Summer League Preview: Lakers' rookies on show

Mike Stobe

With the Lakers' rookies in the fold and the draft over, we can take our first look at Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson as well as several interesting prospects when summer league kicks off in Las Vegas.

Summer league in Las Vegas is something that has recently become a great deal more relevant for the Lakers due to the depth issues that have plagued the bottom end of their roster, as seen by last season's pickups of LVSL Laker participants Marcus Landry and Elias Harris going into training camp. Indeed, following the debacle that was the Lakers' 2012 summer league, in which a team consisting mostly of the flotsam the Lakers had acquired at the end of the second round the previous few years -- primarily the immortal Ater Majok -- was roundly annihilated by every team they faced, the Lakers have seemingly turned a corner insofar as treating summer league as a legitimate place to acquire talent instead of something they go through the motions at every year.

Caveats about projecting too much from summer league performances aside, it certainly appears that the Lakers have followed up on last year's summer league by gathering a fairly impressive group of prospects headlined by their own draft picks in Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, both of whom are slated to play in Vegas at the moment. With no head coach yet hired, the Lakers will be going with developmental coaches Mark Madsen and Larry Lewis as co-head coaches of their summer league squad, which honestly isn't a bad choice given that the purported goal of this whole endeavor is to develop their own players and see who else can hopefully cut it in the league. Madsen in particular is well-suited for such a spot; the Lakers originally hired him to be the head coach of their D-League affiliate before Mike D'Antoni promoted him to the parent club as one of his assistants, after all.

We have the full list courtesy of the Lakers' official website and will cover each of the participants here. Statistics from the last team they played on are included, as are measurements and athletic testing for those who declared for the 2014 draft:

Rodrigue Beaubois

Age Team (College) PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT%
26 Belgacom Spirou (N/A) 9.4 3.8 2.4 36.0 30.6 80.0

Beaubois is a name and has more actual NBA experience than the rest of this list combined, but it's hard to be that optimistic about his prospects. Touted as a defensive stopper due to his 6'10'' wingspan, he hasn't really capitalized upon that potential and doesn't have the offensive game to offer a whole lot of utility on the floor either. His shooting from range is mediocre and while he has the quickness and athleticism to get to the rim, he doesn't possess the skill set to really take advantage of it. The Lakers' summer league team isn't a great place to show otherwise either, as he's way behind a variety of other interesting ballhandlers on the roster.

The death knell to his prospects might end up being his age; Beaubois hasn't really demonstrated any improvement after a promising rookie campaign for the Mavericks and his continued struggles at 26 don't bode well for his future. This notwithstanding, he'll certainly get a chance to prove himself at some point during summer league as everyone else will, although if he doesn't show much, the Lakers will probably go elsewhere in a hurry.

Jordan Clarkson

Age College (Year) PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT%
22 Missouri (Junior) 17.5 3.8 3.4 44.7 28.1 83.1
Height w/o shoes Height w/shoes Weight Wingspan Vertical (no-step) Vertical (max) Standing reach Lane agility 3/4 court sprint
6'3.25'' 6'5'' 186 6'8'' 33.0 38.5 8'2'' 10.76 3.28

Nearly every outlet has described Clarkson as a steal or at least good value for where the Lakers managed to pick him up in the second round and he'll have plenty of opportunities to demonstrate why this was the case. A huge point guard if he can ultimately man the position, Clarkson is a decent pick-and-roll operator and is capable of rounding the corner to get to the rim, where he finished well at in college thanks to good hops and a nice floater. The big test for Clarkson will be whether he has refined his distributing instincts from his time at Missouri and more importantly, if the improvements on his shot that have been reported during the draft workout grapevine come to fruition.

As an actual draft pick of the Lakers, Clarkson's path towards training camp is fairly assured regardless of how he performs here, but with the Lakers roster so bare in terms of depth, he can make a strong statement about deserving playing time in next year's rotation should he manage to produce in Vegas. Given his overall talent level, one would feel comfortable betting on this being the case.

Xavier Gibson

Age Team (College) PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT%
25 Shinshu Brave Warriors (Florida State) 17.5 9.9 2.2 54.4 37.5 71.6

The intrigue for Gibson revolves largely around the possibility that he could be a stretch five, still a rare sight in a league increasingly moving towards skilled bigs capable of hitting from range. Measuring nearly 7'0'' in shoes along with a 7'3'' wingspan, Gibson certainly has the height and bulk to play center but never parlayed those things into significant production at Florida State, losing time to injury and mostly underperforming, as a college career PER of 15.6 and 52.6 TS% would suggest. As a result, he has been bouncing around foreign leagues ever since. Those numbers above are from his time in Japan, so take them with a giant grain of salt rather than any sign he turned a corner; his stats with the Greek team he spent the previous season with are significantly less impressive.

The feather in Gibson's cap is that this roster has a dearth of centers, so he'll more or less get playing time by default and if he really has range from the outside, he'll be a great fit with Randle. Still, he'll have to demonstrate that he's more than a one-trick pony and on an even more basic level than that, that he can actually play and hold his own on both ends, which is up in the air.

Anthony Ireland

Age College (Year) PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT%
22 Loyola Marymount (Senior) 18.5 3.7 5.3 40.7 30.8 81.7
Height w/o shoes Height w/shoes Weight Wingspan Vertical (no-step) Vertical (max) Standing reach Lane agility 3/4 court sprint
5'9.25'' N/A 176 6'2.5'' 33.0 N/A 7'4.5'' N/A N/A

Another attempt for the Lakers to mine the local California market for big mid-major scorers, the hope is that this effort goes better than last year's flier on Cal State Fullerton's D.J. Seeley. And there is a fair chance that it might, low expectations notwithstanding, as Ireland has had some impressive performances under his belt, including a doomed 30 point performance against a vastly superior Gonzaga team that earned him a standing ovation from the opposing crowd. His AST% in his senior year was a very respectable 31.2 for a guy expected to carry his team on every given night, as seen by his sky high USG% of 28.0, and we can presume that Ireland's overall percentages were depressed by the huge load he had to carry.

One shouldn't get their hopes too high, however, as Ireland will have to overcome his lack of size for the position and as with Beaubois, his presumed status in the ballhandling pecking order behind the likes of Marshall, Clarkson, and Kane. Guys in Ireland's position often overcome these problems by demonstrating superlative athletic or shooting tools to hint at potential upside, but unfortunately for Ireland, his time in Las Vegas is probably just a precursor to the start of his career at some spot abroad.

Jerome Jordan

Age Team (College) PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT%
27 Virtus Bologna (Tulsa) 8.9 3.9 0.5 51.4 00.0 66.3

Jordan has been floating around the periphery of the NBA for a few years now, as legitimate seven footers are wont to do because of positional scarcity. Ever since leaving the Knicks, he has played in the D-League and most recently for Virtus Bologna, one of the best teams in Europe, so in comparison to say Gibson above, Jordan's numbers are fairly decent even considering the limited minutes he played (18.6).

That's good to see since Jordan's issue has been mostly one of production: he's not a superlative rebounder, scorer, or defender and even considering his size and respectable mobility, that's not going to cut it on the NBA level. Also working against Jordan is his age since at 27, you've more or less reached your apparent ceiling. This might be one of the last opportunities Jordan has to prove that he deserves a spot in the NBA and seeing that he and Gibson are the only centers on the roster, he'll have his shot to do so.

DeAndre Kane

Age College (Year) PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT%
25 Iowa State (Senior) 17.1 6.8 5.9 48.3 39.8 63.5
Height w/o shoes Height w/shoes Weight Wingspan Vertical (no-step) Vertical (max) Standing reach Lane agility 3/4 court sprint
6'2.75'' 6'4.5'' 200 6'8'' 31.5 35.5 8'3'' 10.95 3.16

If Kane was four years younger, he would have gone in the top ten of this past draft. As it stands, however, it's hard to take his production at face value considering that even within the context of this Lakers' summer league squad, he's nearly three years older than Marshall, two year NBA veteran, and six (!) years Randle's senior, also coming into the league as a rookie. This doesn't mean that Kane doesn't have a shot -- far from it; he arguably has one of the best of this bunch -- but that the impetus is on him to demonstrate that he can produce now and he can't sell an argument based on significant future upside.

There are a lot of things going in his favor, however, his great frame for the position and ability to get to the rim being the chief aspects. Even by NBA standards, Kane's size and strength are above average for the point and if he can get to the rim consistently, he can probably eke out a career. In college, this was primarily seen in transition, as Iowa State under Fred Hoiberg ran a super high paced offense by college standards and Kane was the primary engine powering it, leveraging his superb defensive rebounding for a guard to start the break. Kane also made huge strides at Iowa State as a distributor, something that didn't come naturally to him at previous stops, and improved from a mediocre jump shooter to a respectable one. Given the gaping void in the Lakers' backcourt as far as depth goes, they certainly would like to see all of these things translate to the next level.

Kendall Marshall

Age Team (College) PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT%
22 Lakers (UNC) 8.0 2.9 8.8 40.6 39.9 52.8

It was a bit of a surprise when Marshall said that he would be participating in summer league, but it should be a productive experience for him considering the holes in his game that he needs to continue to work on. Most importantly is finding ways to become more of a scoring threat, as teams played Marshall for the pass every time as the year went on and once his insanely accurate shooting from three tailed off, he didn't really have the means to punish opponents who did so. A pull-up jumper would be a good start, as would a floater around the rim, both intended to give opponents something to think about when Marshall rounds the corner on the pick-and-roll and starts towards the rim.

The big question is how many minutes will Marshall be afforded considering all of the other ballhandlers on the roster who probably deserve a shot running the show. There's a fair argument for Marshall bowing out in favor of Clarkson or Kane as summer league goes on, as well as him playing 30 minutes a game running things the entire time he's in Vegas. Either way, he stands to get the lion's share of the playing time starting out and it will be interesting to see who distinguishes themselves playing next to him.

Trevor Mbakwe

Age Team (College) PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT%
25 Virtus Roma (Minnesota) 10.7 10.1 0.5 58.8 100.0 77.6

Mbakwe would have been a significantly more intriguing candidate for the Lakers had they not drafted Randle and had Ryan Kelly likely to return, as there's simply not a lot of room at the four for him to get minutes, whether on this summer league team or the parent squad. And that's the sole spot that Mbakwe will have any utility at seeing that he's an undersized four at 6'8'' in shoes, even if his 7'4'' wingspan does offset it a bit. That's unfortunate since Mbakwe is an elite rebounder by any standard, finishing college with a stupendous career 19.7 TRB%, better than even Randle, a superb rebounder in his own right. He further confirmed this by averaging a double-double in only 28.3 minutes per game in Europe last season.

Unlike Randle, however, who has an all-around game to rely on, Mbakwe's production is solely driven by his motor and ability to battle in the paint. He lacks range, had a colossal turnover rate every year in college, and seems destined for a role as a bench energy guy, almost Kenneth Faried-lite. That's perfectly fine and Mbakwe probably would have been a first rounder a few years ago save for an ACL tear and worries about his character, but it is hard for one to consider him anything more than filler for the summer league roster as far as the Lakers are concerned.

Kevin Murphy

Age Team (College) PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT%
24 Idaho Stampede (Tennessee Tech) 25.5 5.3 1.7 48.4 38.6 85.1

One of the D-League's best scorers last season, Murphy seemingly has the tools to carve out a role in a NBA rotation somewhere, as his excellent D-League production can attest to. Although he doesn't possess superlative athleticism or the handle to consistently beat his man off the dribble, he hits at a good rate from beyond the arc, possesses a decent in-between game -- he seems especially fond of one-legged midrange shots -- and gets points on cuts and off ball movement. In other words, his overall ceiling is that of a role player off the bench that can give you a bit of everything, which works for a Laker team desperately lacking depth on the wing. Although his size and wingspan are a bit on the small size for the three, that's probably where he ends up playing most of summer league and given the dearth of actual wings, he'll have plenty of playing time.

Julius Randle

Age College (Year) PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT%
19 Kentucky (Freshman) 15.0 10.4 1.4 50.0 16.7 70.6
Height w/o shoes Height w/shoes Weight Wingspan Vertical (no-step) Vertical (max) Standing reach Lane agility 3/4 court sprint
6.7.75'' 6'9'' 250 7'0'' 29.0 35.5 8'9.5'' 11.45 3.27

This entire summer league is Randle's oyster, as he's arguably the best prospect the Lakers have ever had play for them in Vegas. Whether it's a ton of minutes, an alpha dog role as far as touches go, or an intense focus on his development, all of the attention in Vegas for the Lakers will be on Randle and how he performs. These aren't unreasonable expectations either: he should dominate this level of competition now that he'll have a spaced floor and the freedom to attack from the high post, along with a fairly easy level of competition for a prospect of his caliber. Past this, it would be great to see Randle flash some of the range he's supposed to have and we'll see whether Mark Madsen can find creative ways to use his ballhandling ability (read: 4-5 pick-and-rolls, please). Altogether, he's probably the reason most Laker fans will tune into summer league and he'll probably live up to the sky high expectations being foisted on him.

LaQuinton Ross

Age College (Year) PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT%
21 Ohio State (Junior) 15.2 5.9 0.8 44.7 35.3 73.2
Height w/o shoes Height w/shoes Weight Wingspan Vertical (no-step) Vertical (max) Standing reach Lane agility 3/4 court sprint
6'6.5'' 6'7.5'' 239 7'1.75'' 25.0 31.0 8'10'' 11.97 3.44

Along with Kane, Ross was one of the bigger college names that the Lakers managed to snag for their summer league team from the undrafted free agent pool and this is a great situation for him. Not only is the Lakers' summer league team otherwise entirely devoid of small forwards besides perhaps Murphy, the parent team has a giant gaping hole at the position that really needs to be filled. And Ross certainly has great measurables for the spot at 6'8'' with a 7'2'' wingspan, albeit with not a whole lot of athleticism. A single-line driver who can get to the rim from time to time, the main attraction of Ross' game is his status as a tall wing shooter with some defensive potential due to his length.

If that sounds rather underwhelming, it's the result of a year in which Ross was thrust into a much larger role than he was capable of filling as Ohio State's primary offensive option. His overall efficiency was still decent (54.2 TS%) despite his large usage rate (29.0), but there's simply a lot in Ross' game that doesn't translate to the pros, his driving game in particular, since he lacks the hops or skill level to make it so. Nevertheless, he'll certainly get every chance to demonstrate the talent level that had a lot of scouts raving about him in high school and in a role in which he won't have to handle so many possessions, we'll see how he performs.

Roscoe Smith

Age College (Year) PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT%
23 UNLV (Junior) 11.1 10.9 0.5 53.1 20.0 66.7
Height w/o shoes Height w/shoes Weight Wingspan Vertical (no-step) Vertical (max) Standing reach Lane agility 3/4 court sprint
6'7.5'' 6'8.5'' 202 7'1.5'' 29.0 36.0 8'10.5'' N/A N/A

A tweener at the forward spots whose game screams "headed to Europe," Smith is a high energy wing that lacks the size to play the four in the NBA and the perimeter skills to make do at the three. Originally a bit player whose main utility was on defense and cuts for Connecticut, Smith transferred to UNLV due to Connecticut's postseason ban and had a breakout year, although it wasn't one that indicated that he's going to be able to overcome any of the problems he'll face in the pros. A 19.7 TRB% is incredibly impressive for a guy of his size, for instance, but he lacks the bulk to play the four in anything other than spurts. If he can manage to show some range going forward, he does of the peripheral things to possibly find a spot somewhere, the question of whether he can actually get playing time in Vegas notwithstanding.

Renaldo Woolridge

Age Team (College) PPG RPG APG FG% 3P% FT%
24 Metalac Valjevo (USC) 4.4 3.5 0.3 60.0 27.3 64.3

Orlando Woolridge must have had some great friends in the Laker front office since it's hard to explain the inclusion of his son Renaldo on the Lakers' summer league team for a second straight year as anything other than a big favor to him. A bit player even in college, Renaldo only saw token minutes last year in Vegas and this held true during his time in Serbia as well. Regardless of the roster construction, he probably wasn't going to play one way or another, but with Randle, Mbakwe, and possibly Smith ahead of him in the rotation at the four, all Woolridge can hope for is a handful of cameos and perhaps catching the eye of his next employer overseas.

In any case, out of this bunch, we can probably expect one or two to end up with invites to training camp should they perform well and the favorites going into the summer league are probably Kane and Ross. Mbakwe deserves to be included in that list as far as talent goes, but not in terms of fit unfortunately. As for the rest, it is hard to tell since we can't make any substantive judgments until we see them play; Marcus Landry and Elias Harris were two examples from last year. We can however prognosticate the likely depth chart the team will be working off:

Position Starters Bench Third String
PG Kendall Marshall DeAndre Kane Anthony Ireland
SG Jordan Clarkson Rodrigue Beaubois
SF LaQuinton Ross Kevin Murphy Roscoe Smith
PF Julius Randle Trevor Mbakwe Renaldo Woolridge
C Jerome Jordan Xavier Gibson

As noted above, Marshall, Kane, and Clarkson are probably going to end up taking nearly all of the backcourt minutes -- fitting Clarkson at the two is a bit of a technicality; he probably handles the ball as the lead guard whenever he's on the floor -- so it's a tough road ahead for Ireland and Beaubois. We've also listed the issues Mbakwe has going forward numerous times, as getting whatever minutes Randle doesn't play isn't a great way for him to prove himself. On the flip side, the three and the five are wide open for anyone who wants to claim playing time and Ross and Jordan are the premier candidates to do so. If we were to pinpoint a dark horse for playing time as a whole, it would probably be Gibson, whose stretch five skill set is something that can possibly intrigue if he manages to show it, or Murphy, a fairly decent all-around wing.

Altogether, this is a pretty solid squad and the Lakers did a good job nabbing two prospects in Kane and Ross who arguably could have gone in the second round in addition to a variety of other interesting options from the D-League, overseas, and more. The Lakers honestly could have punted on the rest of this squad and made things a showcase for Marshall, Clarkson, and Randle -- and very well still could end up being that, mind you -- so again, to see them bring a concerted effort to one of the more neglected areas of talent acquisition is encouraging. By summer league standards, this team is a veritable juggernaut and it would be surprising if they don't find themselves in the title game when it's all said and done.

Follow this author on Twitter @brosales12.

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