Written by: Ant.B
When everyone tuned into the Lakers first summer league game, many were hoping to get a glimpse of the next Laker great. It turned out to be a huge letdown. Lonzo Ball scored 5 points and only made two of his fifteen shot attempts. Ball was horrible, but the only thing more surprising than his debut was what would happen in the remaining games. Ball would go on to average 16 points, nine rebounds, 7 assist and posted two triple doubles en rote to being named summer league MVP. Ball’s passing and court vision were as good as advertised, Kyle Kuzma’s play seemed to project him a a key rotational piece and the Lakers won the summer league championship. Finally, Laker fans had something to cheer about.
Magic Johnson made it clear he was going to save his capspace for the 2018 off season and he stood by his word. Every signing the Lakers made this offseason were all 1 year deals with team options on the second year.
The biggest off season signing was that of Kantavious Caldwell Pope. Pope is a young up and coming two guard from the Detroit Pistons who is know for his three point shooting and defense. His one year deal is worth 18 million dollars which means Pope gets his payday and the Lakers 2018 plan remains intact. Pope will be a starter for the Lakers and if he proves to be a valuable piece of the Lakers young core, he will be a backup signing if the Lakers strike out on Paul George.
While it’s yet to be seen in a 48 minute NBA game, Ball appears to be below average defensively. Pope’s defense will be able to hide Ball’s defensive shortcomings, as they will face a number of formidable backcourts in the Western Conference next season.It is also likely that Pope will carry the burden of scoring for all Laker guards. With Ball being the primary playmaker and Jordan Clarkson likely assuming the role of 6th man, Pope will be asked to score more than he did in Detroit where he averaged nearly 14 points per game. Playing with a true pass first point guard for the first time in his career, Pope should see a rise in open 3 point looks and transition baskets.
The Lakers had long been rumored to be going after Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose to fill out the backup point guard spot. Both deals fell through as Rondo signed with the Pelicans and Rose signing with Cleveland. With both veteran point guards off the market, the Lakers elected to go with Tyler Ennis who was with the team the year before. Ennis showed some brights spots last season and averaged nearly 8 points per game and 2.5 assist. It’s not yet clear if Ennis will be the full time back up guard or if he will split some of those minutes with Jordan Clarkson but his contract is extremely team friendly and cheaper than Rose and Rondo.
This off season wasn’t about big names or long term deals, it was about signing young talent and waiting for the famed 2018 free agent class. The Lakers have long been rumored to have interest from Paul George and LeBron James and have done everything in their power to keep salary slots open for both players for next summer. The upcoming season will of course be about developing the Lakers young talent but also showcasing that talent to George and James in hopes that they can lure both away from their respective teams. Laker fans got a small taste of what it was like to have a fun, promising team during the summer league exhibition. Was it just a bunch meaningless basketball games in July or is it the start to something special? Either way, the Lakers and their fans have something to look forward to next season. Enough talking about it, it’s time to ball.