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Lakers Summer League: 3 takeaways vs. Spurs in California Classic

Los Angeles Lakers

The Summer League Los Angeles Lakers were defeated 109-99 by the Victor Wembanyama-less San Antonio Spurs to close out the California Classic on Wednesday night at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.

In case you missed it, here are a few key takeaways from the Lakers’ final game before heading to Las Vegas for the 2K24 NBA Summer League.

Colin Castleton

Surprisingly, Castleton struggled on defense against Nikola Jovic and Jaime Jaquez Jr. in the Lakers’ loss to the Miami Heat on Monday (takeaways). He did, however, score 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting and position himself for quality looks through movement, movement, and transition effort. His basketball intelligence was on full display.

Castleton was more impactful on both ends on Wednesday, with 18 points (6-for-10 shooting), eight rebounds, six assists, and four blocks. He served as the offensive hub thanks to his dribble hand-offs, passing/feel, and desire to put it on the floor and attack. On the other hand, he seemed to challenge every shot, as he had done for three years at Florida.

The 6’11, 23-year-old undrafted free agent on a two-way contract is the Lakers’ third-string center behind Anthony Davis and Jaxson Hayes (three veteran minimum candidates have been added since Monday: Mo Bamba, Mason Plumlee, and Robin Lopez). Castleton might land one of the Lakers’ two remaining available roster spots and a normal NBA contract. (His agent represents Austin Reaves, who followed in his footsteps in 2021.) I’m sure the Lakers are hoping Castleton can become a cheap steal as they try to avoid paying the luxury tax in 2023-24.

Cole Swider (18 points, seven rebounds) helped keep his team in the game by going 4-for-7 from three-point range. D’Moi Hodge, a tenacious 6’4 guard with 3-and-D ability, went 3-for-16 in 18 minutes.

Max Christie

Christie appeared to be the best player in the gym once more.

On Monday, the rising sophomore scored 17 points (6-for-11 shooting), grabbed six rebounds, and dished out four assists. His ballhandling, as well as his shiftiness and three-level scoring, increased noticeably.

“It’s always good to see a player in their second summer league, just their disposition on both ends of the floor,” Lakers head coach JD DuBois remarked following the Heat defeat. “I’m still challenging him to defend and rebound.” The offense will then proceed to take its course.”

Christie added 25 points (7-for-13 shooting), four rebounds, and four assists to his total. He went 4-for-5 from three-point range, calmly moving into shots. He made difficult fadeaways, disputed long twos, and forceful drives to the basket. His on-ball shot creation and bulked-up frame (he’s gained 15 pounds since being picked, to 205) stood out.

Christie is almost certain to be in the Lakers’ starting lineup to begin the season. The question is how much time he’ll spend in Vegas.

Jalen Hood-Schifino

On Monday, the No. 17 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft came out aggressive, if inefficient: 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting. Nonetheless, his point guard talents (at 6’7), ability to control his own tempo, and ability to creatively set up teammates (four assists) were obvious. JHS made a number of difficult downhill layups. (On the other hand, he was blown more than once, which was a projected weakness heading into the selection.)

The 20-year-old outperformed San Antonio. On his route to 20 points on 8-for-17 shooting, he continued to push fiercely and finish in traffic with both hands. His pick-and-roll and drive-and-kick skills have set up numerous great looks (keep an eye on his two-man game with Castleton in Vegas).

Maxwell Lewis (2 points, 0-for-2 shooting) was held scoreless for the second game in a row.

On Friday in Las Vegas, the Lakers will meet the Golden State Warriors.