Summer League Prospects with Real Chance at Making Lakers' Regular-Season Roster

David Murphy@@davem234Featured ColumnistJuly 12, 2014

Summer League Prospects with Real Chance at Making Lakers' Regular-Season Roster

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Lakers headed into their off-season with a decimated roster, looking to rebuild for the future. The NBA 2014 Summer League allows the opportunity to evaluate unsigned prospects who could earn an invite to training camp in the fall.

    The ultimate goal, of course, would be to find a few diamonds in the rough who could become contributing members for the regular season and beyond.

    The Lakers kicked off the process on Friday in Las Vegas on a day that also saw them obtaining point guard Jeremy Lin from the Houston Rockets. According to Dave McMenamin for ESPN LA, the Lakers traded cash consideration and “the rights to an undisclosed player stashed overseas” for Lin and a 2015 first-round draft pick.

    McMenamin goes on to write that the Lakers also re-signed Nick Young to a four-year contract and Jordan Hill for two years, of which the second is a team option.

    With the team’s pursuit of elite free agent Carmelo Anthony looking less hopeful by the day, Los Angeles is now focused on the nuts and bolts of putting a team together. Summer league offers not only the chance to evaluate those without an NBA home, but to get a glimpse of some of this year's lottery draft selections.

    The Lakers' No. 7 pick Julius Randle was not in uniform on Friday, however—his contract has yet to be signed. Randle’s a lock to make the team roster, of course, but fans will have to wait a little longer to see him in action.

Kendall Marshall

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    Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

    Kendall Marshall, who played 54 games for the Lakers after being plucked out of the D-League, has an unguaranteed deal for next season and will most likely be back for another look.

    The No. 13 draft pick by the Phoenix Suns in 2012 presents an interesting case. Heralded as one of the nation’s premiere passers while at North Carolina, the point guard played only 48 games with the Suns during his rookie season. He was used as filler in a multiplayer trade to the Washington Wizards at the start of last season and then waived.

    Marshall was playing for the Delaware 87ers when signed by the Lakers in December. The team had basically blown through all its point guard options due to injury, and the former Tar Heel was a pleasant surprise, averaging eight points and 8.8 assists for the season with an especially impressive 11.9 points and 11.5 dimes during the month of January.

    The knock on Marshall has always been his old-fashioned set shot. The time that he takes to get his shot off, combined with a low release point, allows defenders to get up on top of him.

    On Friday, Marshall’s deficiencies were again on display. While notching five assists as the starting point guard, he scored only four points in 27 minutes, blanking on three attempts from behind the arc. He continues to be a cost-effective option for the Lakers—his contract to next season is just $1,181,348—but he could wind up buried on the bench if he can’t fix his shot mechanics.

Jordan Clarkson

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    Jordan Clarkson was the starting shooting guard for his summer league debut but also spent a lot of time handling the ball. He led the team with 21 points and was also 5-of-5 from the charity stripe in 36 minutes.

    Clarkson’s blow-by speed was on full display—his length at 6’5” and extreme agility is a tantalizing combination for a potential NBA point guard, which is why the Lakers drafted him.

    The product of Mizzou will have to be a more willing passer if he’s going to facilitate for Kobe Bryant, of course. Clarkson sometimes seems to get caught up in his talent for getting to the basket unimpeded instead of allowing other opportunities to develop.

    Clarkson was thought to be a potential mid-to-late first-round draft choice but slid into the middle of the second round. The Lakers nabbed him by buying the No. 46 pick from the Washington Wizards.

    According to Mark Medina for the Los Angeles Daily News, the rangy guard is still miffed at being passed over in the first round, saying: ““I have a chip on my shoulder from the draft. I feel like I was one of the better point guards in the draft, maybe the best.”

    Part of the reason for his drop on draft night was his suspect shooting motion in college—a low release point not dissimilar to that of Marshall’s. The difference is that Clarkson has been more proactive about it—working with noted skills coach Drew Hanlen before the draft.

    The work seems to have paid off—Clarkson is now showing a more fluid shooting motion with a higher release. Whether he is, as he says, “maybe the best” point guard in the draft is debatable, but he definitely opened some eyes in Vegas on Friday.

DeAndre Kane

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    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    DeAndre Kane is yet another candidate for a point guard slot on the Lakers' roster this season.

    The undrafted product from Iowa State didn’t get much playing time Friday, but he did put up six points in just 12 minutes off the bench.

    Kane is a versatile and fiery 6’4” guard with excellent size, strength and athleticism. One of the major knocks on him leading up to the draft was his age at 25 years old—the idea being that he might have less potential room for development than younger prospects as well as a shorter overall career.

    There were also issues in college—Kane had to sit out his freshman year at Marshall as a partial academic qualifier and twice led the nation in technical fouls over the following three seasons.

    After graduating he transferred to Iowa State and excelled for one season under coach Fred Hoiberg. Per Sean Deveney for Sporting News, Hoiberg has repeatedly championed Kane with every NBA team he’s worked out for:

    No. 1, he has positional size, and that is so important playing at that level. He has got great instincts, you look at the numbers he put up across the board, and there are two players who put up those kinds of numbers — (Kyle) Anderson from UCLA and DeAndre. If you look at the overall player, he is right there. When he needs to score, he will score, when he needs to make a play, he makes a play. When you have that versatility, you have the ability to play at the next level.

    Can Kane find that next level in Los Angeles? His challenge will be carving out a spot in what is shaping up to be a crowded guard rotation. His physicality and ability to fill up the stat sheet will help—he averaged 17.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.9 assists at Iowa State with similarly impressive numbers at Marshall.

Kevin Murphy

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    Kevin Murphy has always had the ability to put up numbers. During his senior year at Tennessee Tech, he set a school record with a 50-point bombardment against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. It was the most points scored in Division I ball that season.

    On Friday in Las Vegas, Murphy launched the most shots of anyone in the game—scoring 16 points in just 24 minutes off the bench, along with a couple steals.

    The 6’6” shooting guard was selected as the No. 47 pick by the Utah Jazz in 2012 but barely cracked the rotation, spending most of the season with the Reno Bighorns in the D-League. He soon wound up out of the Association—just another minor NBA blip, transitioning to France with Strasbourg IG and then back to the states, most recently playing for the Idaho Stampede.

    Why is Murphy included here? Because he can flat-out score the ball. In February while with the Stampede, he poured in 51 points against the Los Angeles D-Fenders. In doing so, he showed classic form with a quick, high release, knocking it down from outside the arc while also connecting at will from short range.

    That wasn’t all he did either—Murphy added eight boards, four steals, three assists and a block.

    Now that Jodie Meeks has signed with the Detroit Pistons, the Lakers are in need of a pure outside shooter. Murphy is that, but he can also finish at the rim and will also mix it up on the defensive end.

    He could definitely be a sleeper pickup this season for the Lakers.

Trevor Mbakwe

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    The Lakers have a lot of frontcourt holes right now. Trevor Mbakwe could help plug one of them.

    Against the Raptors on Friday, the Euroleague baller grabbed a team-high eight rebounds, adding a steal and a block, as well as a rim-shaking dunk in the fourth quarter off a nice Jordan Clarkson dump-off.

    Mbakwe is only 6’8”, but he has an outrageous 7’4” wingspan. The power forward attended three different colleges—Marquette, Miami-Dade City College and Minnesota. Despite knee issues including a torn ACL, he was a monster rebounder, leading the Big Ten at 10.5 boards per game during his sophomore year with the Golden Gophers.

    After going undrafted in 2012, Mbakwe headed overseas to play for Virtus Roma in the Italian league where he averaged 10.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. Recently, he signed with Brose Baskets in the German league for the upcoming season but has outs for the NBA in his contract.

    And here he is in Vegas, ripping down boards for the Lakers.

    Mbakwe isn’t a complete player, and he certainly won’t fill L.A.’s glaring need for a starting center next season. But he plays hard, goes after loose balls and will use his long arms to protect the rim.

    It wouldn’t be a stretch to see him get a training camp invite.

    The Lakers will face the New Orleans Pelicans next in summer league action on Sunday, July 13.