As of now, the Lakers have 12 players with guaranteed salaries for 2015-2016 season. All but two — Robert Sacre and Ryan Kelly — are locks to make the team. Aside from the 12 players that have guaranteed salaries, the Lakers also have four players with non-guaranteed contracts. These players are Jabari Brown, Tarik Black, Jonathan Holmes, and Michael Frazier II. Robert Upshaw could possibly be included here as well.
The maximum number of players the Lakers can have on the roster on opening night is 15. If you assume that Kelly and Sacre’s spots are not safe, it leaves five roster spots for seven players (possibly eight if Upshaw is in the mix).
Logistically, I think you have to assume that Jabari Brown and Tarik Black make the final roster. Both played very well for the Lakers down the stretch last season and both have cheap, controllable contracts. They are well worth keeping around.
If Black and Brown are kept, it would then leave three roster spots with the candidates being Kelly, Sacre, Frazier, Holmes, and possibly Upshaw.
Let’s try to sort this out.
Why he should make the team: As a rookie, Kelly had a very impressive season. He showed the ability to hit shots from the outside, off the dribble, and even a decent ability to get to the rim. Though he struggled at times to guard his man, he was serviceable as a team defender — leading the team in charges and having pretty good block numbers. He struggled in 2014, but if he can regain his rookie form, he can be a solid role player in the right situation (A.K.A. not being used a small forward). Also, he would be the only 4 on the team that’s a legitimate three-point threat. In the modern NBA, you can always use a stretch four.
Why he should NOT make the team: Kelly was absolutely dismal in his second season. The one thing he was supposed to do well — shoot the basketball — he failed to do. He shot just 33.6% from three and a remarkably poor 33.7% from the field. He simply doesn’t do anything else well enough to warrant keeping him around if he’s not hitting shots. Since D’Antoni is gone, it’s possible that Ryan will never regain his rookie form, at least not under Byron Scott.
Why he should make the team: Sacre is not a good player by any means, but at least you know what you are getting out of him. He plays hard, can knock down some mid-range jumpers, and is not a complete disaster on defense. Oh yeah, he has some pretty sweet bench celebrations as well. The point is, you could do worse than having Sacre as your last big off the bench.
Why he should NOT make the team: He’s not particularly good at anything, and simply doesn’t have any upside. While you could do worse than having Sacre on the roster, as I mentioned above, you could also do a lot better. Specifically, you could use his roster spot for a player that has much higher upside than Sacre — Robert Upshaw comes to mind here. Upshaw is not as good as Sacre at the moment, but down the road he could become a defensive anchor — something that Sacre will never be. Basically, Sacre represents a low-risk, but low-reward option, and the Lakers should aspire for something more worthwhile than that.
Michael Frazier II:
Why he should make the team: Frazier had elite shooting numbers at Florida, and as we know, you can never have enough shooters in the modern NBA. Frazier also has decent defensive upside, and if developed, could become a 3-and-D player down the road.
Why he should NOT make the team: He and Jabari Brown are a little too redundant. Both are relatively undersized for shooting guards, and neither are good defensive players at the moment. Sure you could always use shooters, but what if they have the same skill-sets, but no positional flexibility? Also, with Lou Williams as the backup two already, it will be tough for Jabari Brown to get a significant amount of minutes. Needless to say it would be even tougher for Frazier to crack the rotation. While I like Frazier as a prospect, the Lakers simply just don’t have space for him.
Why he should make the team: Holmes is a very interesting prospect. At 6-9, 242 lbs, with solid defensive tools, he has the ability to guard both 3’s and 4’s. He also averaged 10.2 rebounds per 40 minutes during his career at Texas. His defense and rebounding can help any team, but the key for him will be finding a role on offense. Many believe that role will have to come as a stretch four. Holmes upped his three-point percentages and volume each year at Texas. In his senior year, he shot 33.3% from behind the arc. While that’s not a great percentage, it still gives you enough hope that he can develop into a serviceable shooter at the next level. If he can become a consistent perimeter threat with his defensive skills and versatility, it’s easy to see him finding playing time. There is a reason why DraftExpress projected him to be selected early in the second round.
Why he should NOT make the team: Honestly, it’s hard for me to find a reason. The Lakers need a player just like him around their young core. Of course, that’s assuming he becomes a decent shooter, which may never actually happen. So I guess that’d have to be the reason you pick someone else over him — you don’t think he will ever become a dependable shooter.
Why he should make the team: Upshaw has the potential to be a tremendous defensive anchor in the future. You don’t see that very often in undrafted free agents (though he would not have been undrafted if he didn’t have serious character concerns). For this reason alone, he is worth a roster spot. Take the time to develop him, and you have a gem of a prospect.
Why he should NOT make the team: There are two distinct reasons why Upshaw would not be worth a roster spot. One, his character issues are not worth the headache, especially since the Lakers have a relatively young core and the last thing you want to do is have a guy like him cause locker room problems. And two, he’s not serious enough about basketball to stay in good enough shape to ever be effective as a player. In Vegas, his lack of conditioning was evident. That is something that can obviously be worked on, but it requires hard work and dedication to do so — something that he just may not have in him.
If it were up to me, and I had to pick three out of the five players above, I’d select Jonathan Holmes, Robert Upshaw, and Ryan Kelly. There’s also a very realistic chance that the Lakers decide to keep just 14 players instead of 15, and if that’s the case, I’d choose Holmes and Upshaw.
Which players would you guys pick?