Another summer has come and gone, the Lakers spent another July evaluating their hand-picked pool of players. A few were familiar faces to those in attendance, but the majority hoped to showcase their talent and land a spot in the NBA. The Summer Pro League offers this opportunity every year for Laker hopefuls and provides a competitive atmosphere for rookies and some of the league’s younger players.
The main attraction this year was the duo of Andrew Bynum and Jordan Farmar, a local product, having attended Taft High and UCLA. Yet those two were the only ones who were guaranteed a contract this year. Returning Lakers Devin Green and Von Wafer still had to prove more to the Lakers staff.
With the free agent additions of Vladimir Radmanovic and Shammond Williams this offseason, an already packed Laker roster closed up even more. Thus, it became an even more pressing need to impress in Long Beach for most of these players.
All this considered, let’s take a look at how the Laker rookies and SPL invites performed over the course of these few weeks in Long Beach.
Farmar had no trouble adjusting to the Triangle offense and wowed some of the doubters in the process.
In the final game of the summer against the Memphis Grizzlies, Farmar scored 23 points and nearly led a successful Laker rally from 21 points down. The Lakers would lose, 108-111.
With Andrew Bynum out of the line-up for the game, Farmar had to push harder on the offensive end. I asked him if he looked to assert himself more as a scorer in the final game.
“I did,” Farmar said “I mean I just try to run the offense and take what’s given to me. I had a lot of opportunities to be aggressive and we started off slow, so I had to be assertive and be a leader and take it upon myself to get it started.”
And he didn’t have much trouble adjusting to the NBA style of play either over the course of the few weeks at the Pyramid.
“The physicality, the rules [are different] from college to the NBA,” Jordan told me. “The fact that you can’t touch anybody at this level on defense really showed in this Summer League. So that’s the stuff I’ve got to get used to and incorporate into my game.”
Farmar was able to distribute the ball effectively throughout the summer, while scoring when necessary.
The one weakness is consistency in his outside shooting; however Farmar stressed that it would be a primary concern of his when preparing for the season. He didn’t really get into a rhythm from the outside until the last few games, when his confidence started to pick up a bit.
Defensively Farmar usually had the ability to stay in front of his man. Coming from a system at UCLA that stressed defense, you can tell that Farmar values it enough to give an extra effort each time down the floor. His lateral movement was effective in denying penetration and when put up to a challenge (i.e. against Memphis’ Kyle Lowry), he usually held his own. There were some games where it seemed he had trouble with this, such as the finale against Lowry. Nevertheless, Farmar displayed that he’s athletically sound overall and has the ability to play decent defense when called upon.
What was great to see is that Farmar can get in the lane, opening up opportunities to dish to a teammate or score the ball himself. In addition, Jordan showed an ability to make shots even when faced with the task of changing them in mid-air. He can absorb contact and create some trouble for another team’s interior by getting in there.
As far as passing goes, it appears Farmar feels most comfortable in transition, but still had no trouble picking up the offense and making the right decisions. Sometimes he takes the tempo of the game to a point that is a bit too fast-paced for the offense the coaching staff looks to run. However, things of this nature usually are cured with the adjustments players make during their early years.
“I’m never intimidated. My father is a professional athlete. He taught me the ABC’s when I was born. Aggressiveness, Balance and Confidence at all times. As long as you exhibit those three things at all times you’ll be allright.”
Overall, Farmar has a strong head on his shoulders and his hoops IQ will work well with the Triangle. While he tops off at (what looks to be) an even six feet, Farmar should have a pleasant time making his transition into the NBA.
At 18, Andrew Bynum is the youngest player in the league, but has continued to show signs of improvement throughout his time with the Lakers.
Upon first glance, nearly all aspects of Bynum’s game have improved from the previous summer. He still feels he needs to improve on rebounding, but did a much better job of boxing out and grabbing boards. On defense, he asserted his presence, often blocking shots and making penetrating opponents think twice about their shot. Bynum’s wingspan enables him to be a force defensively.
Since working with mentor Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Andrew’s post game continues to show flashes of being polished, but still isn’t quite there. What was nice to see is that Bynum finally has become comfortable in the post and receiving double teams. He doesn’t panic and seemed to know how to pass out of them.
While this year’s SPL allowed him to show the progress he’s made athletically, the coaching staff still is trying to get Andrew to use it even more. Often he keeps his feet planted on the ground for his offensive moves and won’t jump up. His size allowed him to score at a decent rate over the summer, but won’t provide as much of an advantage when going up against bigger and stronger players in the NBA.
A good deal of the adjustments Bynum must make have to do with footwork. The positive thing is he’s still improving and has a will to learn.
Some had questioned Bynum’s overall stamina. For the most part, he was able to play full quarters without it affecting his game. However, Bynum truly showed signs of fatigue when facing a back-to-back game. In some of these he seemed almost non-existant on the floor and his effort was questionable. I don’t think it was a matter of a lack of desire, but a lack of physical ability to push himself his hardest for two nights in a row. There still is room for betterment in the conditioning department with Bynum, and one way for this to happen is if he gets more playing time throughout the season.
He’s still just 18, working with one of the greatest centers ever, and truly is a physical specimen. If anything, this SPL showed Bynum has the ability to get better, which is all you can ask out of a player so young.
A surprising leap of improvement was shown by Devin Green.
While he had impressed the Laker coaches a year ago in Long Beach simply by knowing his spots in the Triangle and getting easy buckets, Green showed that he now has good sense in not just finding, but creating scoring opportunities.
Devin was able to finish at the hoop and showed little fear in attacking the basket. Yet what stood out the most was Green finding his stroke from the outside.
Green told me he’s been working hard over the offseason with Laker shooting coach Craig Hodges to improve his outside shot. It was positive to see that he could not only knock open shots down, but do it with relative consistency. He showed three point range as well.
Green fits the mold of a potential system player at this point. He knows the offense, converts on open opportunities, hustles and plays decent defense. With hard work and dedication, he has the potential to be a role player in the future. But potential is a strong word.
Danilo “J.R.” Pinnock
The Lakers traded away a future second round pick to acquire the draft rights to Danilo Pinnock from the Dallas Mavericks in the 2006 draft.
What is best about Pinnock’s game is that he has the ability to create his own shot. Whether it’s shooting a fadeaway around the arc or breaking his man down off the dribble, Pinnock is able to bring this valuable asset to the game.
Defensively, he was so-so. At times Pinnock would be late on rotations to his man and have trouble moving without the ball on defense. What’s ironic is he had no trouble moving without the ball on offense.
I don’t mean to paint a picture of Pinnock being a player that only plays on one side of the floor – that’s not the case. But if there is a weakness in his game, it is simply that along with consistency.
It should be interesting to see how Pinnock performs in pre-season and what the Lakers ultimately do with him.
If there’s one word to describe Von Wafer’s SPL performance this year it would be “disappointing.”
After he completely caught fire last summer toward the final games, Wafer let all optimists down.
He turned the ball over, he was lost in the offense, he got beaten on defense and his lights-out shooting simply appeared to be inconsistent.
All this taken into account, what is perplexing is why the Laker staff wants to transform him into a point guard role when his hoops IQ and natural instincts center around scoring, not playmaking.
Wafer might be lucky enough to gain a camp invite from the Lakers. If that won’t be his last chance, then this most likely was.
He showed athleticism, decent defense and could finish at the basket. Slaughter allowed himself to block shots and secure rebounds with his leaping ability and could get to the hoop at a decent level. Slaughter is a bit of a tweener though, unsure if he should be a SF or PF. He had trouble holding his own one-on-one when getting physical on the defensive end, which is why I think he’s better suited to play small forward.
Perkins played excellent defense throughout the SPL, prompting Kurt Rambis to call him a “nasty defender.” He showed quick hands on defense and quick hands on offense, but was inconsistent throughout and didn’t pick it up until the final few games.
Powell showed he can knock down the open shot . . . and that was about it. He was lost in the Triangle most of the time and didn’t play adequate defense. Although he could hit a shot with a hand in his face, I questioned his shot selection often. In the NBA he’ll have a much tougher time getting those attempts up.
The Lakers have had this guy around for 3 years now and not only has he not shown improvment, he’s played progressively worse over this time. The only thing Douthit offers is decent rebounding, an area where he wouldn’t excel at at the NBA level.
Farmar’s Bruin buddy provided a big body down low, but at this point doesn’t have what it takes to be in the NBA. He was comfortable in the post on offense, but ultimately didn’t do much inside.
I don’t mean this as a jab at him, but his performance was, well, forgettable. He didn’t show much of a stand-out quality other than knocking down a couple of mid-range jumpers here and there.
Like Eddy Fobbs, Sanders didn’t really didn’t make his presence felt either when he was out there. I do remember he wore #30 though. Give me credit for that.
Duke Alum Horvath was too jittery in SPL action, which likely means he’d be a Polaroid picture in the NBA. Horvath needs to calm down and gather composure. A lot. The next step is being more assertive out there and not losing the ball so much.
Murry missed a lot. He missed a bunch of open shots. He missed his free throws. He’s even missing an “a” in his last name. Although he lost that letter, he can find it on his report card, under “Effort.”
WHO TO INVITE?
So who makes the cut? Let’s take a look at the (projected) Laker roster as it stands right now.
PG Smush Parker / Shammond Williams / Jordan Farmar
SG Kobe Bryant / Sasha Vujacic
SF Vladimir Radmanovic / Luke Walton / Maurice Evans
PF Lamar Odom / Brian Cook / Ronny Turiaf
C Kwame Brown / Chris Mihm / Andrew Bynum
If you trust my counting abilities, that’s 14.
Note that this is anticipating that Jim Jackson and Aaron McKie won’t be returning to the team, meaning there is one more space left on the squad.
Now who should get invitations to remain with the team for October? Let’s assume there’s five spots.
Von Wafer / Kasib Powell
Let’s remove Powell or Wafer because they’ve shown few signs of being able to grasp the Triangle. Then let’s take away Slaugher and Perkins because while they’re very close to playing at the NBA level, they’re probably not consistent enough.
So in all likelihood, it will probably end up being a battle between Pinnock and Green for the final roster spot in the pre-season. Considering Devin knows the offense at a higher level and the Lakers still hold Pinnock’s draft rights for another year if they don’t sign him, Green should get the nod.
Other than that tidbit, I think that Green’s comprehension of the offense ultimately will rule Pinnock out. Although he does have a certain reluctance to play his younger players, Phil Jackson values a player that is able to step in and know his role in the offense (see Luke Walton as a rookie in Game 2 of the Finals). Green eventually could be that guy (more so than Pinnock), but assuming he makes the team, he’ll have a hard time finding playing time behind Radmanovic/Walton/Odom.
Still, the future is up in the air when eyeing that final spot on the team. Another factor to consider is who the Lakers will invite to their camp that was not on the Summer Pro League team. An example of this being the signing of Tierre Brown before exhibition season, beating out the rest of the bunch from the SPL. Chances for Green, Pinnock and the rest could potentially be slimmed down if a player like that comes along.
Until then, best of luck to the Laker hopefuls. See you in October.