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Lakers vs. Warriors Preview: L.A.’s potential depth is already being tested in the summer

The Anthony Davis trade that sent the Lakers’ young core to New Orleans and Washington has sapped the summer league team of depth.

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2019 California Classic - Miami Heat v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s officially Day 3 of NBA free agency and the Lakers are 0-1. Not in the terms of landing free agents, but in terms of their record in the California Classic portion of summer league. And their 106-79 loss to the Miami Heat last night displayed what some of the guys that are candidates to be role players for the team are capable of on the court.

Up next for the Lakers in the California Classic are the Golden State Warriors, who dropped their first game to the Sacramento Kings, 81-77. Still, the Warriors are carrying all three of their 2019 draft picks on their summer roster, which will put the summer Lakers through another test.

With Talen Horton-Tucker out with a stress reaction in his foot, the Lakers’ summer roster is filled with undrafted players. A group of guys on two-way, Exhibit 10 and summer contracts are fighting for open roster spots, and a chance to be a Lakers role player next season.

It isn’t going well so far. Last night’s to the Heat was abysmal. The 27-point deficit brought the concerns of the Lakers’ in-house depth to the surface. These players will have the chance to prove something to the Lakers’ shot-callers over the next couple of weeks in Sacramento and Las Vegas, but they need to start making an impact before it’s too late.

Still, there is at least one player who might emerge as a potentially valuable reserve out of the summer league: two-way contract player Zach Norvell Jr. The 6’5 guard had the best numbers from yesterday’s game with three assists, seven rebounds and 11 points on 2-8 field-goal shooting (okay, fine, that last one’s not great, but yesterday was so bad that we’re grading on a curve).

The majority of Norvell’s points came from the free-throw line, where he went 5-6, which can help the Lakers down the road if he consistently puts up those number at the charity stripe throughout the summer. The Lakers had the second-worst free throw percentage (69.9%) last season.

And moving past tonight’s game, L.A. is only days away from their July 5 game against the Chicago Bulls in Las Vegas. But someone who won’t — as of right now — be making the trip to The Strip is last night’s leading scorer in purple and gold, Rosco Allen, who is currently only slated to play with the Lakers in Sacramento. But maybe that could change if Allen continues that type of play off the bench in the remaining three games of the California Classic, or at the very least, maybe he could get a look down the line in South Bay with the G League team.

The 6’10 forward out of Stanford University scored 13 points on 4-8 field-goal shooting in 18 minutes. Since his college days, when he last suited up for the Pac-12 school in 2015-16, Allen has been playing overseas (Japan and Spain) while he spends the summer playing in the NBA summer league looking for his next shot.

These summer games may not be high on the radar for anyone interested in the Lakers right now, especially since there’s no one named LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma or Anthony Davis taking the court, and Kawhi Leonard’s free agency isn’t going to monitor itself.

The stakes of the California Classic are also low. Most of the players who are suiting up now may not even play for the South Bay Lakers. But even if this summer league roster discovers just one player who can help lift the Lakers when injuries start to play a factor in the season, it’ll make L.A. a more well-rounded team. That makes this squad worth watching, especially as we all sit around seeing what Leonard will do anyway.

The Lakers will take on the Warriors at 6:00 PT on Spectrum Sportsnet. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts.

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