The Los Angeles Lakers announced today their first two roster cuts of the pre-season and one in particular stirred up a bit of outrage from Lakers’ fans.
The Lakers have waived Michael Frazier II & Robert Upshaw. The roster now stands at 17. PRESS RELEASE: https://t.co/UhUMMLlXlx
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) October 20, 2015
The Lakers waived guard Michael Frazier and center Robert Upshaw today, the latter being the surprising move. Frazier was a long shot to make the Lakers roster but Upshaw was an interesting prospect that was picked up as an undrafted rookie following the NBA draft and many expected him to land on the 15 man roster if for no other reasons than his tremendous potential combined with a lack of great options of big men after Roy Hibbert and Tarik Black.
Upshaw’s chances seemed great going into camp being that his competition for that 3rd center spot was incredibly weak with only 4th year big man Robert Sacre to beat. Sacre is a great locker room presence, hard worker and good influence but talent level and long term potential is now well established and can be best described as mediocre.
The Lakers went with the known quantity of Sacre over the unknown of Upshaw which is a huge head-scratcher considering that what we know of Sacre’s ability it would seem to have at most a nominal impact on the team’s success this season. The Lakers chances at making the playoffs or whatever their goal is in terms of wins this coming season do not hinge on what Sacre does or doesn’t do on the court yet the decision was made to keep him over what could be in Upshaw.
“There were flashes of him [Upshaw] being able to defend and do some of the things that we wanted him to do, but a lot of it was still a big-time learning curve for him on both ends of the floor,” Said Coach Byron Scott Tuesday to reporters .
Yes, Scott is correct in that it would be a big learning curve which is what you would expect with a 21 year old coming off just 2 years of college play where both seasons were cut short; albeit, by his own doing.
Upshaw was considered by many scouts as possessing first round talent and physical tools but brought with him a questionable track record of off the court problems that led to him being kicked off two basketball programs in his two years in college which was the major reason why his stock dropped come draft day.
The measurables at the NBA combine were off the charts for Upshaw, registering the biggest wingspan at 7 feet and 5.5 inches, standing reach at 9 feet and 5 inches and hands at 10 by 11 inches.
Upshaw was a defensive force last season with the Washington Huskies, averaging 4.5 blocks in just 24.9 minutes per game which would have led the nation by a wide margin if not for being ineligible due to playing in only 19 games. The rest of Upshaw’s stat line last season impressive, averaging 10.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and shooting an efficient 59.3 percent from the field.
Great draft combine results and what Upshaw showed in limited time in college seemed to trump the questionable off the court problems as the Lakers took a shot and invited him to play on their Summer League team.
In Summer League Upshaw didn’t get much burn, only playing 11.4 minutes per game and a meager stat line of 1.4 points, 2.2 rebounds and 0.8 blocks but he showed flashes of what he could do which was enough to get him a non-guaranteed contract and an invite to Lakers training camp.
— raining3s (@raining3sdotcom) July 11, 2015
Here are two clips of Upshaw’s summer league play where he shows a surprisingly soft touch on his turn around shot from the low post and quick hands by getting the block on Karl-Anthony Towns.
Again, in preseason Upshaw doesn’t get consistent time on the court, appearing in only 4 games while averaging 13.5 minutes per game, but like Summer League shows flashes of what he could do on the defensive end as a rim protector and a nice looking face-up set shot from about 10 feet out.
Upshaw also answered some questions about his commitment to his craft by coming into training camp 20 pounds lighter than what he weighed in Summer League.
“In Summer League I didn’t feel like myself, and I just didn’t feel as fluid as I usually feel,” Upshaw said. “When I got back to San Diego where I was training, I put an emphasis on being faster, quicker and slimmer.”
The impressive measurements at the combine, hard work he put in coming into camp and loads of potential wasn’t enough as Upshaw will now go through waivers where he will undoubtedly be claimed by another NBA team looking to scoop up cheap, young talent with high ceilings.
The likelihood that Upshaw is going on to become an all world center that will dominate the NBA for the next 15 years is highly unlikely. Even the chances of him becoming a border line All-Star or just a solid NBA rotation player are on the low end, but based on the few flashes we saw it is plausible and that should have been more than enough to reserve a spot on a 15 man roster for the low cost of a minimum rookie contract for a few years just to find out.
The Lakers must have seen something in Upshaw during his time in camp that many criticizing the move aren’t privy to because they apparently feel pretty confident that they won’t regret their decision to let him move on with another team. Only time will tell if they made a miscalculation in talent evaluation but right now it just doesn’t make sense.
The Lakers’ plan to rebuild simply can’t afford to get these decisions wrong. Let’s hope for their sake it wasn’t.