The Lakers' training camp opens next week, no doubt much to the relief of the team's panoply of young players who have been by all reports ceaselessly training in preparation for next season.
Training camp is likely a relief for Lakers fans as well, for whom the offseason has been drained of nearly all excitement with respect to the team's roster situation, which stands at practically settled with eighteen signed players. Any remaining drama here revolves almost entirely around Nick Young's status, as the Lakers have reportedly been trying (and failing) to trade him elsewhere in order to get his remaining two years off their books.
The difficulty of dealing Young goes without saying, hence an unspoken assumption that the Lakers will waive him using the stretch provision at some point before the season starts, as the team can eat next season's cap hit in full while only spreading out the cap hit of his last season in smaller increments over the course of 2017 to 2019.
Should the Lakers decide for some inexplicable reason that Young deserves a roster spot, training camp immediately becomes a moot point since the team would have fourteen fully guaranteed contracts in addition to Yi Jianlian, who at the very least is very unlikely to be cut by the time camp ends barring a flop of truly epic proportions.
Without Young, however, the six camp invites would vie for that 15th roster spot, given the reasonable assumption that the Lakers will carry that many players into the regular season. Zach Auguste, Julian Jacobs, and Travis Wear would thus have a puncher's chance in this scenario, Auguste arguably having the best chance of the bunch, although it is far more likely that the Lakers cut them in anticipation of treating them as part of the four "affiliate" players they can designate for the D-Fenders.
In either scenario regarding Young, as such, the Lakers will have at least two open roster spots for camp invites, one of which will likely go to a player destined for the D-Fenders and the other being wide open. With this in mind, our staff discussed the choices available to the Lakers and who they want to see in the purple and gold when media day opens next week:
From the pool of likely camp invites in the D-Fenders last season, the 2016 summer league squad, and the Lakers' veteran minicamp participants, who would you most want the Lakers to invite to training camp?
Ben Rosales: From this pool, I would give the nod to P.J. Hairston, who was present at the Lakers' veteran minicamp. A former first round pick, Hairston falls squarely into the reclamation project category that the Lakers have had some success with recently, albeit much more with Mike D'Antoni (Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson, Earl Clark, and so forth) than under Byron Scott (anyone?).
With Luke Walton in the fold, however, the Lakers at the very least have a system that stands some chance of wringing a modicum of success from these comeback options, even if the results never quite rise to the level seen under D'Antoni. At any rate, Hairston's main foible in the pros has been his inability to provide efficient scoring, especially from range, an area in which he was very good at during his time at UNC and in his season in the D-League prior to being drafted in 2014.
To compound the issue, Hairston's shown an utter aversion to passing, finishing with rock bottom assist rates his two seasons in the league, a trait that won't endear him to Luke's pass-happy system if that continues.
All that notwithstanding, Hairston has excellent measurables for a two (6'5'' in shoes with a 6'9'' wingspan and 8'5'' standing reach) and sufficient strength that he could probably check both wing positions. This profile, at the very least, would suffice to give Anthony Brown some competition during training camp, and should Hairston acquit himself well in general, burning a roster spot on him so he can sharpen the rougher edges on his game on D-League assignments and try to realize the talent that got him drafted isn't the worst use of a roster spot if Nick Young is gone.
Harrison Faigen: Xavier Munford. The Lakers are fairly set with guard depth this season, but Munford showed good playmaking chops for Los Angeles during NBA Summer League after acquitting himself well for the Memphis Grizzlies and in the NBA D-League last season. He would be an incredible longshot to make the team's final roster, but he would give the D-Fenders a competent floor general to allow the team to get better looks at any players (read: Zach Auguste, Ivica Zubac, or Anthony Brown) they send down for a D-League assignment.
Munford will probably end up in the NBA again at some point, but until then he could serve the D-Fenders well.
Gary Kester: P.J. Hairston is the first name that would be on my list, but for the sake of discussion and variety, I will go with Jamil Wilson, who some fans may remember from this year's Summer League squad. Although Wilson failed to add much in terms of on-court production in Las Vegas, he does present a skill set with some intriguing qualities, along with his physical profile.
Wilson, 26, is a very long 6'7" because of a 7'0" wingspan. With a head coach in place that will look to utilize versatile players that can space the floor, this is where Wilson would seem like an ideal fit for Luke Walton, perhaps as a potential three-and-D guy with the right coaching.
Wilson is better suited playing at the four, but has shown an adequacy to play out on the wing because of his length and three-point shooting. Last season in the D-League with the Texas Legends, Wilson buried 38.6 percent of his three-point attempts en route to 15.2 points per game. Granted, very little defense is played in the D-League, but if he is able to be an effective catch-and-shoot guy out on the wing, Wilson could provide some competition in camp for Anthony Brown, who needs to prove that he can find the touch from the perimeter again like he had in college.
Ryan Kelapire: Given all the names, I think the one that's the most intriguing is P.J. Hairston, and for the reasons that most have already given. He has been a bad NBA player in his first two seasons in the league, but he was also a first round pick for a reason. There's talent there. His jumper hasn't translated to the pros yet and, like Ben mentioned, he's a horrible passer, but with his strong frame and a 6-foot-9 wingspan, he could become a useful player if he can just start to connect on shots. And he hit nearly 40 percent of his 3s in his final season at North Carolina, so it seems the potential for him to do so is there. We know Mitch likes his UNC guys, too.
Of the players outside this pool, who would you most want the Lakers to invite to training camp?
Ben: I remain shocked that Chase Budinger, San Diego native, Arizona alumnus, and excellent volleyball player (read: Luke Walton is also all of those things), doesn't have a roster spot on the Lakers yet. He certainly has lost a fair amount of his game to injuries and was largely ineffective last season in stints for Indiana and Phoenix, but he was once upon a time a very, very good backup wing option with both shooting range and a great deal of effectiveness in transition. Both of those things have a great deal of relevance in the Lakers' context, so taking a gamble that Budinger can provide a presence in those respects seems like a fair use of a camp invite.
As with Hairston above, Budinger would also push Brown during training camp and the team could potentially use another wing in the rotation either way, especially if, again, Young is waived at some point before the regular season starts.
Harrison: Technically JR Smith hasn't signed with the Cavaliers yet. The Lakers can't offer the $15 million a year he reportedly is seeking, they could offer a chance to play with Nick Young and Lou Williams in one of the most shot-happy lineups ever seen.
In all seriousness, maybe former D-Fender (and last year's D-League assist leader) Josh Magette for similar reasons as I gave for Munford above, especially given the difficulty of finding able distributors in the D-League.
Gary: Dorell Wright is a player that checks off multiple boxes for what the Lakers could use. The team has a plethora of big men that will fight for playing time in the frontcourt rotation, along with five guards that will see the bulk of the minutes in the backcourt.
Out on the wing, however, Los Angeles could use another player at the three. Brandon Ingram will undoubtedly get his fair share of minutes, especially as the season progresses. Luol Deng will start at small forward for now, though his best position at this stage of his career is likely at the four. That leaves Brown and Nick Young currently slated on the team's depth chart at the position, and each player brings a cloud of doubt with them for separate reasons.
Wright could be another veteran presence in the locker room that can also give the Lakers another shooter on the wing, providing a bit more security in those areas. With Brown struggling with his perimeter shot thus far and Young's future as a Laker uncertain, the team should be focused on adding another wing player that can help stabilize at least some depth at the position.
Ryan: It's got to be Chase Budinger, with the main reason is because he went to the University of Arizona like Luke Walton (and myself, which means he's automatically an awesome person [Editor's Note: Debatable]). Budinger is also a decent 3-point shooter and, when healthy, adds some athleticism on the wing. Plus, he's from Southern California too, so that's fitting.
Another player on that list that I like is Dorrell Wright, who for some reason hasn't garnered much free agent attention the last two years. Wright's a career 36.5 percent 3-point shooter, and is only 30 (soon to be 31) so it's not like he's a shell of his former self athletically out there. Not to mention that Wright has been a positive VORP — Value Over Replacement Player — player in each of his last six NBA seasons.
Essentially, Wright's proven to be useful, he's comfortable spotting up (he led the league in 3-pointers made in 2010-11 after all) and he too is from Los Angeles.
Who do you think the Lakers should add to fill out their roster? Let us know in the comments below!