After a great draft and inviting some intriguing players to suit up for the team, the Los Angeles Lakers entered the summer league in Las Vegas last week with high hopes to build a team that can get them back to relevance. That hope was all but erased during the latest Summer League play where the team seemed lost in all but one of their games. There was a little good, mostly bad, and a bit ugly in the uninspiring coaching and play of the team.
Let’s start with the little bit of good news: Jordan Clarkson was clearly the best part of the team in Vegas. He lit up the scoreboard on a nightly basis while averaging 15.8PPG and 5 REB, while shooting 50% from the 3pt line (7-14). He was the only consistent Laker with great offense, balance, and good defensive promise.
As a second round pick, this is a good sign that the team landed someone who will be able to immediately contribute in his rookie year with the Lakers. The only invitee that might earn a spot with the team is Kevin Murphy, who was a standout and regular contributor for the team. Last season with the Idaho Stampede, he averaged 25.5 PPG, 5 REB and shot 48.4% from the field. Murphy, a 6-foot-6 swingman, is one of the most efficient scorers as he excels at scoring from almost any point on the floor.
Julius Randle, on the other hand, flashed moments of brilliance but overall was lacking in his ability to dominate in the low post and was wildly inconsistent from quarter to quarter in games. For a draft choice who some thought should have been a top 5 pick, Randle didn’t play with the chip on his shoulder as promised. Randle had periods in the game when he demonstrated his offensive force, but his turnovers and lapses on defense need to be improved. His future with the team is bright and he’ll have plenty of time to figure out how to succeed in the NBA.
The bad appeared throughout the Lakers’ summer league as a result of not having a coach for players who clearly weren’t ready to play at the next level. Having a coach to institute their system and style of play would have probably helped this team with better direction and motivation. The Lakers went with associate head coaches Mark Madsen and Larry Lewis, who are player development coaches with the team. At times it seemed like it was a free for all out there as the team was blown out in all but one game. Besides the poor coaching there were a couple of players who had a clear advantage with some NBA experience that didn’t deliver for the team.
The two NBA-caliber players vying for spots for the Lakers are Rodrigue Beaubois, formerly of the Dallas Mavericks, and Trey Thompkins, drafted in the second round (2011) by the LA Clippers. Both players had the experience and potential to land a reserve gig with the team. Since being released from Dallas, Beaubois has not been able to catch on with any NBA team.
He was given an opportunity in all five summer league games to contribute and was ineffective in 4 out of the 5 games. He looked lost on the court, played out of position, and besides the overtime win, never managed to stay on the court long enough to warrant earning a spot on the roster.
Thompkins is a stretch four who has played extensively in the D-league for the last couple of years with the potential to make an NBA team. Thompkins’ biggest failure was his inability to stay out of foul trouble, resulting in limited minutes and opportunities to demonstrate his playing skills. He struggled to find a rhythm offensively when on the court and didn’t exhibit NBA shut down defensive skills that would compensate for his lack of offense.
The worst player was clearly Kendall Marshall, who last year played and contributed regularly at the end of the season, but demonstrated that playing against D-League guys is apparently too much for him. He looked listless at times, clearly struggled with his field goal percentage (31%), and his turnover to assist ratio was atrocious. For a player who was considered a possible starter this fall, his summer league play has greatly hurt his stock.
Overall, the Summer League experience has been detrimental to the teams’ morale going into the season. The team seemed sluggish in every game besides their very last against Denver. Five games don’t really prove a lot. However, their poor play has to be a major concern to the Lakers’ Front office, to know that the team they assembled struggled against such lowly competition on a nightly basis. This should be a learning experience for the team, and hopefully Kupchak will find a new coach very soon who will provide the squad some clear direction, development, and semblance of balance.