The Fringe Lakers

Special thanks to Travis J. Rodgers for submitting his take to the Lakers Nation and giving us the rights to post it on the blog. Once again, if you have your own take and want to see it on TLN, feel free to e-mail it to us at Articles@theLakersNation.com.

Coby Karl, Joe Crawford, D.J. Mbenga, Dwayne Mitchell, Sun Yue. What do these players have in common? They have a good chance of being on the L.A. Lakers when the season starts. Well, a better chance than I have of being on the team at least. Then again, none of them are a sure thing. So who has the best chance of making the team, what roles might they see, and what does it all mean for the Lakers?

Coby Karl – “George’s Son” is a 6′5 204 pound Shooting Guard who played in 17 games for the Lakers last season, doing little other than hitting 80% of his Free Throws. He was then given ample opportunity to shine for LA’s Summer League team. The results: we saw that Karl is a gunner who takes stupid shots and gets killed on defense. Of course he didn’t have Bynum backing him up, but Karl’s performance was disappointing to say the least.

  • Strengths: A sweet shot as long as he’s not thirty-five feet from the basket as he seemed to be every time he jacked up a three during the Summer League. Lots of heart.
  • Weaknesses: So-so athleticism, poor decision-making, a bit green, game seems too fast for him right now.
  • Outlook: Karl has the shooting ability to make a team in the NBA at present. Once there it would be a question of how long the team could stand his shortcomings. Even if his game is dissimilar to Luke Walton’s, he has the impact of a poor man’s Luke Walton (or maybe Walton last season). Not enough athleticism on defense, not enough skill on the offensive end. But while Walton has a decent post game, Karl has that jumper.
  • Verdict: He will make the team because everyone is in love with him and who doesn’t love another “cerebral” (read: unathletic) player for the triangle? I’m just not convinced that he deserves it.

Joe Crawford – “The Referee” is a 6′5, 207 pound Shooting Guard. He was the Lakers’ sole selection in the 2008 Draft and looked good on their Summer League team. He showed an ability and willingness to attack relentlessly. With that skill seriously lacking outside Kobe (and Farmar and Ariza to a limited degree), Crawford may find himself a nice niche. He has an athletic build, good speed, good leaping skills. He worked hard on defense and seems to know his weaknesses. Seeing how he addresses the weaknesses through his rookie season will be key.

  • Strengths: Athleticism, aggressive mindset, defensive tools.
  • Weaknesses: Not a good shooter from three, only so-so ball-handling and passing skills.
  • Outlook: Crawford should go immediately to the Developmental League or maybe immediately after a week of hanging out with the team and becoming comfortable with an NBA lifestyle. He needs to play the game to work on his shortcomings, but he projects to a top of the bench player who could thrive in the role of attacker off the pine.
  • Verdict: He will make the team and play very little as a rookie.

D.J. Mbenga – The 7′, 255 pounder has not been offered a contract as far as I’ve heard. This is surprising because LA is light on bigs and Mbenga played well for the Lakers in spot duty last season. A solid shotblocker with good to great raw athletic power, Mbenga cannot shoot, but he does the dirty work.

  • Strengths: I cannot think of many more athletic seven footers in the NBA. I’m not saying there are none, but Mbenga is incredibly fit, agile, and active. Really fit in as a high energy player last season.
  • Weaknesses: Plays away from the basket too much so he does not rebound well. Little to no game outside eight feet or so.
  • Outlook: Chris Mihm, the current backup Center, has had serious injury issues. Vlad Radmanovic, probably the current backup Power Forward, is not a good fit against physical players. Someone like Mbenga is needed to match up for five to ten minutes per game against the bruisers. He can outhustle people and make them work because of his athleticism.
  • Verdict: I think he makes the team, and I am shocked he hasn’t yet received a contract (or maybe he has and no one knows it).

Dwayne Mitchell – 6′5, 210 pounds, and carved from granite, Mitchell wins the best physique contest until Bynum unveils his new buff bod, I guess. After posting Josh Smith-esque numbers at Louisiana-Lafayette, Mitchell has played internationally and in the Developmental League. He began dominating the DLeague last season, posting great scoring and rebounding numbers. He played incredibly well for LA’s Summer League team. In my opinion, he was the best player on the team. He is a slasher, but although he cannot hit his Free Throws, he can probably get to the line better from the arc than anyone on this team except Kobe.

  • Strengths: Incredible athlete, incredibly strong, great attacker, picture perfect defensive tools, very good rebounder.
  • Weaknesses: Poor ball handler, suspect jumper, poor FT shooter, doesn’t move his feet enough on defense.
  • Outlook: If Mitchell makes the team, I would be giddy at the thought of him and Ariza holding down the 2 and 3 spots on the second team for defensive purposes. He needs to ride his athleticism and passion to impress by defensive work, attacking, and rebounding throughout training camp. If he does this, he’s a Laker. As many will point out, however, there are reasons he has not been in the NBA (one of those was an apparently misdiagnosed heart condition that kept him from being drafted).
  • Verdict: Mitchell is best suited for playing the SG or SF spot, but the Lakers are so stacked there, his natural position counts against him. That said, defense and attacking are two skills in short supply on this team. He is a coinflip away from being off the team, it seems.

Sun Yue – The 6′9, 220 pounder from China, dubbed “The Chinese Magic,” has reportedly agreed to a two year contract with the Lakers. He has played very little for his national team, but some point to a broadly political source for that fact. He probably cannot play full time Point Guard in the NBA (lack of lateral speed) so he may find himself playing Small Forward (but there strength is a concern). So really Yue could play any of the 1, 2, or 3 spots for the Lakers. He has a decent shot, seems to hustle a ton, and has the height that makes him an intriguing Guard prospect.

  • Strengths: Aggressive, tall for his position, fast in straight lines, good handles and maybe great passing regardless of position.
  • Weaknesses: Lack of bulk and strength are concerns. Athleticism seems decent but little more. Not a great shooter.
  • Outlook: The signing of Yue says nothing necessarily about the Lakers’ plans for this coming season. Yue is going to get a lot of exposure during the Olympics so offering a two year contract ensures that the Lakers will not watch Yue bolt for money elsewhere. He may ride the pine or go to the DLeague. He may surprise us all and play a bit. He projects to an interesting player in the mold of what Sasha Vujacic was supposed to be: a really tall player who can handle the ball and pass incredibly well. If he develops a three-point stroke like Sasha, defense would be gravy.
  • Verdict: He will be on the team and wearing purple and gold at some point in the next two years.
Jaime is the co-owner and Operating Director for LakerNation.com from Alhambra, CA. He's help create the official websites for Kevin Durant and Goodwin Sports. Currently, he's the Online Producer for FOX Sports Radio and AM570 KLAC.
  • jamaicans-for-KOBE

    i watched Sun Yue in the game against USA and other clips of him..the kid has some skill..he is a better ball handler than Farmar and the kid is an amazing passer, with time and confidence, he will be a great point guard for LA….he just needs to work on his outside shot..mid-rage he is good…

    saw the way he blocked Howard?? and he did the same thing to Melo a few years ago…haha

  • BringDFishBack

    This article couldn’t be more biased. What do you have against Coby Karl? I am not on who wants to see him play ever night, although when the Lakers are struggling to score I think they should use him as a shooter. But saying he’s unathletic? Are you kidding me? Must not have seen all or even most Lakers games last year. A couple times when he say time at the end of the game he had some huge dunks, I had no idea he was so athletic before I saw that. Check this out, and then tell me he’s unathletic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRRNHs3g9e4

    You also fail to mention he has a great shot (PJ says he’s the best pure shooter on the team). And how can any shot in garbage time be a bad shot? I’m nearly certin he only played once that wasn’t garbage time.

    Also, the Lakers already have 13 players (including Yue & Karl) under contract, althought they can terminate Karl’s if they wish (although you say he will make the team). Yet you say that Mbenga, Crawford, and Mitchell will all make the team. That would be 16, and they can only have 15.

  • Fantastic5LAL

    If he gets that jumper down, and continues to progress on his right hand, he’ll make it in the NBA

    He’s a great drive and dish player and usually finds the open man

  • Fantastic5LAL

    Sun Yue ^

  • JC

    That was a sick dunk in that Coby Carl YouTube clip… ;)

  • DCLAKER

    Sun Yue is gonna surprise a lot of non-believers.I just like the fact that he’s not scared to put his body on the line even if means getting dunked on,now that’s what I call “heart”.

  • orlando

    let’s give him a chance,sun yue just breathing is a improvement to vlad”space cadet” and luke ” jackson’s bitch”.

  • Moses

    I’d like to see Mbenga back in the team just because he is a greta guy to have in the team, u know he’ll give his all and just be a great team player and do whatever is asked of him.

    He may not be the most gifted but he has a lot of heart and works hard, and for him to have made it to the NBA us pretty remarkable, i like him man and hope he stays.

    Mitchell and Crawford seem like good athletes, Karl is a decent shooter, who knows out of them, and think Sun will make it just for the marketing angle, a chinese player on the lakers will be good fos business.

  • DCLAKER

    SUN YUE’S NEW THEME MUSIK,

  • xtro

    L.A. Dragon-sun Yue

  • http://TheVerveNerve.com Billy Kupchak

    I’m so glad to be back! :D

  • DCLAKER

    GOOD TO HAVE YA’ BACK….now talk to your dad about moving Vlad,please.

  • Daryl Imhoff

    Let the season begin! If it weren’t for the Olympics this would be a really long summer!

  • ab4sure

    If you want to be technical Yue got dunked on but if you look at the vid. Yue was trailing the play and caught up to kobe and was just alittle late in getting the block.. Here is the vid to prove my point.

  • BringDFishBack

    [Comment ID #48543 Will Be Quoted Here]

    He jumped in and tried to block it but couldn’t, and got dunked on. Dunked on is when you are in the middle of the player and basket and the player dunks. Extra points to the dunker if the dunkee trys to block the shot.

  • ab4sure

    wow.. they forgot to add those xtra points… call the olympic committe.

  • Ignard

    I STILL don’t get the Coby Karl love. I’ve seen him play summer league games and i’ve seen him in his few cameos during the season and he doesn’t look like a player to me. Lets get some defensive minded players in here, we’re good on offense, what good is a shooter who rides the pine. At NO time during last season were the team was struggling to score did Phil turn to Coby Karl but you can always use a defensive player something he certainly isn’t.

  • Salty

    Sun Yue is going to help bring the Chinese fans in, and with that, more money and exposure to the team.

  • http://getgarnett Louis

    oh please get rid of coby karl,sun yue and joel cralford, vlad, and luke but keep dwayne mihchill and menga.

  • DCLAKER

    Anybody hear anything about Pargo and ZO considering Lakers (don’t know if Mitch has the “grapefruits” to pull it off but…)?

  • osm0nd

    Actually Ignard, to correct you I remember a time against Sacramento last season when the Lakers looked really stagnant on both ends of the floor. PJ put in Coby Karl for about 5 minutes and he turned things around for them.

  • Ignard

    Ok osmOnd, one game and against the Kings. Would you agree that are most pressing need is to get better on defense? Would you agree pretty much everyone on the roster now is a better defender than Karl? Hey, he’s a good player but I personally would rather see his spot being filled by someone who plays a little bit better on the defensive end.

  • yellowpurplefever

    Does Sun looks like the young Kirilenko? The Sun will rise in the West. He will prove some doubters wrong pretty soon. He will make more impact than Yi(too much pressure after Yao)in the NBA. The guy can play but will need polishing for NBA’s speed and style. This move will make the Laker #1 in China and Spain and Internationally. Buss(senior) is a smart man and so is Mitch. Go for GOLD USA !!

  • http://deleted kb4sure

    I remember that karl agains sacramento he was to greedy to play coz pj benched him a lot.when he’s on the floor he tries to be more aggressive coz he knows pj will benched him that’s why sometimes he messed up by being greedy to play.but I know this kid has the hand too shoot pj knows it.sun yue can be a good addition on the since kobe will be playing at the 3,believe chinese are a tricky shooters too.he will have a space to shoot with kobe on the floor.for sure he will get signed also coz of buiseness purposes member kobe is no1 in china,w//sun yue lakers will be no1 aswell,and he will det more popularity than yao n yi when playing alongside kobe see sasha,odom,even mbenga,bynum and gasol gets more popular and how happy spain is.we got china n spain that boost the morale and gives more reason to play for the ring!

  • Trodgers

    BrinDFish Back: It could certainly be more biased. In your criticism of what I had to say about Karl, you say I didn’t mention that he has a great shot. In fact, I twice mentioned how good his shooting is:

    Coby Karl: “Sweet shot as long as he isn’t 35′ from the basket.” Also “Karl has the shooting ability to make a team in the NBA at present.”

    He’s not athletic. Maybe average at best. He finished 46th in his draft class at the Combine. His lane agility and 3/4 court sprint were poor for a Guard. So he can jump from a stand still. I’ll give you that. That doesn’t make him an athlete.

  • Thomas

    I like how Dwayne Mitchell sounds but you are right that the Lakers are stacked at that position. Also I like how Sun Yue looked in the game against Team USA but he’ll have to do a helluva job to beat out Jordan Farmar to get the back up role at point guard.