaldo Woolridge, neither of whom was expected to do much in summer league and this was confirmed in a small sample of their play. It wouldn't be surprising for their minutes to be gradually fazed out as the team tries to get a better look at the guys who might actually make it to training camp.

All things considering, this was a decent start to summer league for the Lakers. The ball was moving well, effort was in no short supply, and got a glimpse of a few of the guys who might be able to make it to training camp. Landry and Snaer will certainly have to be consistent in their contributions and one can expect that CDR will bring his name back into these discussions very soon. Compared to the total disaster that was last year's summer league team as the Lakers got a full view of how poorly they have drafted in recent years, this team without a doubt appears much more promising, which is a good thing for a Laker team that desperately needs depth on the back end of their rotation.

Follow this author on Twitter @brosales12.

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