After this weekend, it’s difficult to argue that the Lakers aren’t a lot closer to title contention than the Golden State Warriors.
No, like literally, they are chronologically closer to contending for a title in Las Vegas Summer League than Golden State, who will probably have to wait until the 2022-23 NBA season to compete for a championship of any kind. That much is clear to anyone who watched as the Lakers walloped the Dubs in Chase Center for their second straight blowout win in as many days, remaining undefeated in the California Classic tournament (2-0) with a 100-77 victory.
Jay Huff (13 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks) continues to look too long and coordinated for this level of competition, and after watching him menace the rim on defense and catch and finish in traffic on the other end, he’s at the very least warranted a continuing evaluation of his skills in Las Vegas this week, and potentially worthy of consideration to end up on one of the team’s two-way spots again. His season toiling in the G League appears to have led to some real growth, and while it’s hard to argue he deserves an NBA contract outright after two good summer league games, it’s at least easy to see why the Lakers were interested in his skillset.
Elsewhere, rookie second-rounder Max Christie (8 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists) does not quite look strong enough for NBA-level minutes yet, but he competes hard on defense and has a sense for spacing and angles on offense, which is enough at this level. Lakers two-way player Scotty Pippen Jr. showed some solid rim-attacking and passing chops, and his fellow two-wayer Cole Swider is a legit sniper by Summer League standards.
Lakers two-way players first two games
13 pts, 6 rebs, 3-5 3PT, 19 mins
16 pts, 3 rebs, 5-8 3PT, 20 mins
Scotty Pippen Jr:
14 pts, 3 asts, 3-9 FG, 25 mins
15 pts, 8 asts, 4-7 FG, 20 mins
— pickuphoop (@pickuphoop) July 4, 2022
Somewhere, Matt Thomas is smiling as he watches Swider set nets ablaze.
Now, are any of these guys ready to contribute in the NBA yet? I’m not gonna pretend I know. Based on history, probably not. But this squad does appear talented and competitive enough to challenge for the championship in Las Vegas, and after a season that didn’t feature much of either of those two qualities, that’s good enough for a fun little diversion from free agency in July.
The Summer Lakers will now get a break until Tuesday, when they’ll finish out the California Classic with one final game against the Sacramento Kings.
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