NBA Summer League 2017: Blazers vs. Lakers Championship Set After Semifinals
Lonzo Ball has the opportunity to cap off a strong Las Vegas Summer League on Monday night at 10 p.m. ET when the Los Angeles Lakers meet the Portland Trail Blazers in the championship game.
The Blazers were the first team to secure a berth in the final after they defeated the Memphis Grizzlies, 87-82, and the Lakers followed suit with a 108-98 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
The Trail Blazers wasted little time getting hyped for the final:
Neutralizing Ball will be Portland's first task. The No. 2 overall pick is averaging 16.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 9.3 assists in six summer league games. While he's shooting just 38.2 percent from the floor, his ability to get his teammates involved makes him a dangerous threat on the offensive end.
Ball's outlet passes are a thing of beauty as well. The NBA shared a replay of one such pass from the semifinal:
A calf injury may make the Blazers' job of defending Ball easier. He only played 21 minutes before coming out of Sunday's game. Sports Illustrated's Jeremy Woo showed him getting examined by team doctors:
When Ball left with a little under six-and-a-half minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Lakers were up 67-50. The Mavericks trimmed the deficit to two points late in the fourth quarter before losing by double digits.
Should Ball be absent or possibly limited by his calf injury, it could have a big impact on Los Angeles, Kyle Kuzma in particular.
Kuzma's ability to run the floor has fit perfectly with Ball's passing and innate playmaking sense. Excluding Brandon Ingram, who appeared in only one game, Kuzma is the Lakers' leading scorer in summer league (20.5 points per game), and he has also shot 18-of-40 from beyond the arc.
Kuzma's 1.5 blocks a game are also tops on the team, and that will come in handy with regard to Los Angeles' defensive game plan.
The Lakers will focus on Caleb Swanigan, whom the Blazers selected with the 26th overall pick in the 2017 draft. Swanigan is averaging a double-double (14.9 points and 10.4 rebounds) in the summer league.
Blazer's Edge thinks the former Purdue Boilermaker will be a fan favorite:
Whereas Swanigan will be a part of Portland's future plans, the same can't be definitively said for Jarnell Stokes and R.J. Hunter. Hunter was open about how the summer league is an audition for not only the Blazers but also elsewhere in the league, per CSN Northwest:
Stokes is averaging 12.5 points and 8.0 rebounds, while Hunter is scoring 11.1 points and shooting 35.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Monday's championship game will be one last chance in Vegas for Stokes and Hunter to make an impression on an NBA front office, giving them added motivation. Hunter especially can blow hot or cold in any given game, so he has the potential to be a major difference-maker for the Blazers.