The Los Angeles Lakers Summer League team is ready to go in Las Vegas and this year, more than any other, there will be a ton of eyes on them. That is because this year’s squad is pretty loaded with numerous players worth keeping an eye on.
First and foremost is the No. 2 pick in D’Angelo Russell. Last year’s lottery pick Julius Randle will be making his return for the first time since breaking his leg in last year’s season opener. First Team All-Rookie selection Jordan Clarkson will also be playing as he looks to build on his outstanding rookie season. And those are just the big names.
Tarik Black and Jabari Brown will both be on the team and both are on non-guaranteed contracts for the upcoming season. Dwight Buycks also would have been brought on for the rest of the year had he not been injured. Add in the other two rookies Anthony Brown and Larry Nance Jr. as well as undrafted big man Robert Upshaw who led college basketball in blocks and there are plenty of storylines to follow.
With so many players worth following, it’s hard to narrow it down to who is the one we’re most looking forward to watching, but that is exactly what we’re going to do. We asked our panel of experts which player they are most looking forward to watching in Summer League this year. This is what they had to say:
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): All eyes will be on D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson during the NBA Summer League and for good reason with these three players potentially leading the Los Angeles Lakers into modern era of the NBA. Although I’m anxious to see Russell running the point and how far Randle has come since going down with a season-ending leg injury last year, the one player I’m perhaps most curious about is rookie Robert Upshaw.
The Lakers added the undrafted Upshaw to the Summer League roster and received high praise for doing so. Upshaw has been said to have lottery-level talent and could be a steal for the Lakers.
The 21-year-old was kicked off two college programs (Fresno State, Washington) scaring off all NBA teams with interest, but the seven-footer might be a solid addition to the young core of players the Lakers are developing if he’s able to get it together.
If the Lakers coaching staff can get Upshaw focused and under control, the team may have another solid building block in the paint. Tarik Black is also a promising young player, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility Upshaw could be a special player.
Kevin Chan (@Kevin_Cruiser): For Lakers fans, Summer is a season of hope and we’re all hopeful for the future of the team. Clarkson, Randle and Russell represent the young core of the Lakers who will undoubtedly grow leaps and bounds in the next few years. Summer League is an important time for these young players to put in some work and prep for the upcoming season.
This summer I’m especially looking forward to seeing D’Angelo Russell run the point for the Lakers. I’m curious to see how he matches up with players who have NBA-level athleticism and speed. We already know he has an advanced feel for the game and a high basketball IQ, but it’ll be interesting to see how he deals with the physicality of the NBA.
Draft scouts have pointed out that he lacks elite explosiveness in terms a first step. I’m eager to see how he adjusts when matched up against stronger and faster players. He’ll have to rely on his timing rather than his speed.
In addition to Russell I’m also eager to see how Julius Randle has developed. Even though he was sidelined all of last year due to injury, Randle surely put in some work behind the scenes during and after his recovery. I’m hoping that Russell and Randle have good chemistry and we see the beginnings of a dynamic pick-and-roll duo in the Summer League.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): There are a number of players I’m really looking forward to watching, but none more than Julius Randle.
Randle had so much promise coming into last season before his terrible injury in the season opener. He has been working extremely hard in his rehab sessions and has become more of a student of the game during his time off. He has come back having dropped around 15 pounds and his teammates and coaches have been very complimentary of him.
Having drawn comparisons to former Laker Lamar Odom, Randle seems to have all of the tools to be a star in this league, and he surely has the work ethic. He’ll only play in two games, but those will be must-watch.
I’m also very curious about second-round pick Anthony Brown. The Lakers are very thin at small forward and sorely need to improve their perimeter defense and three-point shooting. If Brown is able to show he can do those things, he could find himself in the rotation once the regular season begins as well.[divide]