Rotation battles ahead as the Lakers prepare to start training camp
The Lakers will hold their annual media day on Monday afternoon, before flying out to Hawaii for training camp.
With 19 players currently under contract, the team will need to trim down the roster to at most 15 before opening night. The Lakers have 12 players with fully guaranteed contracts, and a lot to decide before the end of October.
Coach Byron Scott will need to sort out the team’s rotation at all five positions:
Point guard: Including Kobe Bryant, who has manned the position at times throughout his career, the Lakers have six players who can handle the point.
Rookie D’Angelo Russell may get the start, although last year Jordan Clarkson played well in that role. The Lakers can also use combination guards Lou Williams and Michael Frazier at the one.
Marcelo Huertas, a 32-year old Brazilian point guard, may be a favorite to make the squad despite his non-guaranteed $525,039 rookie contract.
Frazier needs a strong camp to earn a spot, with just $50,000 of his $525,093 rookie season guaranteed. He could be a candidate instead for the D-Fenders, the Lakers’ NBA Development League affiliate.
Shooting guard: While Bryant’s natural position is at the two, a Russell/Clarkson backcourt could slide Bryant to front court.
If Bryant does start at the two, he may sit out on back-to-back nights, which would knock him out of 18 games.
The team is hoping Clarkson will fit well as the team’s off-guard, with Russell growing into his role as the team’s starting point.
Other options at shooting guard include Nick Young, Anthony Brown, Jabari Brown, Williams, Frazier and Russell.
Jabari Brown could be a victim of roster crunch, heading into camp with a non-guaranteed $845,059 contract.
Small forward: Bryant and Young could get the bulk of the Lakers’ minutes at the three, although the team would have a sizable void on games Bryant might sit for rest.
The team recently re-signed veteran Metta World Peace, although he has to earn a spot with a $1.5 million non-guaranteed contract.
World Peace has already been a positive mentor for second-year forward Julius Randle. The Lakers still have to decide if that’s enough of a reason to give World Peace a roster spot.
Rookie Jonathan Holmes has just $100,000 of his salary guaranteed, and no promise to go to the D-Fenders if cut.
Anthony Brown, the Lakers’ 34th overall pick in June’s draft with a fully guaranteed contract, could earn minutes at the three as well.
Power forward: Will Scott bring along Randle slowly, after the Lakers’ seventh overall pick in 2014 missed almost his entire rookie year with a broken leg on opening night?
Veteran Brandon Bass may get the nod instead. Other options include Ryan Kelly, Tarik Black, 27th overall pick Larry Nance Jr., World Peace, Holmes and even Bryant.
Black’s $845,059 contract is non-guaranteed. Kelly is on the final year of his guaranteed deal at $1.7 million.
Center: Roy Hibbert is a lock to start for the team. His backups include Robert Sacre, Robert Upshaw and Black. Bass, Kelly and even Nance could be small-ball options.
Sacre is in his last year with $981,000 locked in; while Upshaw has just $35,000 promised of his rookie deal.
Upshaw has tremendous potential but was kicked off two college teams (Washington and Fresno State).
Last week, General Manager Mitch Kupchak said the Lakers would consider cutting a guaranteed player if need be to make room for an impressive camp invite.
Expect competition throughout the preseason as the players try to earn their spots both in the rotation and on the roster.
The Lakers have room to bring one more hopeful to camp -- the offseason maximum is 20.
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