Summer League Preview: Separating the Chaff

USA TODAY Sports

With very few of their recent draft picks playing on their summer league squad, the Lakers will have an opportunity to comb deeply through the roster in search of a potential rotation player.

It goes without saying that you take nothing in summer league for granted and that even the most determined optimists for good performers here are usually reduced into gibbering pessimists by the time training camp rolls around. The competition simply isn't that high: these are the guys who are scraping the bottom of the NBA totem pole and would feel fortunate if they landed a spot in the D-League or a European squad somewhere. That the play devolves into a giant mass of isolation basketball due to the short window of opportunity during which the team's coaches have a chance to implement some semblance of a system only adds to this; it wouldn't be remiss to call this in some ways glorified pick-up ball.

All this noted, the Lakers could really benefit from finding a guy who would at least be worthy of a training camp invite because of their dire financial situation. The team has cast a wide net in its search for shooters and wing depth in free agency, but only at the price that they are willing to pay, not to mention that what they can offer is limited in the first place. As a result, it would be a huge boon for the Lakers to come out of summer league with at least one guy who looks like he might be able to play a bit role. It certainly doesn't have to be on the level of Gary Neal, perhaps the quintessential example of a summer league gem, but nabbing say a shooter for a salary of less than a million would make the front office's job much easier.

This is especially the case since unlike last year, when the Lakers seemingly invited every single draft pick they made for the past three years -- one last cheer for Ater Majok over Isaiah Thomas! -- only Robert Sacre is currently slated for a spot on the team that will meet in Las Vegas in about a week. The rest of the team is composed of players who didn't hear their names called in the 2013 draft or those who have been plying their craft in the D-League or in Europe. This does give the Lakers the opportunity to look at a set of entirely new names and will show a bit about the bona fides of their scouting department in picking these guys out.

As the Lakers' free agent search has made fairly evident, the Lakers need depth on the wing badly and most of the following names will work well in that regard as floor spacers should they pan out. Of course, we should temper our expectations: these guys either went undrafted or have been out of the league for a while for a reason. The Lakers are more or less scraping the bottom of the barrel in an effort to find something that isn't garbage and the grand majority of the stuff they find is going to be exactly that. Before we begin with the list of guys, note this is tentative and no final version of the roster is out yet. We will keep you updated should things change, as more guys are almost certainly on their way. Now, without further ado:

Robert Sacre

Age Team (College) PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT%
24 Lakers (Gonzaga) 1.3 1.1 0.2 37.5 00.0 63.6

Sacre's rookie season can be boiled down to the fact that when Mike D'Antoni was forced by the giant pile of injuries to choose a backup center, he opted for the undersized Earl Clark in lieu of Sacre. To put it plainly, Sacre wasn't very effective whenever he was on the court, his limited skill set on offense and inability to space the floor putting him at a significant disadvantage even when teams were loading up on the strong side since they could ignore him entirely. Whenever he did get the ball, he had a tough time finishing and was frequently turning the ball over. On defense, he was far too foul prone, although he did show flashes of being able to take charges, an underrated skill for bigs that hasn't been seen that much on the Lakers recently.

Summer league is thus a significant chance for Sacre to reverse these perceptions and at least start to make headway towards the idea that he could be a serviceable fifth big. The Lakers certainly don't need him to be an offensive force, but he needs to prove that he isn't a complete stiff on offense, whether that's via finishing as a roll man, having at least one move around the basket, or capitalizing on the potential range he could have on his midrange jumper. Mostly the same applies for the other end, as he should be hedging well on the pick-and-roll, mindful of his help responsibilities, and continue to work on taking charges.

In other words, Sacre needs to prove that he won't kill the team on either end and has at least one useful skill to contribute whenever he's on the floor. If it turns out that he can, for instance, hit midrange shots and take charges, that's a guy who can be a bit guy in a rotation. Although we all enjoy Sacre for his world-class cheerleader skills, one would think that he would prefer to be a more meaningful factor in the team's success.

Michael Snaer

Age College (Year) PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT%
22 Florida State (Senior) 14.8 4.5 2.5 42.5 38.4 81.7
Height w/o shoes Height w/shoes Weight Wingspan Vertical (no-step) Vertical (max) Lane agility 3/4 court sprint Bench press
6'3.5'' 6'4.5'' 201 6'8'' 32.0'' 37.0'' 10.92 3.20 10

Snaer is the lone name here that was covered in our draft primer and practically everything that was written there still stands true. A tough defensive guard well known for hitting quite a few buzzer beaters last year in college ball, he is probably the main guy to watch during summer league for Lakers fans and the one with the greatest hope of making it to training camp. The reason is simple: Snaer comes in with two ready NBA skills between his three-point shooting and his defense on the wing, both things that the Lakers need in the worst possible way. These needs are so strong that one could have understood if the Lakers passed on Kelly to pick up Snaer in the second round of the draft.

What is interesting about Snaer as a prospect, however, is that he has a few skills that might allow him to move beyond being pigeonholed as a three-and-D guy, namely his ballhandling ability in the pick-and-roll. Forced to handle a big part of Florida State's offense as the primary creator, Snaer became increasingly adept at using the pick-and-roll as a means to search for his points, although he is not a particularly good finisher and usually pulled up rather than get to the rim. Snaer definitely isn't ever going to have to create out of the pick-and-roll consistently in the pros, but the knowledge that he is a dependable ballhandler who can initiate a play in a pinch is helpful.

The Lakers don't know yet whether Darius Morris, now a free agent after the Lakers declined his qualifying offer, will find his way onto their summer league, but either way, Snaer stands to be a big part of the Lakers' offense in this context, so evaluation opportunities will be plentiful. If he can do a decent job at this and checking his man on the other end, it would not be surprising to see him as one of the names on the roster in September.

Elias Harris

Age College (Year) PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT%
23 Gonzaga (Senior) 14.6 7.4 1.6 50.1 17.0 76.8
Height w/o shoes Height w/shoes Weight Wingspan Vertical (no-step) Vertical (max) Lane agility 3/4 court sprint Bench press
6'7.5'' 6'8.5'' 238 6'10'' 32.0'' 38.0'' 11.27 3.26 14

A former college teammate of Sacre, who will no doubt be enthused to be playing with him again, Harris is a tweener forward who slated as a first round pick a few years ago until his stock thoroughly tanked due to his play dropping off. He did recover a lot of that productivity as a senior, but his three-point shot, an essential part of his arsenal should be make the league, deserted him. We will return to the subject of his shooting in a moment, but as far as his strengths go, they should remind the Lakers a good deal of Matt Barnes: Harris is a good cutter, moves well without the ball, and has a soft touch around the basket with a variety of moves. Limited as a creator and without a great handle, most of what Harris contributes on offense will be opportunities made by others for him.

The issue for Harris is that he doesn't really have a position. It's increasingly difficult to be a wing in today's league, especially in Mike D'Antoni's offense, and be unable to put the ball in the net from range. And really, same thing applies as an undersized four, as teams would expect him to lure bigs out of the paint in addition to nailing shots from the perimeter. It's simply hard to be productive if you can't space the floor and don't have the ability to create shots on your own. Any conversation about whether Harris can make the team begins and ends with how well he can return to his career 35.6% mark from three-point range.

Continuing on Harris' positional problems, this applies as well to defense, as he is a bit heavy and slow footed to check wings, but will give up size as well to several fours. He does have a notable feather in his cap in the form of his defensive rebounding, but he will probably have initial struggles in this area. Regardless, should Harris end up on the Lakers in training camp, it will very likely be as a wing, not a four due to the current depth chart, so it would behoove him to regain his form at that spot very quickly.

Marcus Landry

Age Team (College) PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT%
27 Reno (Wisconsin) 16.5 5.0 1.0 43.8 42.8 76.8

An undrafted journeyman who has bounced around various spots in the league and elsewhere in recent years, including brief stints with the Knicks and Celtics, Landry was one of the first names connected to the Lakers' summer league team and is primarily here to see if the Lakers can pick up a cheap wing shooter. The brother of Carl Landry, Marcus has decent size for the wing and seems to have embraced the notion that shooting is the means by which he will possibly make the league, considering that he attempted an insane 8.5 threes per game in the D-League last year and made them at a 42.8% rate. His usefulness is mostly connected to his shooting, so how well he performs in summer league in that regard will determine how his future plays out.

Drew Viney

Age Team (College) PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT%
24 Orleans (Loyola Marymount) 7.9 4.0 1.4 51.9 47.4 62.5

One of two players here who has particular rooting interest for yours truly, as he is from my hometown, Viney more or less has the same exact profile as Landry and if he does well and gets a training camp invite, it will be for the same reasons: shooting well from range. In this regard, Viney has pretty good bona fides. He shot 45.7% from three in his last year at Loyola and was able to duplicate that in his time in France with a 47.4% mark. With this in mind, you have to give the Lakers' front office some plaudits with how they've approached the summer league team and free agency. They're more or less kicking the tires on every wing in sight who can shoot, recognizing that it's pretty essential for offenses nowadays, in hopes that at least one or two is the diamond in the rough and we'll see whether Viney fits that mold.

Kenny Boynton

Age College (Year) PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT%
22 Florida (Senior) 12.0 3.0 2.8 39.4 32.1 82.2
Height w/o shoes Height w/shoes Weight Wingspan Vertical (no-step) Vertical (max) Lane agility 3/4 court sprint Bench press
6'1'' N/A 187 6'5.5'' N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

Apologies to Florida fans, but there's not much to get excited about in terms of Boynton's pro prospects. He failed to crack 40% from the field in three of his four years in college, he's a two guard in a point guard's body, and has gotten a fairly strong reputation, deserved or not, as a gunner. To overcome all of these things, Boynton would have to be a superlative athlete and that's simply not the case. Admittedly, Boynton's playmaking did improve greatly each year he was at Florida -- witness the continual rising of his assist versus turnover ratio -- but he has quite a long road to go before he's sufficiently polished to run an offense or be accurate enough to be a secondary scoring option on the wing. If we were to hazard a guess, Boynton is probably just a depth signing and more interested in finding a spot with a European team than having any real aspirations to cracking into the league.

Ian Hummer

Age College (Year) PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT%
22 Princeton (Senior) 16.6 6.4 4.2 51.7 29.2 71.7

The other guy besides Viney that has a good deal of my interest since he's from my alma mater, Hummer is a 6'7'' forward with a pretty diverse floor game. To give a more thorough scouting report, let us yield the floor to Kevin Whitaker (@whitakk), one of my fellow editors at Princeton's student newspaper The Daily Princetonian:

Ian Hummer does have NBA bloodlines: his uncle John played in the league from 1970-76, and his father Ed was drafted in 1967 but never played. They came from an era when it was easier to go from the Ivy League to the NBA, however, and though Ian was clearly the best player in the Ancient Eight this year, he only played one or two games a season against elite NCAA teams.

Hummer doesn't really have any one individual skill that will vault him into an NBA rotation; if he breaks into the league, it will be as a well-rounded player. He took a lot of shots as an upperclassman and was reasonably efficient, but never really looked suited to the role of #1 scorer; he makes smart cuts and can get to the rim with a combination of strength and good footwork, but scoring shouldn't be his primary role as a pro. He does have great passing skills for his size, though -- he had one of the top assist rates among NCAA forwards last year, often playing as a point forward -- and can add more offensive value on the glass.

The one area that will hold him back most is outside shooting. He only started taking threes as an upperclassman and shot about 30 percent from there; he showed a much-improved midrange game as a senior, both spotting up and off the dribble, but has a long way to go to be effective from 23-25 feet. In most other ways, his skill set seems best suited to SF, but he might have to play some as a smaller PF unless his outside shot improves.

Defensively, Hummer was great in the Ivy League, rarely allowing baskets as the primary defender, getting a lot of steals and guarding positions one through five, though he probably won't be able to do that as well against the bigger centers and quicker guards of the NBA. He plays a little bigger than his 6'7" height, with long arms and good defensive positioning, and he'll definitely have the necessary energy on that end of the court.

As Kevin points out, Hummer's biggest strength is how diverse his game is: he had a pretty stellar 31.5 assist ratio for a guy with his usage (29.2) and position and was a factor on the boards with a 12.6 rebound rate. All of this was on top of the scoring load he had to carry, although that probably won't be a big strength of his in the pros so long as his outside shooting remains suspect. As a four, one could see his point forward skills and midrange game having more of an impact in the pick-and-pop and creating off the dribble, although as with Harris above, the Lakers' preference would be to have him emerge as a wing. The reality for many of these prospects also applies to Hummer: his shooting will go a long way towards helping his case for making the league.

That concludes our list of the prospects that have so far been announced for the Lakers' summer league team, but there undoubtedly will be more that emerge over the course of the next week. With nearly all of the solid undrafted players from this year's draft already acquired by one team or another, it is far more likely that they will be depth additions just there to fill out the squad and to conduct practices with. That said, surprises do happen and the Lakers will be tapping into a pretty deep part of the bargain bin in their search for wing shooters. Should all go well, the team should emerge with at least one contributor from this group who might find themselves wearing the real version of the purple and gold in September.

Follow this author on Twitter @brosales12.

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