The Los Angeles Lakers are in the midst of their Las Vegas Summer League campaign, featuring a roster filled with talent and headlined by No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball. The Thomas and Mack Center, for the first time ever, had to stop selling tickets to the games on Saturday before a single game had tipped off on Friday.
To say Lakers fans have been coming out in droves is an understatement. Fans of the purple and gold have been making the trip at a steadily increasing rate ever since the lottery started to matter to the franchise again, and it reached its peak when the Lakers and Boston Celtics clashed Saturday night.
There’s plenty to talk about, so it felt like a good time to start up a mailbag to answer questions that don’t necessarily fit an entire column, but are worth discussing some thoughts on.
Feel free to shoot any Lakers questions to SSRmailbag@gmail.com and I’ll spend some time gathering them up week-to-week. Without further adieu, let’s talk #LVSL and more!
Do you want to see Ivica Zubac shoot threes? It feels like summer league is the perfect time to see him try and extend his range a bit.
Ideally the Lakers want all of their bigs pushing to shoot from outside, which is one of the ways they’re hoping the Brook Lopez trade has additional value to the team, even if it ends up being a one-year partnership.
Zubac hasn’t really shown any inclination of being that kind of offensive player, though. He only put up three threes last season and missed all of his attempts. Summer league is a place where someone would want to try things like that, but he has core things to his game that still need a lot of work.
Ivica hasn’t made much of an impact on defense and is scoring 6.7 points per game while shooting 37.5 percent overall. He’s better served focusing being the best Ivica Zubac he can be, which right now hasn’t been great.
Who do you expect to be in the rotation at shooting guard with the roster as it is now?
As it stands it seems like Jordan Clarkson will start and David Nwaba will be the first guard off the bench. Josh Hart hasn’t had a great summer league from a shooting perspective, but he’s had some good defensive stretches and is hustling.
Hart seems likely to be the last guard called on, but could be in the rotation depending on how the rest of free agency plays out. Training camp will be a big opportunity for him to make a case for a rotation spot if the roster isn’t much different than it is.
(Or maybe it ends up being Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who the Lakers reportedly met with Tuesday.)
Who are Lakers most likely to keep out of Julius Randle and Larry Nance, Jr.? This is based off the assumption Kuzma is here to stay.
I have no idea what the long-term plan is for the Nance-Randle duo, nor how Kuzma fits into that equation. That’s not all that much of an exciting response, but I’m rolling with it for another reason.
Julius Randle is a free agent next summer, with a qualifying offer of $5.6 million to make him a restricted free agent. The Lakers are dreaming big about the summer of 2018, and Randle’s one of the larger pieces of that puzzle the franchise has to figure out over the next year.
It’s great that the Lakers have control of the contract through the qualifying offer, but if they’re trying to maneuver to find cap space to land players like Paul George and LeBron James, where does the salary for Randle fit?
That’s one of the reasons D’Angelo Russell was sacrificed to the Brooklyn Nets, and there’s still Luol Deng’s deal hanging over the Lakers’ heads.
Who knows if that remaining $54 million guillotine will need another sacrifice to clear the path for 2018. It’s not going to be a simple summer for the Lakers on any front, and it’s a big year for Julius to earn a major payday.
How frustrating is it to know that Lonzo would prosper more if paired with a score first fellow guard who is a solid off-the-catch shooter, who has decent handles and court vision, who can run half court pick-and-rolls, and who can be a release for Lonzo's smart "hockey assist" outlet passes?
You know, someone like that D'Angelo Russell guy in Brooklyn?
The elephant in the room is this exact problem. As we watch Ball self-admittedly over-pass to his teammates, it certainly seems like having someone who can confidently do something with the ball in his hands would be helpful.
Russell’s gone, though, so all we can do is look at it this way. The Lakers have Ingram. They have Randle. They have Brook. They have Nance. Having talent like that surrounding him is going to make Lonzo look even better as he moves the ball, and those touches that would be funneled into Russell if he functioned as the off-ball guard elsewhere could be fine.
We’ll never know how the duo would have panned out, but the offense will have to look to guys like the ones listed above and some of their other young talent stepping up. There could still be a roster addition or two as free agency travels into deeper waters to address this, too.
Thanks for checking out the inaugural mailbag! I’ll try to answer 3-5 questions per week at a minimum, so get them in to SSRmailbag@gmail.com.