2016 Summer League: Key Laker Storylines To Follow

It has been over two months since we last saw the Lakers play competitive basketball, too long if you ask me. Luckily in a few weeks, the Lakers’ summer league team can satisfy our basketball craving when they compete against the New Orleans Pelicans on July 8th in Las Vegas.

The Lakers are scheduled to play three preliminary games. After the preliminary games, the Lakers will then play two more games in a seeded tournament.

The roster includes familiar names in D’Angelo Russell, Larry Nance Jr., Anthony Brown, and Jabari Brown. The Lakers’ new draftees Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac are on the roster as well. Zach Auguste and Jamil Wilson will be joining the Lakers team as reported last week. Newer names on the roster are Xavier Munford, Nikola Jovanovic, Trevor Lacey, Ethan Wragge, and Jarvis Varnado.

Summer league is a time for rookies to get acclimated to the NBA style of play and for coaches to install their schemes and points of emphasis on the court. It is a semi-competitive basketball competition, but it is still important. The Lakers will play at least five games in the Las Vegas summer league.

Here are important storylines you should look out for during their games:

Brandon Ingram vs. Ben Simmons

There is no doubt that these two players will be the marquee matchup for the summer league.  All eyes will be on the number one and number two overall pick.

The Lakers selected Brandon Ingram because they believed in his versatility on offense and defense. They liked his leadership and poise on the court. It will be interesting to see how well Ingram progresses throughout the summer league.

A lot has been made about Ingram’s lack of strength to perform in the NBA, so it will be a nice test to see him compete against Simmons, who is very strong and athletic. Simmons and Ingram were the consensus top two prospects throughout the entire college season, but they never got the chance to face off against each other.

It will be a treat and tease for all basketball fans to watch these two future franchise players go head-to-head for the first time in their careers. The Lakers will play the 76ers on July 9th so don’t miss it!

The progression of the second and third-year players

The Lakers training staff and management have praised the Lakers youngsters for dedicating their time training in the weight room and on the court this offseason, ranging from D’Angelo Russell to Anthony Brown and Larry Nance Jr. All have been putting extra work preparing their body for their second year in the league, calling themselves the “breakfast club” epitomizing their early morning grind and dedication.

Last year, second-year player Jordan Clarkson dominated the competition in summer league, so I expect these second-year players to do the same. It will be exciting to see if their hard work can translate to improvements on the basketball court. I will expect a lot of explosive dunks and fun basketball from these players.

It’s kind of unfair how good they will be against their competition. Oh, and some of them are getting ripped during the offseason.


Luke Walton’s emphasis on offense and defense

Luke Walton will not be coaching this summer league team, but you can bet that his handprints will be all over that team. During his introductory press conference, Luke said that he will be heavily involved during summer league:

I will be out there in Las Vegas being heavily involved in practice and we’ll figure out more from there. But I’ll be out there.

The Lakers’ lead assistant Jesse Mermuys will be coaching the summer league team. Mermuys has been an assistant coach in Toronto and Houston. Joining Mermuys’ summer league staff is Mark Madsen and Casey Owens.

Madsen was on Byron Scott’s coaching staff last year and Owens is a successful coach for the D-Fenders who led them to the D-League title game last year. You treat the Lakers’ summer league squad as a practice exam for Mermuys to implement Walton’s schemes and style of play offensively and defensively.

The Lakers were putrid to watch under Scott so it will be extremely important to for Walton’s coaching staff to install his new culture on the team. You should expect the team to be shooting more threes, setting solid screens, sharing the basketball more and regularly communicating with each other.

Luke will try to replicate the Warriors’ philosophy for the Lakers and this process could begin as soon as the summer league. To understand more on what changes Walton can bring to the Lakers, check out the “Luke to the Lakers” series.

Who really is Ivica Zubac?

Zubac, the Croatian center who played for Mega Leks in Serbia, was drafted by the Lakers with their 32nd pick. I had no idea who Zubac was or what his game is like, but the Lakers may have found themselves another gem in the second round.

Zubac is only 19 and he has decent size for a center. According to Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report, Zubac was ranked much higher on the Lakers’ draft board than where he was eventually taken:

The Lakers also hope they added a true big man to that young crew Thursday in 7’0″ Croatian center Ivica Zubac, 19. The team saw him as a lottery talent and pegged him to go in the top 20 before landing him at No. 32

The popular consensus entering the draft was that Zubac was a first round talent, who has ranked anywhere from 15 to 21 on most draft boards.

Zubac is still a question mark for most Lakers’ fans unfamiliar with his game in Europe. Summer league will be a big test for Zubac to see how well he fairs against NBA level competition and how healthy he actually is. We can also decide on his nickname (Zubat or Zubacca) based on his performance.

Can Zach Auguste steal a roster spot?

Zach Auguste is 6’10” power forward out of Notre Dame. The Laker signed him to a summer league contract and I believe he has a great shot at making the regular season roster.

Auguste is only 22 and was ranked as the 76th best prospect entering the draft. He is an athletic big man who plays with high energy and motor. He is also an excellent player in the pick-and-roll.

I could see Auguste competing for a roster spot during training camp against Tarik Black and Robert Sacre. If he plays well during the summer league he can carry that momentum heading into training camp.

Auguste played four years in college so he has decent basketball experience which can help him secure a roster spot. LakersOutsiders’ Jacob Rude did a wonderful analysis of Auguste’s game for those who are unfamiliar with the big man.

Can the Lakers win the Las Vegas summer league?

The Lakers should be the heavy favorites to win the summer league title. They have a roster filled with talent and experience.

The backcourt with Russell and Brown will be a force on the perimeter. The Lakers’ front court of Ingram, Nance Jr. and Zubac will create havoc on defense with their length.

I expect the Lakers’ offense to be flying down the court, throwing lob passes and hitting shots from deep. I also think they will be decent defensively deflecting passes and disrupting their opponent’s offense.

This is the Lakers’ tournament to win. Hopefully, they can bring Los Angeles its first summer league title.

Bonus information

Some of the LakersOutsiders and Silver Screen and Roll members will be attending the Las Vegas summer league in person. A few people from the Lakers’ twitter community will also attend the summer league. These people are very cool and down to earth. The Lakers Twitter community is inclusive to a lot of Lakers fans. Feel free to stop by and say hi and enjoy some Lakers basketball together!

Leave a Reply