The last game of summer league did little to disprove any of our existing narratives of the team, as once again, solid play from the starters was summarily undone by a shaky bench unit whose members all gave firm credence to the notion that they were not part of the starting unit for a reason. Indeed, the Lakers played the Warriors to a draw for most of the game before riding an unusually hot batch of shooting to a big lead in the second quarter, as the offensive flow that has been fairly consistent for most of summer league finally began to result in baskets more consistently. Before the half, the Lakers had the Golden State offense completely stifled as the aggressive trapping defense that has been their mainstay all summer league was successfully stymieing their efforts. This all went to waste in the second half as Dan D'Antoni kept the bench unit out for an extended stretch in between the third and fourth quarters, allowing Golden State to climb back into the game and seize the momentum.
Now, we certainly shouldn't be criticizing DDA by any means in this context. As much as this game felt differently, summer league is summer league and there really wasn't any reason to keep on playing with such a clear divide formed between those who proved that they deserved camp invites and those not so much. An extra game wasn't going to propel Michael Snaer or Lazar Hayward back into the discussion or enable Lester Hudson to overcome the fact that the Lakers have way too many guys in the backcourt rotation for him to have a shot. If anything, the distribution of minutes and the fact that the starting lineup has been unchanged for four games after Marcus Landry replaced Mitchell Watt should indicate who the team feels can make it.
All that noted, we did get a rather unexpected surprise in the form of Travis Hyman, who had previously been rooted to the bench and got time tonight likely just because the end of the bench has served as a testing ground for the coaches to throw players into the mix and see how they performed. And Hyman certainly did, as even though he still possesses a very raw game and little refinement, he has great timing on blocks and an athletic NBA body for the five with decent lateral quickness. Time and time again, Hyman would sniff out players going at the rim and send their shot into the stands and he finished the night with five blocks in only fourteen minutes of play. He has a long way to go before getting into the league, but guys with his athleticism and shot blocking skills usually find a way to make it work.
As for the starters, the main story was Marcus Landry finally having his title of being the team's leading scorer every game stripped away by Lester Hudson and Elias Harris, although Landry definitely had a solid game in his own right, getting to the rim and hitting the long ball in an efficient fashion while covering the likes of Draymond Green very effectively on defense. Hudson ended up as the scoring leader with eighteen, but his lack of distributing chops and shoot first mentality for a point guard will cause problems for him as he tries to catch on to a team somewhere. Simply, he has the game of a two guard in a point guard's body and that's always been a big limitation for him. As mentioned above, it's hard to conceive of a reason to invite him to camp even for depth purposes because of how flooded the Lakers backcourt is.
Harris, on the other hand, had by far his most impressive game of summer league thus far, hitting jumpers off the dribble and from behind the arc, which allowed him to be a factor everywhere on the court. His rebounding was off this game, but his defensive effort was solid, as his ability to switch onto guards was frequently used by the team when they scrambled on defense. There still needs to be a bit more polish on Harris' game before he's ready to jump into a NBA rotation, making a stay in the D-League likely after he gets an invite from the Lakers at training camp. Still, a guy with his skills is a great fit on the wings and as a smallball four in the Lakers' system and he will have a very strong case to make to the team for a more permanent spot.
The remainder of the starters did not disappoint either, although Robert Sacre and Chris Douglas-Roberts were more subsidiary actors in how the game unfolded. Sacre continues to demonstrate that he could be a serviceable defensive big and he improved his effort on the boards this game. If his admittedly slow release from fifteen or so can become a more consistent jumper, he can make it work as a bench guy. This holds a more negative connotation for CDR, as some solid playmaking was intermixed with his periods of passivity and oddly a set of awful isolation plays near the end of the game that stood out amid the team's focus on sharing the ball. He did do a decent job on Kent Bazemore for most of the game until the latter began his best Kobe Bryant impression and his defense on wings in general in summer league has been endearing.
Alas, it was a case of misplaced optimism for Michael Snaer, Lazar Hayward, and Josh Selby, all of whom had moments in summer league, but never capitalized on them. Snaer in particular came in with high expectations given his college pedigree and did have a number of games in which he was making inroads on being noticed for a camp invite. Unfortunately, his play tailed off and the coaching staff seemed to lose interest, although it would behoove the team to keep tabs on him in the future. Same thing for Hayward, whose limitations as a playmaker were exposed, but his effort, running of the floor in transition, and versatility on the wing were noticeable. Selby unfortunately had only tiny slivers of positive play intermixed with the near-constant stream of terrible reminders that he has little idea how to harness the athleticism and talent that made him such a highly touted recruit at Kansas.
Altogether, the Lakers accomplished what they set out to do in summer league. Bereft of recent draft picks between the team letting go of Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock as well as Ryan Kelly's injury, the team made do with a makeshift roster that emerged as a surprisingly fun unit emphasizing ball movement on offense and a frenetic trapping system on defense. In fact, Kelly's absence gave players such as Landry and Harris the opportunity to shine as guys who could play both forward spots, an opportunity that would not have been afforded to them if Kelly was a fixture at the four. That the Lakers seemingly have a surplus of choices to choose from in terms of training camp invites from their summer league roster is testament to how the endeavor should be viewed. Especially when looking at the disastrous run last year that showcased the Lakers' dismal draft record since 2007, one emerges from this summer with a much more tangible sense of hope.
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