The 2017 NBA offseason is quickly coming to a close as the Los Angeles Lakers are holding their media day this coming Monday with training camp set to get underway the following day at the new UCLA Health Training Center.
The Lakers had what is considered by many as a very successful offseason as they added four rookies through the draft in Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and Thomas Bryant.
Additionally, they added former All-Star center Brook Lopez via a trade and shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope through free agency.
While it looked like the Lakers were done making moves, with just one roster spot available and a bunch of guys on partially guaranteed contracts set to compete for that spot during camp, they reportedly signed Andrew Bogut to a one-year partially guaranteed contract late Monday night, so if Bogut proves he can be healthy he will surely receive that final roster spot.
There is still plenty to compete for during training camp though as while the Lakers starting five of Ball, Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and Lopez looks to be set, the only sure things off the bench are Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., leaving some other rotation spots still up for grabs.
In this week’s Lakers Nation Roundtable our staff gives some insight into which training camp battles they are most looking forward to seeing play out this preseason:
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH):
This is difficult as I’m not sure there are really positional battles happening in training camp, but more so just battles to fill out the rotation and I’m really looking forward to seeing who steps up.
The starting five is expected to be Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, and Brook Lopez. Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr will obviously get big minutes off the bench, but after that it’s a crapshoot with players jockeying for minutes regardless of position.
In the frontcourt Ivica Zubac, Kyle Kuzma, Luol Deng, Thomas Bryant, and the newly signed Andrew Bogut will all be looking to prove they belong. Maybe Kuzma can continue his level of play, or Deng can show that last season was an off-year, forcing Walton to go small off the bench. Perhaps Zubac or Bogut can show Walton that another traditional center is necessary to be in the rotation.
In the backcourt, true point guard Tyler Ennis ended last season great and will look to continue that. Meanwhile, rookie Josh Hart will try to show off his defense and shooting, while veteran Corey Brewer brings speed and energy. Clarkson’s ability to play both guard positions makes any of them a realistic option.
Luke Walton has a lot of options at his disposal and I’m looking forward to seeing which players force their way onto the court.
Trevor Lane (@Trevor_Lane):
Training camp always provides a number of fun battles, and this year is no different. The one that I’m looking forward to most this year is between Josh Hart and Tyler Ennis for backup guard minutes because it’s a bit complicated.
While Ennis has an experience advantage, Hart is only a year younger and could be the kind of plus defender and shooter the Lakers need on the perimeter. Ennis, meanwhile, brought a spark to the team last spring, and could potentially reproduce that off the bench.
Of course, Ennis is a point guard while Hart is a shooting guard, which means that which player gets the nod will also partially depend on how the Lakers view Jordan Clarkson, who they hope can be a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. If he is a point guard then Hart would seem to have the inside track at backup shooting guard, but if Clarkson is more of a two then that would necessitate Ennis being on the floor with the second unit.
There are a lot of moving pieces here, and even Corey Brewer could get into the mix at backup shooting guard, but ultimately I expect either Ennis or Hart to soak up most of the minutes alongside Clarkson in the second unit’s backcourt.
Which one wins the job is anyone’s guess.
Daniel Starkand (@DStarkand):
Due to the Lakers versatility, there are a number of different ways their second unit could look, which has to leave head coach Luke Walton feeling pretty good about his roster compared to last season.
One battle I’m really looking forward to seeing is who backs up Brandon Ingram at small forward. The options are veterans Luol Deng and Corey Brewer, and rookie Kyle Kuzma.
I think with both Deng and Brewer the Lakers know exactly what they have in both players as they have been in the league for 10+ years and are clearly on the decline, but Kuzma is the wildcard. If he comes out in preseason and plays as well as he did in the summer league then Walton will surely need to find consistent minutes for him. But with both Randle and Nance ahead of him at his traditional power forward position, those minutes may need to come at small forward.
Kuzma showed that he is quick enough to defend small forwards and switch on just about anything in the summer league, so if he continues to show that defensive versatility in addition to his superior shooting ability compared to Deng and Brewer then he will find his way onto the court a lot sooner than many expected when the Lakers drafted him.
My ideal second unit would be Jordan Clarkson, Josh Hart, Kuzma, Nance and Andrew Bogut, which would be a huge upgrade defensively over the product the Lakers put out last season.
Eric Avakian (@EAvakian5):
To me, the interesting matchup to watch going into training camp would have to be at the power forward position. With Julius Randle entering a contract season, he has a lot to prove, whether for the Lakers or for an interested team. While he will secure the starting power forward spot, the backup battle between Larry Nance Jr. and the versatile Kyle Kuzma will be fun to watch.
With Kuzma turning into one of the steals of the 2017 NBA Draft, he enters with a lot of hype going into training camp. He definitely made a case to enter a battle but will have a tall task ahead of him. The Lakers will likely try him out at both small forward and power forward, but Brandon Ingram has the clamp down on the starting spot. At the same time, Nance Jr. has steadily turned into a promising role player and clearly has a high basketball IQ.
While Nance Jr. also is versatile enough to play the center, his primary position will be power forward with Brook Lopez, Ivica Zubac and the newly signed Andrew Bogut taking the minutes at the center position. Unless the Lakers go to a death lineup with Nance at the 5, Kuzma will have a tough time carving out minutes entering his rookie season.