The 2016 NBA regular season is nearly here, and the Los Angeles Lakers still have an important decision, or two, or three to make.
Los Angeles wraps up its 2016 preseason schedule against the Phoenix Suns at the Staples Center on October 21. The Lakers are reportedly still deciding who will fill out the roster as 14 of the 17 players that remain in camp appear to be locks to make the roster. All 14 of the players who are considered sure bets to make the opening day roster have fully guaranteed contracts.
That leaves Thomas Robinson, Yi Jianlian and Metta World Peace vying to make the team as the 15th man according to NBC Los Angeles. Teams must get to the league maximum 15 players by October 24, which is the day prior to the opening of the season.
“It’s going to be a very tough decision,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said about making the cuts.
Yi was thought to be the favorite to earn the final roster spot heading into training camp as he was the only player who possessed a non-guaranteed contract to have some sort of guaranteed money. Keeping the seven-footer would be a great marketing tool for the team in China, and he has shown the ability to do some things on the court this season in limited action.
Yi provides some things that none of the team’s other big men are capable of. He is good in pick-and-roll situations, and has the ability to stretch the floor with his shooting. Yi does have slow feet, which hurts hi on the defensive end.
The problem is Yi’s inconsistency. He has had a few good shooting and rebounding performances, but has yet to put a complete game together. The 28-year-old is averaging 3.0 points and 2.6 rebounds while shooting 35.3 percent from the field in 51 minutes of preseason action. He tallied four points, on 2-of-4 shooting from the field, and grabbed two rebounds over 12 minutes in the Lakers 123-112 loss to Golden State last night.
Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times believes that it will be hard for the Lakers to not keep Robinson. The 25-year-old has has been impressive this preseason, showing off his athleticism as well as the ability to score and rebound. Robinson has also earned high praise for his hustle.
“He never takes plays off,” Walton told the Orange County Register about Robinson. “He’s a great guy. You want him around. He’s a monster on the offensive glass and has a great attitude with everything we’ve done.”
Robinson has been much more productive than Yi — specifically against the Warriors the past two games — despite not seeing nearly as much court time as him. The six-foot-10 power forward was tremendous in his last two games, both against the Warriors, contributing nine points and seven rebounds in only 12 minutes of action. In six exhibition games, Robinson is averaging 3.8 points along with 3.4 boards while shooting 66.7 percent from the field.
World Peace appears to be a long-shot to make the club though his leadership ability is what is mainly keeping him around. The fact that he is also former teammate of Walton probably helps him as well. The 36-year-old has appeared in just two exhibition games, logging 11 minutes and compiling four caroms. He has said that he wants to play three more seasons in the NBA.
The other important decision that Walton has to make, involves his rotation. D’Angelo Russell, Luol Deng, Julius Randle and Timofey Mosgov appear entrenched as the starters. The other starting spot will either go to Jordan Clarkson or Lou Williams.
Williams is a scorer who thrives whether he is coming off the bench or starting. The 29-year-old can play either the one or two though he is more suited to play off the ball. Defense is an issue for 11-year pro.
Williams started the first five preseason games before coming off the bench against the Warriors in their most recent matchup. He got off to a good start this preseason, tallying double-figures in his first three contests — including pouring in 25 against Denver in Game 3 of the exhibition schedule. Williams has failed to score 10 points in each of his last three games.
Clarkson started all 79 games he appeared in last year, and has started the past two preseason games. But Walton likes the chemistry Clarkson has developed with the second unit, which includes rookie Brandon Ingram along with Larry Nance Jr., and Tarik Black per Bleacher Report.
Clarkson is a six-foot-five combo guard who is an excellent shooter and very good rebounder. Both of which are key attributes for a sixth man. Plus, he has developed into a better defender this preseason.
Clarkson has reached double-figures in each of his seven preseason games. The 24-year-old has been more efficient coming off the bench this preseason.
The last major decision Walton must make is who will fill out the second team unit. Jose Calderon or Marcelo Huertas are competing for the backup point guard slot, so it will likely be one of them. Both of them have several deficiencies, however, and Nick Young has looked very good.
Young has scored in double-figures in four of his six appearances with his best game coming against the Warriors on October 19. The 31-year-old dumped in 19 points, on 7-of-13 shooting from the field and he made 5-of-10 shots from beyond the arc. Young is averaging 13.2 points as he is shooting 54.9 percent from the field along with 54.3 percent from beyond the arc.
[Featured Image by Jae C. Hong/ AP Photo]