(J Alexander Diaz and Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)
Lakers Training Camp Roster Breakdown: Power Forwards
If there is one certainty about the Lakers’ roster it’s this: The power forward rotation can get buckets. Of course, it all starts with, LeBron James, the greatest player on the planet. But there are some weapons behind him, as Kyle Kuzma is coming off a sizzling rookie year and Michael Beasley has never been shy about putting the ball through the net.
LeBron James (27.5 pts, 8.6 reb, 9.1 ast, 1.4 stl, 0.9 blk, 54.2% FG, 36.7% 3P)
The Lakers’ new leader comes to L.A. following one of the most dominant postseason runs in NBA history. LeBron carried his Cleveland squad to the finals, while leading the playoffs in scoring (34.0) and ranking second in assists (9.0).
Capable of playing any position on the floor, James has become a force at power forward over recent years, and the Lakers’ collection of wings suggests he will likely do the same this season. He thrives in matchups against big men, using his elite burst and power to get past slow-footed defenders and finish at the rim.
Kyle Kuzma (16.1 pts, 6.3 reb, 1.8 ast, 45.0% FG, 36.6% 3P)
The 27th-overall pick proved to be a draft steal, as Kuzma ranked second among rookies in scoring last season thanks to a seemingly never-ending array of shots. Whether it was a post move, Eurostep or skyhook, Kuzma began his career with tools that many players never attain.
Already an elite post scorer, the 22-year-old has spent the offseason bulking up his frame and improving his footwork with Kobe Bryant, making him an even tougher matchup for the league’s big men. Also one of the Lakers’ best 3-point shooters, Kuzma has a skill set that fits perfectly in the modern NBA.
Michael Beasley (13.2 pts, 5.6 reb, 1.7 ast, 50.7% FG, 39.5% 3P)
Few players can heat up as quickly as Beasley, who averaged the NBA’s 11th-most points per minute (0.25) and made more than half of his attempts. At 6-foot-9 and 235 pounds, he is at his best using his strength to attack the paint, where he has the body control to hit shots from tough angles.
While he does the majority of his work inside (both off the dribble and on the roll), Beasley is also dangerous from deep. Last season, he hit 39.5 percent of his 3-point attempts, largely on pick-and-pops. And while he has played small forward in the past, President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson has hinted at Beasley playing some small-ball center.
Travis Wear (4.4. pts, 2.2 reb, 34.7% FG, 36.2% 3P)
Returning to the Lakers, Wear is on a two-way contract which will see him also play in the G League, where he has thrived the past two seasons. The Huntington Beach native also did some good work in the NBA last year, stretching the floor for L.A. with his signature 3-point shooting.
In his 17-game stint, Wear was excellent on spot-up shots, ranking in the NBA’s 82nd percentile on those attempts. He was also a reliable defender, whom opponents often tried to exploit without much success.
Johnathan Williams (NCAA: 13.4 pts, 8.5 reb, 1.6 ast, 1.1 blk, 56.3% FG, 22.9% 3P)
The Lakers’ run to the Las Vegas Summer League championship game was bolstered by the team’s stifling defense, and Williams was a huge part of that. In particular, he was exceptional at using his quick feet to keep up when switched onto guards.
Offensively, Williams lived at the rim during the summer. He showed capable of finishing possessions both in transition and out of pick-and-rolls, while flashing some ball handling as well.
The Lakers could trot out some hyper-small lineups and have someone like Brandon Ingram play the four, but for the most part they are set with the aforementioned crew.
It remains to be seen whether the rookie Wagner is better suited to play power forward or center. Given his 6-foot-11 frame and his floor-stretching shooting, he seems to initially lean toward the five position.
However, Wagner may have more immediate defensive success by covering forwards instead of centers. Either way, the rookie is an intriguing prospect, capable of shooting, ball-handling and floor-running like few big men in the league.
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