The Summer League Los Angeles Lakers wrapped up play in Las Vegas on Saturday with a 95-84 win over the Dallas Mavericks. Their ride consisted of three phases. First, the California Classic in San Francisco, featuring Phil Handy, Mac McClung, and two blowout wins. Then, the early desert days, when the team, led by Lakers assistant Jordan Ott, struggled (1-2) as Jay Huff sat in health and safety protocols. The group finished on a three-game win streak.
With Summer League in the books, the only thing left to do is … overreact, of course! Here are five franchise-defining takeaways. (Note: stats include California Classic.)
Lakers 2022 NBA Summer League Overreactions
5) Cole Swider is the greatest shooter who hath ever lived
Cole Swider was the lone prospect whom the Lakers, in need of big wings and shooting, brought in for two pre-draft workouts. So, it was not a total surprise when Los Angeles signed the 6'9 undrafted forward to a two-way contract.
“He is a bona fide shooter,” Phil Handy said. ”When you got size like that and you come into the league and shoot? He’s definitely got a spot in the NBA.”
Swider validated the organization's hunches. The 23-year-old drilled 28-of-53 (53%) of his triples, of all genres — contested, deep, on-the-move, whatever.
Every Cole Swider 3-pointer from Summer League 💰💰💰 pic.twitter.com/OQx1eBEyVp
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) July 17, 2022
Swider affirmed the praise of Rob Pelinka, who eyed Swider for his ability to shoot on the run. Swider credits his high school coach, Jay Wright, and Jim Boeheim for running systems that required him to make off-ball movement a focal point of his game.
I asked Lakers’ Cole Swider about how he became an elite movement shooter. He credited his HS coach and the systems at Villanova and Syracuse. He cited Duncan Robinson and Joe Harris as NBA influences.
(He also said he was a better shooter than Buddy Boeheim, unsurprisingly.) pic.twitter.com/NhNodvaIn9
— Michael Corvo (@michaelcorvoNBA) July 11, 2022
Cole Swider gets a shot to tie it up with a 4 point play!
Tune into the final minutes of Hornets-Lakers on @NBATV! pic.twitter.com/z1LqITtz9K
— NBA (@NBA) July 11, 2022
“You can never have too many shooters, first and foremost,” Darvin Ham told reporters in Vegas, about the Lakers' plans to fill out the roster. “But we’re just looking for the best possible basketball players that we can put a Laker jersey on.”
Swider has miles to go with his defense, playmaking, and finishing — they may never become major aspects of his NBA contributions. But, his sniping renders him the likeliest candidate to crack the Lakers' rotation in 2022-23.
4) Jay Huff was the most valuable player
Keegan Murray was officially named Most Valuable Player of Summer League. But Jay Huff was the real MVP.
The Lakers simply weren't the same ballclub without Huff, who made four appearances in the Show last season on a two-way deal.
In two games at the Classic — which Los Angeles took by a combined 57 points — Huff dominated the paint on defense while sinking 3-pointers and attacking the rim with gusto (he effectively uses up-fakes to lunge by defenders), posting 28 points and five blocks. He then delivered a perect elevator pitch for a place in the modern NBA when describing his game: “I shoot 3s, I catch lobs, and I block shots.”
Jay Huff is too good for the California Classicpic.twitter.com/OWKFjXHpK0
— Michael Corvo (@michaelcorvoNBA) July 2, 2022
7-footer with the pump-fake, pass-fake and finish 😳 pic.twitter.com/Ka4rMYYTiP
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) July 16, 2022
The Lakers dropped three of four after Huff entered protocols (they also lost McClung, who played for the Golden State Warriors in Vegas). In two outings upon clearance, Huff totaled 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting and seven rejections. Overall, the Lakers went 4-0 with Huff in the lineup.
A seven-footer with the euro step!#LakersSummer pic.twitter.com/XX90VMuBcW
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) July 17, 2022
Huff's chances to contribute in Los Angeles next season diminished when fellow stretch 5 Thomas Bryant was brought aboard, following the signing of rim-running/protecting (and possibly stretch 5) Damian Jones. Huff's lack of footspeed will be a weakness against pick-and-roll. Yet, he looks like an NBA center.
3) Max Christie isn't ready (yet)
The decision by the Lakers — ostensibly operating on LeBron James' timeline — to select 19-year-old Max Christie after one choppy campaign at Michigan State caught some by surprise. Based on Summer League, Christie — on a two-year deal — isn't ready to hang against NBA competition (Austin Reaves, by contrast, displayed an innate feel in 2021 SL).
Continuing a mystifying trend from East Lansing, Christie's smooth stroke failed to produce buckets. He shot 5-of-25 (20%) from 3 and 18-of-66 (27%) from the field.
Max Christie is only 3-of-18 from 3 this summer (including the California Classic), but he hit 2 big ones in the Lakers' first win in Vegas: a buzzer-beater to end the 1st half, and a triple to put LA up 7 with 1:41 left.
Lakers beat Clips, 83-72. Mason Jones had 15/10/4.
— Michael Corvo (@michaelcorvoNBA) July 13, 2022
On the plus side, his floater game (which he relies on too much because it's good), disruptive defense — on and off ball — and athleticism were enticing. He generates chaos in passing lanes (and vice versa, with his cutting) with his agility, spatial awareness, and reflexive hands. His lateral quickness is outstanding,
How about this freaking tag by Max Christie to break up an oop!?!! pic.twitter.com/rOByEXVS3r
— Cranjis McBasketball (@Tim_NBA) July 17, 2022
Christie's physique needs bolstering. but his knack for rebounding (seven per game) was eye-opening — a manifestation of his elite court instincts.
I asked Lakers rookie Max Christie about his impressive rebounding through 4 summer games pic.twitter.com/jxXg9bDeoQ
— Michael Corvo (@michaelcorvoNBA) July 9, 2022
2) Scotty Pippen Jr. can be a difference-making playmaker
I'm sure plenty of Lakers fans tuning into Summer League salivated over Scotty Pippen Jr.'s dishing, downhill attacking, and relentless verve. To borrow a corny slogan from my (hopeless) favorite football team, the 6'1, 21-year-old is All Gas, No Brake. For each possession Pippen speedily slithers (or pinballs) through traffic, another ends in disaster (Pippen led the SEC in scoring in 2021-22, largely thanks to paint attacking). Across eight games in purple-and-gold, Pippen averaged 11.6 points (33% FG, 21% from 3), 4.6 assists, and 2.8 turnovers.
There's plenty of sloppiness to clean up and polishing to be done, but Pippen — who carries himself with confidence as if he has always been ready for this moment — seems determined and athletic enough to make an impact on the next level. The question is: how soon?
Scottie Pippen ( @spippenjr ) is very impressive for the lakers 😳🔥 15 points 8 assists 3 steals in 19 Min. Lakers got a crazy steal with him 🗣 @JordanRichardSC pic.twitter.com/9QhQPdtUPN
— Swish Cultures (@swishcultures_) July 4, 2022
The Lakers' scouting department, run by these fellows, has steadily developed perimeter prospects, recently evidenced by Reaves' immediate usefulness and McClung's G League Rookie of the Year honors. Perhaps the organization can mine similar results from Pippen, also on a two-way deal.
In general, the franchise's developmental success is the primary reason to feel optimistic about Christie, Swider, and Pippen Jr.'s chances to become relevant Lakers sooner rather than later.
1) LeBron James and Russell Westbrook are no longer operating as teammates
When the Lakers made their Vegas debut, it was LeBron who owned the Thomas & Mack Center from the sidelines. Sitting courtside, James interacted with a stream of NBA figures, including every one of his teammates in the building — except the second-most famous person in the gym.
One week later, superstar drama again dominated the discourse while the Lakers were in action. Westbrook split with his longtime agent, who released a shockingly blunt statement implying his former client wants out of Los Angeles — seemingly prompting subtweets from the Klutch team.
Facts!!! 🥶 a$$ game brother! 🤦🏾♂️ https://t.co/3x1DOKfxKw
— LeBron James (@KingJames) July 16, 2022
Minutes later, we learned LeBron (and, it was rumored, Kyrie Irving) would play in Saturday's Drew League action alongside DeMar DeRozan — the Los Angeles native whom he pursued before Russ. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reported that current Lakers remain hopeful for an Irving trade.
My dog Debo!!! @DeMar_DeRozan ✊🏾 pic.twitter.com/Gc4P34GmUn
— LeBron James (@KingJames) July 17, 2022
To these developments, we can reasonably overreact.
Other Summer League tidbits:
- Javante McCoy has an exciting bag. He can score in isolation with dizzying and decisive dribble moves. The 6'5 2-guard has an Exhibit 10 deal; he could be a fun wrinkle in camp.
- Shareef O'Neal is explosive but extremely raw.
- Mason Jones is the most emotive player I've ever seen. “Mason Jones is an enthusiastic basketball player,” JJ Redick said facetiously on the call after he loudly celebrated an assist. Can't knock the passion.
- Nate Pierre-Louis unofficially led Summer League in hustle points. Dude was everywhere.
- McClung could still have a future with the Lakers. Los Angeles essentially loaned him to Golden State (he posted 13.4 points and 4.8 dimes) but still own his rights should he go unsigned before training camp.
The next Lakers basketball game — not counting Drew cameos — will come on Oct. 3, when preseason tips off. I'm sure nothing will happen before then.