The NBA’s Summer League in Las Vegas provides a terrific opportunity for young – or unheralded – players to show their skills to a captive audience of league executives, who are certainly paying close attention.
To get a better idea of what the players composing L.A.’s roster have showed thus far, we spent some time with Clay Moser, the team’s head advanced pro scout and an assistant coach on the summer league staff.
During the NBA season, it’s Moser’s job to travel ahead of the team and evaluate both individual players and opponent schemes, so this task was right up his alley. Below is a transcript of our conversation about the 14 players wearing purple and gold in Vegas:
CHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: Chris is a guy that’s certainly had some outstanding performances at the NBA level, and a nice year in the D-League last year. He’s been really good for us here despite hurting his ankle in our first game, and I know that bothered him in the second game. He bounced back and played really well in our third game. We’ve talked to him about trying to be a leader, body language and interaction with referees and that sort of thing because his playing ability speaks for itself, and he’s made a real, concerted effort. He’s been really good. He does a lot of things really well but nothing particularly great. He’s a decent three-point shooter and a good mid-range player but not a great shooter or mid-range player. He’s a willing defender, but not a great defender. Everybody liked him last year in (Lakers) training camp.
ELIAS HARRIS:: He’s a really nice young player with great size, good athleticism that we think can play at least three positions in the NBA. He shoots the ball better than what he’s shown here in Las Vegas, and he can also get to the basket. We’d like to see him rebound with a little more tenacity. But he’s a nice kid, takes coaching and certainly is deserving of a camp invite in the fall whether it’s from us – and I can’t speak to that* – or someone else.
*Moser noted that Mitch Kupchak and his front office staff will make all of those decisions, and that he’s simply saying Harris and other players on the roster have the talent to get camp invites from an NBA team.
LAZAR HAYWARD: I put him in the category of a game changer from this perspective: he’s a non-traditional type of player, and when he comes in he’s a whirlwind of activity. Sometimes that goes in your facor, and sometimes his over-aggressiveness, over-pursuit of the ball, over-helping can hurt you and sometimes it can help you. In this particular setting, it’s helped us tremendously. He’s been great, he’s fun to be around and very coachable. He turned our second game against Portland in the second quarter almost single-handedly with steals and deflections, and then he made some shots on top of it. He has been on NBA rosters and is another guy who will likely be in training camp with somebody.
LESTER HUDSON: He’s played really well, and has shot the ball well in the second two games as our starting point guard despite a slow shooting start in our opener. He makes the defense pay if they make a mistake, and is a willing defender. Lester’s an extraordinarily strong human being, just built like a brick house. He doesn’t have the greatest quickness in the world for his position, but he’s been on an NBA roster and has had solid D-League time; expect to see him in a camp somewhere.
TRAVIS HYMAN: Travis didn’t get in the third game, but had an outstanding camp before we came to Vegas. We feel bad for Travis because he has not played as well as his camp indicated he would. He’s an excellent passer with a terrific low-post game who can shoot the ball with either hand, block a few shots and rebound. We’re disappointed he has not played like he did in camp, because he was terrific.
MARCUS LANDRY: He’s leading us in scoring, and that without shooting a terrific percentage from three even though that’s what he does best. We actually don’t know what position he plays. Nobody does. For us, he’s really played anywhere from a 3 to a 5. Mike and Dan had him in New York with the Knicks and I had the very distinct pleasure of coaching him in the D-League for 50 games with Reno three seasons ago, and we played him at all five positions. His best position is probably the four, even though size wise that’s a tough place for him. But he can defend most 4′s because he’s very strong, and he’ll make extraordinary basketball plays. He’s just a winner, in my opinion. He’s a great kid. We think he’ll be in a camp somewhere, as well. He’s been way too good here for that not to happen. He needs an exact fit, I think, but is a good enough basketball player to be (at the NBA level).
ROBERT SACRE: Robert is a work in progress. He is a worker who accepts coaching and tries very, very hard. We’d like to see him increase the tempo at which he plays the game so that it catches up with the NBA style of play. But he certainly keeps himself in good shape, his body fat is extremely low, and he plugs away at it every day. I’m not sure you’ll see improvement by leaps and bounds, but rather in baby steps day to day. But at his size, you can afford to make a long-term commitment to him. It’s the old adage in basketball that bigger guys take longer to develop than small guys and I think Robert fits into that mold. He’s a great kid, very coachable.
D.J. SEELEY: He’s another guy we’re a little surprised he hasn’t played better since he’s gotten here, because he had a great camp … but he has had a hard time getting the ball to go in the basket in Vegas. He’s really a combo guard who, size wise, would be best served to make the transition to the one, so that’s an adjustment for (a ton of players). It’s not the ideal spot because we have other guys on this roster that are in between the one and two. He’s a better player than what he’s shown, but he is a guy who’s going to make a living playing basketball somewhere for as long as he feels like doing it.
JOSH SELBY: Obviously a big-time recruit that went to Kansas and has not yet found his rhythm at the NBA level. He’s extremely talented, unbelievable with the ball in terms of probing the defense; he has a real nice rhythm and knack to the way he does things. But he has also not gotten untracked here. He’s not shot it well, but particularly in the first two games, we did feel he actually played well but it didn’t look like it on the box score. In terms of how he ran the team and defended, the things that don’t show up, we felt like he did well. Talent wise, he belongs in somebody’s camp in September.
MICHAEL SNAER: He plays with a real intensity, and he plays at NBA speed right now. He has that kind of athleticism, he runs the floor, he’ll attack the basket and is a decent shooter that will get better and better as time goes on. He’s very coachable and has gotten better since he got here, and is a guy that will get in and rebound for his position. He’s another guy I can’t see not being in camp in September.
DREW VINEY: I think his place in domestic pro basketball would be as a sniper, a poor man’s Steve Novak, if there can be a poor man’s Steve Novak. We feel he’d need to be a guy that plays with no conscience, and if he misses his previous five shots he thinks the next 15 will go in. He needs to get rid of the ball quickly, just let it fly. He’s improved as a defender since we’ve had him in training camp and in the little bit of time he’s gotten at summer league has adapted to the physicality of the game better than he did in on day one. Nice kid.
MITCHELL WATT: Mitchell is a really good athlete who runs the floor, has nice size and is probably a true power forward. Another guy that played much better in camp than he has here for whatever reason. He started our first game but hasn’t been quite able to get it rolling. However, he’s another guy who can play ball for money somewhere in the world. He’s another great kid who’s easy to be around.
JORDAN WILLIAMS: He hasn’t gotten a lot of time since we’ve been here, but we also know that he had a fairly significant double-double playing for the Nets at one point. He’s capable and gets to the glass well, but in my opinion, he needs to develop something signature about his game that sticks. At this moment, I’m not sure he possesses that. He’s a good all-around player and great kid.
RENALDO WOOLRIDGE: Great, great athlete. Probably the best pure athlete we have on the team, but he’s going to need some time to grow in the professional game. He has a typical small forward body in the NBA, but needs some time to learn the X’s and O’s, defensive rotations and positioning, and things along those lines to get to the next level.