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Lakers Summer League Preview: Summer Basketball is back

Can the Lakers bring the Summer League trophy (or trophies!) back to Los Angeles?

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2019 Las Vegas Summer League - Day 8 - Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State Warriors Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s summer league season for the purple and gold again, which means the Lakers are back in the California Classic exhibition tournament hosted by the Sacramento Kings, and the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. The former tournament will tip off on Tuesday, Aug. 3.

The Lakers will kick off the California Classic Summer League against the Miami Heat on Tuesday, and then play the Kings on Wednesday before heading to Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League that starts on Aug. 8.

And fortunately for fans, the team has assembled a young and talented team to look forward to for both exhibition tournaments.

The 14-man roster will be highlighted by one-time champion and former Lakers two-way contract forward Devontae Cacok, along with rookies Austin Reaves and Joel Ayayi — two NCAA standouts who turned down the chance to get drafted so they could sign two-way contracts with the Lakers for this upcoming season.

Joining Cacok, Reaves and Ayayi are Texas Tech guard Mac McClung (who LA signed to a training camp deal), Michigan wing Chaundee Brown Jr., undrafted free agents such as Yoeli Childs, Jordan Floyd, Zavier Simpson, Justin Robinson, Trevelin Queen, Vic Law, Alan Griffin, Tres Tinkle and Romaro Gill will also suit up the purple and gold attire.

The squad will be coached by current Lakers assistant coach Quinton Crawford.

All eyes on Joel Ayayi and Austin Reaves

Ayayi and Reaves will garner a lot of eyeballs this Summer since both are the latest additions to the Lakers’ roster. Ayayi, who played three seasons in Gonzaga, averaged 12 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game in his last year of college. He’s an excellent off-ball player, a combo guard who can cut to the basket and find himself in the right place at the right time, confusing the opponent’s defense in the process.

The 6’5 guard can also shoot (he shot 39% from three and 40.6% from two and outside the rim in college) and provide spacing for his teammates. He’s also a pick-and-roll threat and team defender.

Meanwhile, Reaves averaged 18.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game in his last year with the Oklahoma Sooners. He excels in driving downhill and creating shots for himself (he converted 40.7 percent on catch-and-shoots as well). The 6’5 combo guard also built a reputation as a reliable defender in his collegiate years, thanks to his ability to chase off-ball shooters off of screens, guard downhill plays and apply back pressure.

Look for Ayayi and Reaves to get a ton of minutes in both tournaments. This is their opportunity to show off their skillsets and make a case for real playing time on the parent roster this season.

It’s Cacok time

Cacok didn’t return to the Lakers on a two-way contract, so this summer is going to be extra important for him if he wants to stay in the NBA. The good news for the unrestricted free agent is that he’s only one of the two centers in this year’s roster, so the 24-year-old might just play the most basketball he’s gotten the chance to in two years.

The undrafted center/forward from UNC Wilmington is still eligible for one more year on a two-way contract, but would have to do so with another team after the Lakers went a different direction with their pair of two-ways this year. He could also theoretically sign a deal with the Lakers to be part of the team’s 15-man roster.

Expect Cacok to get more scoring opportunities, rebound the ball at a high rate (which he does best) and probably show off the defensive skills he picked up from head coach Frank Vogel and mentor Montrezl Harell.

Cacok was a Rookie of the Year candidate in the G League in 2018 when he averaged 19.4 points, 11.9 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 0.4 blocks per game. Can he put up the same numbers this summer? His two years of experience with the Lakers should help him show what he can do in the two summer leagues as well.

An opportunity for coach Crawford and undrafted free agents

“These kids have earned their spots and are ready for this moment and opportunity. We got a lot of talented players out there, both offensively and defensively. I think we’re going to have a good show out there,” Crawford said at Sunday’s media availability, referring to this summer’s roster.

Crawford, who’s currently part of Vogel’s staff, also mentioned that this team will have similar philosophies on offense and defense as Vogel’s system does, but the first time summer league head coach also plans to add his identity to this team.

Before he was hired as an assistant on Vogel’s staff in 2019, Crawford was an assistant video coordinator for the Kings and Charlotte Hornets. This is a well-earned opportunity for him to coach and lead a young and talented team to try and compete for a summer league championship.

It will also be interesting to watch players like McClung (whose highlights you’ve probably seen make rounds on Twitter), Brown (the seventh-best undrafted prospect, according to ESPN) and returnees like Simpson as well as new faces like Law and Griffin attempt to bring another summer league trophy (or maybe trophies!) back to Los Angeles.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani.

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