The Los Angeles Lakers are all-in on signing a big-name free agent this season, but the team is leaving plenty of work on the table when it comes to the young players who will eventually support any top players coming to Tinseltown.
Julius Randle is the Lakers' highest-profile draft pick since Andrew Bynum, but it could be a while until fans see him suit up in purple and gold.
When he will play, though, is a good question. The Lakers begin summer league Friday in Las Vegas, but Randle will not be on the court until he signs with them. The team is waiting because it can save about $500,000 if his signing is delayed, money that could be used toward free agents such as Anthony and Pau Gasol.
It probably won't hinder Randle's development if he misses out on a few weeks of summer league action. He is essentially assured of making the team as the No. 7 pick in the draft. In fact, it might benefit him to rest his foot as he only just recently was cleared to play for the summer.
To the rookie's credit, he appears to be handling the situation in a respectful manner as the team looks for the veteran talent that can quickly bring them back to relevancy.
"We'll see," he said, per Bresnahan. "It's kind of really out of my hands right now. I'm ready to play whenever."
Randle can't play until he gets a contract, but there is one Laker without a guaranteed contract who will be suiting up to play for his job.
Kendall Marshall played in 45 games for the Lakers last season, averaging 8.0 points and 8.8 assists per game. Despite his excellent court vision, something that would come in handy if the Lakers signed a big scorer like Carmelo Anthony, he will play on the team's summer league squad.
The Lakers have yet to sign him to a team option worth approximately $915,000, per Spotrac.com. Marshall appears to be ready to prove to the team he is worth keeping around.
"I've been doing a lot of individual work so I'm excited to get some five-on-five stuff going and put what I've been working on into action," Marshall said, via Bresnahan.
Lakers.com's Mike Trudell believes Marshall's presence could benefit everyone suiting up for Los Angeles this summer:
Having Kendall Marshall on this summer league squad will help LAL get good shots. LAL haven't had a PG like that in Vegas in my time.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) July 7, 2014
Clarkson seems intent on punishing those teams that passed on him in the NBA draft.
"I feel like I was one of the better point guards in the draft, maybe the best," Clarkson said, via ESPN's Dave McMenamin. "Just falling out of the first round and being selected in the second round, but the number really doesn't matter where you get drafted. It's about the fit. That's where I get my chip from."
Clarkson averaged 17.5 points per game at Missouri in 2013-14. At 6'5", he would provide the Lakers with greater length and athleticism than Marshall at point guard, although the latter is a more polished passer. There may be only one spot on the roster, as the Lakers still have Steve Nash on the books for next season.
The Lakers need to secure these young players for the future and make a decision on Clarkson and Marshall. The good news, at least, is that there should be plenty of money to go around, as per Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times:
Despite a miserable campaign, the Lakers were the most profitable franchise in the NBA -- by a large margin. According to a memo distributed to teams by the NBA, the Lakers project to earn a $158.3-million profit for the 2013-14 season, before tax and revenue sharing.
The Lakers' ability to remain financially sound even during leaner years—they finished 27-55 last season—bodes well for their ability to continue to sign players to rewarding contracts. If the owners and executives agree, the Lakers should have no problem with paying any luxury taxes they might incur from expensive signings for some time.