We took a look at L.A.'s trip to Las Vegas for the 2013 Summer League, in which the Dan D'Antoni-coached Lakers went 3-1 before falling to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors 83-77 in the quarterfinals.
Here's what went down:
WOULDA, COULDA, SHOULDA
If you ask D'Antoni, the Lakers could have won the whole tournament. It's not much of a leap to take, considering they had the eventual champion Warriors down by 10 points at halftime and through much of the third quarter. However, the bench – L.A.'s Achilles heel throughout the tournament – conceded a 16-4 run from which the starters couldn't quite recover. The starters had also controlled the only other loss, 70-62 to Cleveland, building a fourth quarter lead that the bench couldn't hold. D'Antoni said he wanted to get guys some minutes, since Summer League is also about developing players, but could have gone back to his starters earlier.
ABOUT THOSE STARTERS
Lester Hudson, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Marcus Landry, Elias Harris and Robert Sacre were collectively terrific as a unit in Sin City. Among the more experienced groups in the tourney, each player sacrificed some of his individual game to better operate as a unit, and committed to playing tough defense while sharing the ball on offense. Summer League can often devolve into individual players trying to prove themselves to the plethora of NBA executives watching in the stands, but L.A.'s first unit successfully bucked that trend.
CDR SHOWS A DIVERSIFIED GAME
Perhaps the best example of sacrificing his own game for the betterment of the team came from Chris Douglas-Roberts*, a proven scorer at the NBA level – he averaged 17 points for the Nets for over a month when given minutes – who did much more than that in Vegas. At 6-7 with a nice handle, CDR can free himself for jumpers or get to the rim, but he attempted only 32 shots in five games, tied for fifth on the team, instead focusing on playing as a point forward and facilitating for others (his nine assists ranked second to point guard Lester Hudson's 16). Douglas-Roberts also used his length and quickness to be disruptive on D, helping him build a robust individual plus/minus of +42 for the tournament. He wanted to show teams that he could do more than just score, and he did so.*If you want to hear from CDR himself, we recorded an hour-plus long podcast with him.
LANDRY = A COACH'S FAVORITE
At 27 years old, Marcus Landry's been around professional basketball for a number of years after a solid career at Wisconsin, and was one of the more seasoned players on display in Vegas. The D'Antoni brothers had Landry on the roster in New York when Mike D'Antoni was the head coach of the Knicks, and grew to really appreciate his professionalism and desire to win. For the tourney, Landry led the Lakers in scoring at 15.2 points per game in his 26.8 minutes, hitting 37.1 percent of his threes (13 of 35) in showing stretch 4 capabilities on offense. That Landry's a classic tweener with no true position may have something to do with his inability to stick on a full NBA roster, but D'Antoni would describe him in another way: a winner.
SACRE DISPLAYS HIS DEVELOPMENT
HARRIS REVEALS AN NBA GAME
Perhaps the brightest surprise of the week-plus in Nevada was the play of Elias Harris, an undrafted rookie out of Gonzaga who flashed a diverse game that will likely get him invited to an NBA training camp. At 6-8, 240 pounds with a some touch from outside and ability to get to the rim with the dribble, Harris could be a nice fit at the stretch 4 position in an offense like that of Mike D'Antoni. Harris hit only 3 of his 16 threes, but made 2 of 5 in the final game, and appeared confident in letting it fly. He also rebounded well, collecting 5.6 per game in his 27 minutes, while collective 1.20 steals to boot. The Lakers liked him after the team's mini-camp in El Segundo, and he did little to change that affection in Vegas.
THE BRICK HOUSE
L.A.'s head advanced pro scout called Lester Hudson a "brick house" for his strength from the point guard position, and Hudson certainly showed off his power while averaging 12.2 points, 4.8 boards, 3.2 assists and 1.6 steals in the most well-rounded performance for the Lakers in Vegas. Hudson doesn't have the greatest quickness or ability to get to and finish at the rim for a point guard hoping to make a difference in the NBA, but he plays constantly hard and well and always helped more than he hurt. His 48.9 percent shooting and 46.2 percent from three were among the better shooting numbers amongst guards in Sin City, and the Lakers struggled when he and Douglas-Roberts were on the bench.
FORMER VEGAS MVP STRUGGLES
Highly-touted Kansas product Josh Selby shined at last year's Summer League, enough to earn Co-MVP honors with Portland's Damian Lillard … but unfortunately, that Selby was nowhere to be found in 2013. Playing off L.A.'s bench, Selby hit only four of his 26 shots (13.2 percent) in five games, while matching Sacre with a team-high 11 turnovers in only 66 total minutes. Selby would no doubt like to have his Vegas experience forgotten this time around.
THE REST OF THE BENCH
Michael Snaer (34.4 percent shooting) and D.J. Seeley (23.1 percent) also struggled from the field, though Snaer did manage to get to the line (8 of 11 makes) and hit the glass (4.2 boards in 18.6 minutes). Lazar Hayward did manage to hit 8 of his 15 shots in limited minutes (14.0 per game) and often created positive things with defensive activity. Travis Hyman was terrific in the final game against Golden State, blocking five shots in 14 minutes to almost make up for what was lacking in the previous four games of limited playing time. Mitchell Watt's production was limited in his 10.3 minutes per game, as was that of Jordan Williams (5.5 minutes), Renaldo Woolridge (7.0) and Drew Viney (7.7).