Kyle Kuzma

Lakers Notes: Ball, Kuzma, Blue, Bogut

Lonzo Ball‘s NBA debut brought an electric atmosphere to Saturday’s preseason opener, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. The second overall pick had a rough shooting night, going 2 for 9 from the field and finishing with five points, but he contributed eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals and showed a sell-out crowd his triple-double potential. “He is so unselfish that sometimes he has good shots for himself and he tries to get someone else a shot,” said Lakers coach Luke Walton. “We want him taking those. We are looking for him to be a little more aggressive to score the ball, especially early on. I thought he was great the way he was moving around out there and getting people involved.”

There’s more news out of Los Angeles:

  • Fellow first-rounder Kyle Kuzma had no shooting problems, sinking 9 of 12 shots and scoring 19 points. The 27th pick out of Utah sparked the Lakers’ offense in the third quarter with four buckets in 91 seconds and showed the same explosiveness he displayed during summer league. “It’s not so much 100 miles per hour like you’d think it is,” Kuzma told Joey Ramirez of about the adjustment to the pro game. “It’s really pace, stop and go — I definitely learned a lot out there just in that one game.”
  • Reigning G League MVP Vander Blue is trying to use every advantage as he competes for a roster spot, Ramirez writes in a separate story. Blue has been showing up to practice three hours early each day and scouted all his potential teammates on video before camp began. Blue has been a productive G League player over the past three years, but has just five NBA games on his resume since leaving Marquette in 2013.
  • Andrew Bogut has resolved his visa issues and is ready to join the Lakers, the veteran center tweeted. Bogut agreed to a one-year, minimum-salary deal with L.A. in mid-September but hasn’t been able to come to the United States because of the visa problem. Bogut is eager to prove that he is fully recovered from a fractured tibia that ended his season in March.

And-Ones: Rookies, All-Stars, Breakouts

A number rookies appear poised to outperform their draft slot, Mike Schmitz of ESPN Insider writes, including one Dennis Smith Jr. whose impressive summer league performance and prime situation with the Mavs have already been discussed ad nauseam.

The scribe makes compelling cases for five other breakout candidates, however, ranging from Jazz lottery pick Donovan Mitchell to the LakersKyle Kuzma, selected 27th overall. Schmitz cites Mitchell’s length and defensive ability, arguing that the wing will work his way into Utah’s still-relevant rotation.

Schmitz also speculates that Justin Jackson will thrive with the Kings considering that he’s a poised perimeter option that doesn’t need the ball in his hands on offense.

Although the profiles are hidden behind Insider’s paywall, they discuss the upside and various situation’s that these first-year players find themselves. In addition to the abovementioned, John Collins of the Hawks and Nets big man Jarrett Allen are also featured.

There’s more from throughout the NBA:

  • In a comprehensive account of Darko Milicic‘s life after basketball, ESPN’s Sam Borden revealed that Milicic had made up his mind about never playing in the NBA again when he left the Celtics. It was said, at the time, that he was returning to be with his ailing mother.
  • It may be early to speculate about the 2018 NBA All-Star Game but that didn’t stop A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England from stringing together a potential squad. Familiar faces make up the starting lineup but new additions Jimmy Butler and Paul George make the case for qualifying as a reserve ever more difficult for the players in the conference.
  • With a new season comes new opportunity and David Yapkowitz of Basketball Insiders has pieced together a summary of Pacific Division players that he thinks may be able to take the next step in 2017/18.

Lakers Sign Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart

3:14pm: The Lakers have officially signed Ball and have also announced the signings of their other two first-round picks, Kyle Kuzma (No. 27) and Josh Hart (No. 30). Kuzma’s four-year deal will be worth about $8.65MM, while Hart’s will be worth approximately $8.475MM.

9:40am: The Lakers will formally sign second overall pick Lonzo Ball to his first NBA contract today, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical (Twitter link). Like other rookie deals for first-round picks, Ball’s pact will feature two guaranteed years followed by two team options.

As our chart for this year’s rookie scale shows, Ball is in line to make about $6.287MM in his rookie season. Assuming he plays out his full four-year deal, he’ll earn more than $33MM over the life of the contract. The UCLA product will be eligible for an extension in 2020, and would otherwise reach restricted free agency in 2021.

In past years, teams have been patient when it comes to signing first-round picks, since cap holds for those draftees counted for 100% of their rookie scale figure, despite the fact that virtually every player signed for 120% of the rookie scale. The league’s new CBA adjusted those cap holds to count for 120% of the rookie scale figure, so there’s now little incentive for teams to wait.

Jayson Tatum (Celtics), Jonathan Isaac (Magic), Malik Monk (Hornets), Luke Kennard (Pistons), and Bam Adebayo (Heat) are among the other first-rounders who have already officially signed contracts with their new teams.

Lakers Acquire Brook Lopez For Russell, Mozgov

JUNE 22: The trade is finally official, the NBA announced tonight during the draft. The Lakers used their newly-acquired 27th overall pick on Kyle Kuzma.

JUNE 20: The Lakers and Nets have reached an agreement on a trade that will send Brook Lopez to Los Angeles, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical (Twitter link). Wojnarowski reports that the Lakers will also receive the No. 27 pick in this week’s draft, and will send D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Nets.BrookLopez vertical

This deal is a fascinating one on several levels. For the Lakers, they manage to cut long-term costs by getting out from under Mozgov’s contract, which still has three years and $48MM left on it. In Lopez, the Lakers will acquire a more productive player on the court, and one whose deal expires at the end of the 2017/18 season, setting the franchise up to create an extra chunk of cap room when LeBron James, Paul George, and other stars reach free agency.

In addition to picking up Lopez, the Lakers will also get a third first-round pick in this Thursday’s draft. The team now holds the second, 27th, and 28th overall selections, and with Russell no longer in the fold, it appears more certain than ever that Los Angeles has its eye on Lonzo Ball with that No. 2 overall pick.

Meanwhile, the Nets will finally bring years of Lopez trade speculation to an end, sending him to Los Angeles with one year remaining on his contract. In exchange for Lopez, a first-round pick, and their willingness to assume Mozgov’s huge contract, the Nets will land their point guard of the future in Russell, the second overall pick from the 2015 draft. The team also hangs onto its second 2017 first-round pick (No. 22).

Russell, who is still just 21 years old, has faced scrutiny about his work ethic and his drive, but his talent is undeniable. In 63 games last season for the Lakers, the young point guard averaged 15.6 PPG, 4.8 APG, 3.5 RPG, and 1.4 SPG in a modest 28.7 minutes per contest. He has also developed into a reliable three-point threat, averaging 2.1 threes per game at a rate of 35.2%. He’ll be under contract for at least two more years, becoming extension-eligible in 2018 and RFA-eligible in 2019.

With Russell and Jeremy Lin now in the mix, the Nets are unlikely to be in the market for a point guard this summer, which means another potential suitor is off the board for top free agents at the position seeking a payday. Brooklyn had been viewed as a potential player for George Hill, among other free agent point guards.

Finally, the Celtics will be watching the outcome of this trade with a close eye, since Boston may end up with both the Nets’ and Lakers’ first-round picks in the 2018 NBA draft. With the draft and free agency still to play out, it’s hard to tell at this point whether either team will improve significantly in 2017/18, but Lopez was the Nets’ most productive player last season, so this isn’t exactly a win-now move for Brooklyn — that bodes well for the C’s.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Notes: Smith Jr., Collins, Leaf, Sixers

The Lakers have a short list of players they’re said to be targeting with the No. 2 pick in this year’s NBA Draft but they opted to bring North Carolina State guard Dennis Smith Jr. for a workout just in case they trade down, Mark Medina of the Orange County Register writes.

Smith Jr., a possible top-10 pick, participated in a group workout this weekend with a series of other draft hopefuls, including Syracuse’s Tyler Lydon. The guard impressed in the audition, his talent a cut above the rest.

Smith Jr. was sure to do his homework prior to his day with the Lakers and thinks that he can fill a void.

I checked one of the stats and they’re bottom 10 in almost everything relative to pick-and-roll scoring,” he said. “I think I can contribute to that.

There are more draft notes from around the league:

  • While he may not be around when the Jazz pick 24th in this month’s draft, TJ Leaf believes he would be a good fit with the franchise, Jody Genessy of the Deseret News writes. “Obviously draft number’s a big deal as well, but if I drop a couple of places and go to a team with a perfect fit, that’s who we want,” Leaf said after a recent workout in Utah. “We see a team like this — great coach, great system — and I think I’d fit well here, so that’s why I scheduled this one.
  • After an unexpectedly dominant first season at Gonzaga, Zach Collins is a potential one-and-done lottery pick. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee recently profiled the sharp-shooting big man, offering him up as a legitimate option for when the Kings pick at No. 10.
  • The Sixers will bring in Kyle Kuzma of Utah and Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame for workouts tomorrow, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Kuzma is projected as a late first-round pick by, while Blossomgame is expected to drop into the second round. Billy Garrett (DePaul), Jalen Moore (Utah State), V.J. Beachem (Notre Dame), and Dominique Hawkins (Kentucky) will also audition for Philadelphia.

Draft Notes: Ball, Lakers, Pre-Draft Workouts

There has been much innuendo and rumor in recent weeks that Lonzo Ball would not necessarily be taken by the Lakers with their second overall pick. Still, a majority of executives at the adidas EuroCamp expect the Lakers to draft Ball second, reports Scott Howard-Cooper of (link via Twitter). Howard goes on to state that these executives believe that the purple and gold like De’Aaron Fox and Josh Jackson, but still lean towards Ball.

Check out the latest news in pre-draft workouts here:

Southeast Notes: Hayward, Hornets, Hawks, Workouts

The Heat have the flexibility to sign Gordon Hayward and create room for another top-level free agent, according to Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. A report Friday said the Jazz consider Miami a legitimate threat to sign the free agent forward, who is coming off the best season of his career. In response to a reader’s question, Winderman notes that the Heat can give $30MM to Hayward and open up another $23MM or so by trading Tyler Johnson, Josh McRoberts and Justise Winslow. However, he cautions that the team tried to find a taker for McRoberts’ contract last summer, and that was before he missed more than half a season with injuries. If Miami were able to pull off such a scenario, it would be in the range for players such as Serge Ibaka, Paul Millsap or the combination of Zach Randolph and a re-signed Dion Waiters.

There’s more this morning out of the Southeast Division:

  • The Hornets have limited resources to work with as they try to improve on this year’s 36-46 record, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. With six players who have salaries topping $12MM, Charlotte is already over the salary cap for next season, leaving GM Rich Cho with little to offer prospective free agents. The team will have its mid-level exception [worth about $8.4MM] and its bi-annual exception [about $3.3MM], but neither will be enough to add a difference maker. The Hornets own both of their picks at 11 and 41, but the team’s draft record has been mixed in recent years. Trade assets are limited, with only Kemba Walker able to bring a significant return. Bonnell cites depth, defense and closing out games as areas in which Charlotte needs to improve.
  • Duke’s Amile Jefferson is among six players who will work out for the Hornets today, Bonnell relays in a separate story. He will be joined by Antonio Blakeney of LSU; Torian Graham of Arizona State; Kyle Kuzma of Utah; Derrick Walton of Michigan; and Nigel Williams-Goss of Gonzaga. Several more workouts are planned for next week.
  • Kuzma held a second pre-draft workout for the Hawks on Thursday, tweets Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal Constitution. Joining him at that session were Dwayne Bacon of Florida State, Nigel Hayes of Wisconsin and Nik Slavica of Croatia.

Western Notes: Warriors, Lakers, Mavs, Spurs

In the wake of the Warriors‘ Game 3 win over the Cavaliers, Cleveland may have to face the harsh reality that there will be no stopping Golden State for the next few years, writes Chris Mannix of The Vertical. As Mannix explains, there aren’t many obvious routes the Cavs can take to upgrade their roster, and the Warriors should have no trouble attracting ring-chasing veterans every year — this season, productive vets like David West and Zaza Pachulia were willing to take reduced salaries to join the Dubs.

Meanwhile, fans of rival teams may hope that the Warriors’ four core players get too expensive for the team to keep them all, but that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. Klay Thompson has been the star most frequently cited as the potential victim of a Warriors cap crunch, and acknowledged to Mannix that he has thought about one day being the face of another franchise. However, he added: “It’s just winning is so much fun.”

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

Pacific Notes: J. Jackson, Isaac, Tatum, Thompson

The Suns potentially have a difficult decision to make when they find themselves on the clock with the fourth overall pick, writes Doug Haller of AZCentral Sports. Three talented freshman small forwards could be available: Josh Jackson, Jonathan Isaac, and Jayson Tatum. Defense and three-point shooting are likely the Suns’ two most glaring weaknesses, and one of these athletes could certainly help.

Haller writes that Jackson’s real impact could come defensively. The scribe adds that, while Tatum is nowhere near the defender that Jackson is, the Duke freshman may be the most polished scorer in the draft. As for Isaac, he can play both forward positions, with many believing that he will also be able to man the center position when his body fills out. Furthermore, the departing Seminole would contribute defensive versatility, having defended all over the floor for Florida State.

Here are some more pertinent notes from the Pacific division:

Draft Notes: Knicks, J. Jackson, Suns, Lakers

There are a number of potential player/team matches in the top 10 of this year’s draft that might make sense on paper, but should be avoided in reality, according to the staff at The Ringer. Danny Chau identifies De’Aaron Fox as a less than ideal fit for the Sixers, while Jonathan Tjarks makes the case for why the Knicks should steer clear of Dennis Smith Jr.

Other picks to be avoided, in the views of The Ringer’s NBA writers? The Mavericks and Lauri Markkanen; the Kings and Jayson Tatum; and the Magic and Jonathan Isaac.

Here are a few more draft-related items from around the basketball world:

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