Which Lakers Bench Players Will Make The Final Roster?

On the heels of waiving forwards Reeves Nelson and Ronnie Aguilar (Sunday), the Los Angeles Lakers went on to cut Chris Douglas-Roberts and Greg Somogyi the following afternoon.

The most common question I receive on my Twitter feed (@LA_SportsTalk) remains, “Which player(s) do you think will take the last roster spot?”

The most obvious potential-cut candidates include Andrew Goudelock and Darius Johnson-Odom. The Lakers went into the off-season with high hopes of natural advancement (from within) via significant improvement from their younger players.

Back-up SF Devin Ebanks has certainly shown signs of a dedication over the off-season.

Second-year guards Morris and Goudelock haven’t displayed quite the same improvement on the court. Of the two, Morris would seem to have a slight advantage, as he is the only one with a guaranteed contract. Darius Johnson-Odom, whom we’ve heard very positive reports and feedback from practice about, seems to be a bit of a wildcard.

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Admittedly, while I was very much a fan of DJO’s game while at Marquette, I haven’t seen enough of him this preseason to determine where he will ‘fit’ in the NBA. Although DJO is extremely athletic and active (something the Lakers have been sorely lacking), his 6’2″ frame makes him a bit of a ‘tweener’ in today’s NBA.

The trouble is, he has the skill set of a slasher/swingman, but the body of a point guard. I should acknowledge that I was actually in favor of Douglas-Roberts making the roster, but the team is obviously more satisfied by Ebanks than we may know. If DJO can find a way to impress the coaching staff over the last two games, the organization may deem him a worthwhile gamble as he continues to hone his lead guard skills.

Robert Sacre’s position within the roster seems all but guaranteed. Not only has he produced at a somewhat surprising level playing alongside the starters in Dwight Howard’s absence, but with Jordan Hill just returning from a precautionary 10-day rest period due to a herniated disc (back), Sacre is as close to a ‘lock’ as possible.

Coach Mike Brown on Sacre: “Every time he (Sacre) gets minutes, it looks like he’s taken a step in the right direction.”

Laker team captain Kobe Bryant took it a step further and broke down Sacre’s brief Laker experience:

He’s a very smart player, so he’s able to read the defense, and read how they’re playing Steve [Nash], how they’re reading me. He’s able to get himself in positions to be successful. He made plays for others as well as making plays for himself. He’s doing a fantastic job. I’m pleasantly surprised in what we have in him.

With Sacre seemingly set in stone, we’re left to speculate on reserve Earl Clark. Clark has seen limited action this preseason, and his relatively small ($1.24M) expiring contract would seem to be an attractive ‘throw-in’ for any potential deal. On a team looking to solidify the back-up point guard position, even an (unproven) athletic interchangeable forward like Clark may not have a permanent spot.

Why didn’t the Lakers just cut Steve Blake?”

That was another question I’ve seen littered across my timeline over the past 48 hours. To be simple, he’s the most proven option the Lakers have at the position. Also, even though management doesn’t seem overly concerned with spending money, Blake’s guaranteed ($4M) contract makes him even less likely to be waived/cut.

For those wondering, not that I would even advocate the move if it were possible, but the Lakers have also passed on the opportunity of using the Amnesty Clause (exp. July 17) on any of this year’s players.

Although there were several rumors surrounding GM Mitch Kupchak’s desire to move one or both of the veteran back-up point guards, my gut instinct is that Kupchak heads into the season with at least Blake on the roster with his eyes open for any potential deal that could further improve the roster.

Purely based on speculation, but I think Kupchak looks for a way to move Duhon and Clark’s contracts. Due to the finances, I don’t think Goudelock makes the final roster, and DJO could remain a dark horse roster candidate. Put simply, I think Blake will have the opportunity to play his way into the position, or make it painstakingly obvious additional improvements are necessary.

In case you missed it: Dwight Howard talks about his Lakers debut.
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