The Los Angeles Lakers’ preseason finale will come and go Friday night against the LA Clippers, ending what’s been a tough exhibition period. With the regular season tipping off in less than a week, teams will have to make their final decisions and trim their rosters to a maximum of 15 players before opening night.
The Lakers got a head start on Monday, waiving the scarcely used Stephen Zimmerman and V.J. Beachem, but they still have 18 players on their roster, not including Alex Caruso, who is on a two-way contract and therefore doesn’t technically take up a roster spot.
With 14 guaranteed contracts on their books, the Lakers will have room for only one of the four players battling for the final roster spot, barring a trade or a surprise cut like the one made a year ago when the Lakers waived second-year forward Anthony Brown’s guaranteed deal to make room then 36-year-old Metta World Peace.
No, I’m not kidding.
The four players on non-guaranteed contracts include Andrew Bogut, Vander Blue, Briante Weber and Travis Wear, who the Lakers signed to an “Exhibit 10” contract on Friday. The “Exhibit 10” contract allows the Lakers to convert Wear’s contract to a G-League contract if (read: when) he doesn’t make the final cut, making him a likely candidate for L.A.’s second and final two-way deal.
That leaves Bogut, Blue and Weber. However, there’s reason to believe Weber has been told he doesn’t have a future with the team after he sent this very cryptic tweet on Thursday night.
Excited about the journey nothing better than life Live life to fullest Live and Learn Get better #NewBeginning— Briante Weber (@Sir_deuce2) October 13, 2017
Should he clear waivers, Weber would also be an interesting candidate for a two-way contract. While he doesn’t offer a ton offensively, he has shown promise of one day being a defensive stopper. With Wear and Weber likely out of the equation, Andrew Bogut and Vander Blue will have to fight TO THE DEATH* for the Lakers’ final roster spot.
*An earlier version of this story reported that Bogut and Blue would have to fight to the death. We’ve learned since that is inaccurate.
Let’s take a look at what both players bring and don’t bring to the team as they await their fate with the Lake Show.
For most, the name Vander Blue doesn’t mean a ton, but for fans that have followed the Lakers for at least the past four years, Blue’s name carries some weight.
After going undrafted in 2013, Blue bounced around the D-League before landing with the Lakers’ D-League affiliate, the D-Fenders. In his three seasons with the D-Fenders, Blue made a name for himself, making the D-League All-Star game each of the three seasons he was in Los Angeles, leading the D-Fenders to a finals appearance and even taking home the D-League MVP award in 2017.
But for all of his success in the D-League, Blue hasn’t been able to translate that to a consistent role in the NBA. For Blue this season, it’s NBA or bust.
“I’m done with that D-League stuff,” Blue told The Undefeated’s Chris Palmer leading up to the Lakers’ preseason opener. “I’m not going back. I’m a Laker.”
While his confidence in himself is admirable, the odds of him making the Lakers’ final 15-man roster this season are tough.
Despite putting up a respectable 15 points per game on 50 percent shooting during summer league just a few months ago, Blue has once again failed to show he’s more than just a scorer. In his defense, he’s a talented scorer, but with the likes of Jordan Clarkson and Kyle Kuzma in the Lakers’ second unit, Blue just isn’t as valuable as he would be on teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder or the Charlotte Hornets, who desperately need some semblance of bench scoring.
At 25 years old, Blue still has plenty of opportunities to stick on an NBA roster, but it’s hard to imagine the Lakers are that team this year.
Andrew Bogut didn’t play a single second in the preseason and still has the best shot at making the Lakers’ 15-man roster. Let’s just say competition wasn’t exactly stiff this year.
Sidelined with a groin injury, Bogut was unable to display the defensive prowess that led to him signing with the Lakers in the first place, but his relationship with head coach Luke Walton and his extensive resume, which includes an NBA championship with the Golden State Warriors and a spot on an All-Defensive team in 2015, should be enough to earn him the final roster spot.
But do the Lakers really need Bogut?
Sure, upon arrival he will arguably be the team’s second-best rim protector behind Brook Lopez, but that’s assuming 1. He’s healthy enough to play and 2. He plays at all.
While Bogut was nursing a sore groin, Walton experimented with his frontcourt, trying all of Thomas Bryant, Ivica Zubac, Larry Nance Jr. and Julius Randle at the backup center spot. In order for Bogut to crack the rotation, he has to better than at least two of those guys, and there’s no guarantee he will be.
If Bogut does make the team, and there’s a good chance he does, it won’t be solely because of what he can do on the floor. Like Metta World Peace was last year, Bogut probably won’t play a ton of games. Instead, he will likely spend the majority of his time mentoring young players like Zubac, who Bogut has formed a relationship with in their short time together.
“I have somebody who understands me, finally,” Zubac said via Bill Oram of the OC Register, in reference to the fact that Bogut speaks Croatian.
“I haven’t checked on what language their conversations are being had in,” Walton added, “but I think Bogut will be great for Zu just like I think Brook will be great for Zu.”
Bogut and Blue will learn their fate within the coming days, as will Blue, Weber and Wear. The Lakers will open their season against the Los Angeles Clippers Thursday, Oct. 19, where fans will get to see the finalized 15-man roster.
Who should get the Lakers’ final roster spot?
This poll is closed
Just sign Alex Caruso already