The Los Angeles Lakers are in an extremely difficult spot as they head to Orlando to finish out the 2019-20 NBA season. Head coach Frank Vogel and the Lakers staff will have to figure out how best to incorporate two new players in Dion Waiters and JR Smith and settle on a new rotation.
Waiters and Smith are part of a deep backcourt rotation for the Lakers and will have to earn their minutes. Alex Caruso, Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Rajon Rondo have all been big parts of the Lakers’ rotation this season and figure to get the first opportunity to offset the loss of Avery Bradley.
But both Waiters and Smith bring something different to the team and Vogel is looking forward to seeing what they have to offer. “I’m really curious to see how they look in our practices and scrimmages when we get to play some of the seeding games,” he said.
“Obviously, I know their games very well from having competed against them over the years. But for those two guys, just having have an opportunity to see what they look like in our system is something I’m interested in.”
Seeing what Waiters and Smith are capable of bringing is something that many are looking forward to see, but Vogel didn’t stop there with those he is curious about in upcoming full-team practices, scrimmages and seeding games.
“I do think as crazy of a year as it was Quinn Cook, I think had a handful of opportunities, but he started the preseason injured. Probably would like to see more opportunities for him to see what he can do,” Vogel added. “We know what he can do but the more of a body of work we have, the better. And then like I mentioned earlier, our two G League guys had a lot of success in the G league. I would like to see what they can do at this level.”
Cook has played in just 38 games, but has done well when given bigger minutes in a handful of games this season and is still a career 41.2% three-point shooter with playoff experience.
The Lakers’ two-way players, Devontae Cacok and Kostas Antetokounmpo, have been impressive in the G League with the South Bay team. Cacok averaged a double-double with 19.4 points and 11.9 rebounds while Antetokounmpo led the team in blocks at 1.3 per game to go along with 14.1 points and 7.8 rebounds.
And though he wasn’t mentioned, one would think rookie Talen Horton-Tucker would fall into this category as well, as he averaged an impressive 18.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.4 steals.
Obviously the goal for the Lakers is to win a championship and to that point, how Waiters, Smith, and Cook look and are incorporated is more important in the short-term. But while they are in Orlando, the Lakers coaching staff will have a chance to get a good look at some potential future contributors.
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