As Lakers training camp opens up on Tuesday, there is one certainty: It’s going to get competitive.
Just ask 90-year-old consultant Bill Bertka — an NBA legend who has spent 50 years in the league. According to Bertka, he has “never seen a young group of Lakers players compete like this ever.”
Here, we take a look at the 20 men who will be going at on the hardwood at the UCLA Health Training Center.
As a First Team All-American, second-overall draft pick and Summer League MVP, it’s hard to imagine Lonzo Ball entering his first training camp with any more momentum. The 19-year-old shattered expectations at Summer League with his all-around play, averaging 16.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.5 steals while dishing an event-record 9.3 assists and collecting two triple-doubles.
A midseason acquisition last year, Ennis played his way into another contract with the Lakers over the summer. Ennis played some of the best ball of his young career toward the end of the season, impressing in April with his 3-point shooting (44.4 percent) and defense.
Those who paid attention to his rookie season in the NBA G League knew that Caruso — a 6-foot-5 ball-hawking guard — could hold his own. He did just that in Summer League, earning the Lakers’ first two-way contract, averaging 16.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 9.0 assists in his two starts in place of Ball.
Having been called up to four NBA teams in two years, Weber is looking to find himself a permanent home. He did it all in the NBA G League last year, putting up 16.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.3 assists and a league-best 3.3 steals. He promises to amp the competition at camp, as Josh Hart considers him the best trash-talker on the squad.
The Lakers’ defense ranked toward the bottom of the league last season, so the front office made it a point of emphasis to bring someone capable of locking down opposing wings. Enter KCP, a bulldog defender capable both on and off the ball. At the other end, Caldwell-Pope likes to play in transition and is looking to provide some 3-point shooting as well.
JC’s third year in the NBA saw him shuffle through different roles, playing point guard and shooting guard, starting and coming off the bench. As Clarkson looks for more stability in year four, he will also aim for the Sixth Man of the Year Award (at Magic Johnson’s encouragement), having ranked fourth among scoring reserves last season with 14.4 points.
The reigning NBA G League MVP impressed at Summer League by shedding his reputation as a pure scorer and creating offense for his teammates. However, filling the bucket is still Blue’s greatest gift, as his elite slashing led to 24.8 points for the South Bay Lakers last year.
The 2016 second-overall pick wasted no time this offseason, constantly working out, even in the Bahamas and at 8 a.m. over Memorial Day weekend. Physically, Ingram added some muscle to his 6-foot-9 frame, which should serve him well when attacking the basket and playing defense. He also reworked his jumper after hitting just 29.4 percent of 3-pointers last year, which should help in his quest to meet Magic’s goal for him: leading the Lakers in scoring.
The NBA’s current iron man looks to extend his 277-games-played streak this season after appearing in all 82 for the third time in his career. While Brewer’s 20.8 3-point percentage last year left much to be desired, the 31-year-old was an active defender and positive locker-room presence also capable of scoring in transition.
The 32-year-old Deng is coming off a frustrating season that saw him record career-lows in scoring (7.6) and field goal percentage (38.7). The two-time All-Star started for more than half the year, but will have to adjust to coming off the bench. He could also see some time at power forward — where he has been most effective later in his career — though minutes figure to be scarce at that position crowded with young talent.
Despite averaging 18.7 points as a First Team All-American last year, Hart is focused on making an impact on defense this year. The reigning Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year wasn’t able to show much at Summer League, as a mild ankle sprain sidelined him just two games in.
An undrafted rookie out of Notre Dame, Beachem aims to prove himself as a 3 and D prospect at camp. He shot 39.2 percent from deep in South Bend and also showed the ability to connect from mid-range. He will need to regain that form at training camp after going just 2-of-14 from the field at Summer League.
When Magic Johnson told his players that he expected them to come to camp in the best shape of their lives, Randle was clearly listening. The 22-year-old is ripped after slimming down while maintaining muscle over the offseason. He averaged a double-double in his first season, then upped his scoring and assisting last year. We’ll see what this campaign has to offer.
Larry Nance Jr.
A natural leader, Nance personally took the Lakers’ rookies under his wing over the offseason and maintained a constant presence on the court and in the weight room of the UCLA Health Training Center. Nance has a do-it-all kind of game that includes setting screens, playing defense and making hockey assists. But he should see an uptick in his traditional numbers after putting up 7.1 points and 5.9 rebounds last year.
A post shared by Lakers Scene (@lakersscene) on Jul 28, 2017 at 1:25pm PDT
The term “steal of the draft” was often tagged to Kuzma during the 27th pick’s scintillating Summer League. He did what he wanted offensively, averaging 21.9 points — the fourth-most in Las Vegas — while hitting a robust 48.0 percent of 3-pointers. Though that level of red-hot shooting may not be sustainable over an 82-game season, it is certainly an encouraging start for the Summer League championship game MVP.
The Lakers added one of the league’s best offensive centers over the offseason, as Lopez brings 20.5 points per game with him to Los Angeles — the second-highest average among fives. While he’s excellent at posting up, Lopez has also adapted to the modern game by hitting 1.8 3-pointers on a 36.4 percent clip.
Just six days before camp, the Lakers signed a top rim protector in Bogut, who held opponents to the third-worst percentage at the hoop two years ago. A gifted passer as well, Bogut’s main question will be his health. The 12-year vet played just a quarter of last season before breaking his tibia, though it did not require surgery.
Zubac unexpectedly struggled at Summer League, averaging 10.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 47.1 percent shooting. However, the 20-year-old will always be his own loudest critic and has the work ethic to do something about it. Last season Zubac was among the team’s most frequent visitors to the weight room, and he kept up the pace over the summer.
A seemingly endless source of energy, Bryant is looking to exert that on teammates at camp. Hailed by General Manager Rob Pelinka as a potential rim protector and 3-point shooter, the 42nd pick showed a bit of both skills at Summer League.
A 7-footer drafted 41st overall last year, Zimmerman is seeking an NBA home after spending the majority of last season in the G League. He did well with the Erie BayHawks, averaging 13.4 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks; but appeared in only 19 games for the Orlando Magic.
Summer league round
A post shared by Stephen Zimmerman (@stephenzimmerman) on Jul 2, 2017 at 5:57am PDT