Laker Preview — Offense

Kurt —  October 29, 2005

Note: This is the second of two Laker preview articles, this one focusing on the offense. The defensive preview can be found here.

Meet the new offense, same as the old offense.

The triangle is back in L.A. But this is not your Shaq-daddy’s triangle — there’s more motion, attacks from the wing rather than just the post and other tweaks. It’s a triangle that will look more like the old Bulls version than the old Laker version.

Which is good, but fixing the offense should not be that hard for the Lakers — even when their offense resembled a Keystone Kops movie last season it was pretty good. The Lakers finished the season with an offensive rating of 104.8 (points per 100 possessions), good enough for seventh best in the league. They shot 48.5% (eFG%) from the floor, got to the free throw line on 25% of their possessions (13th best in the league) and grabbed the offensive rebound on 25% of their misses. They shot 35.5% from three-point range on a team record 1,813 attempts.

All the nice numbers aside, Rudy T’s offense rarely looked smooth. Part of that was a basic design flaw — he wanted isolation basketball with plenty of penetration, but that meant at any given time either Kobe or Lamar Odom stood around with his hands in his pockets. Mostly Odom. When Kobe was out with an injury for 14 games Odom attacked and looked like he had the season before in Miami, when he shared the court with Kobe he looked lost without the ball in his hands.

Jackson has remedied that by putting the ball in his hands — Odom will be the “initiator” of the offense, meaning he brings the ball up the court and gets to make key decisions about attacking the opposition. It’s the role Scottie Pippen played in Chicago and Kobe used to play in L.A. (although Kobe’s decisions were largely limited to how to get the ball the Shaq in the low post).

Having Odom at the point/forward position will also help the Lakers’ fast break — in the preseason he is averaging 12.4 rebounds per 48 minutes, second best among those playing regular minutes (Brian Cook is at 15.1, a pleasant surprise). A player who can grab the rebound and lead the break (ala Magic Johnson) is a dangerous threat.

Kobe is still the Lakers main threat and, although at points in this preseason he has pulled back to let others learn the offense, he is showing he can thrive in an attacking role. While it is just preseason, Kobe has averaged 36 points per 48 minutes (up from 32.5 last season), has an eFG% of 51.4 (48.2) and is taking just 3% of his shots from three-point rage (29.2% last season, which is insane).

Maybe the biggest key to the long-term success of the Lakers offense this season is how Kwame Brown develops, particularly over the course of the season as he becomes more comfortable in the offense. It’s too early to tell how this will turn out, and all we have to go on are preseason numbers, but he seems to be doing better than last season — he is scoring 18 points per 48 (up from 15.4 last season), shooting 51% from the field (46%), is pulling down 11 rebounds per 48 (10.9) and giving out 2.9 assists (2.1). That said, Kwame has disappeared for parts of games or even entire games — that was always the knock on him, he was good when he wanted to be but that was not every night. We’ll see if the combination of maturity and Phil Jackson can change that.

Another key will be bench play — the Lakers are not deep but they need a few players to step up.

One that has done that well so far has been Devean George. Back healthy and in an offense he is familiar with, George has the second-highest per-48 minutes scoring average on the team of 25.2 (trailing only Kobe). He’s stepped back inside the arc and is shooting 54.8% from the floor. If he can provide that kind of scoring punch off the bench with some solid defense he’ll be a very valuable Laker indeed.

Two other players have shown signs of putting their entire game together this season. Luke Walton was getting mentioned as a potential starter before a hamstring injury sidelined him. When he returns his passing skills will be a good fit in the triangle (although he needs to step up his defense). Secondly, Brian Cook, who spent last season as “the league’s tallest two guard” (thanks to Steve Kerr for that line) has moved back inside the arc and is grabbing rebounds too.

(By the way, Cook should still be shooting some threes — when 82games.com broke down the best shooters from specific areas of the court, Cook was the most deadly in the league with the straight-on three, shooting 50.9% from that area last season. Working a way to get him that shot into the offense, or trailing on a break, would be good to see.)

Overall, the Lakers are going to score, although the offense likely will start out a little rough and smooth out as the season wears on. That said, I still expect to see a top-10 offense by the time the playoffs roll around.

Kurt

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10 responses to Laker Preview — Offense

  1. especially since cookie is about the closest thing to a reliable three point threat the lakers have now.

    i’m not crazy into three pointers, and if that’s the only offensive weakness that’s be the one to pick… but sometimes you’re down by three points. and it’d be nice to be able to spread the defense.

    how about that exhibition game? it looked pretty ugly to me, but hey, we won against a team that most people see as making the playoffs.

    that second unit’s pressure D looked a little too fabulous. even if it’s nowhere near as effective during the season most games, it’ll still be something.

    odom still is struggling, but he’s finding ways to still be effective at least. smush looked good in the clutch too.

    ok, the million dollar question…. who do you keep, profit or green? profit sure looked a lot better last night that’s for sure.

  2. I like Green, but all things being equal Profit stays because of the garunteed contract (cash for a buyout or not). I have the Sac game on Tivo and watching it Saturday, I may have more to say after that.

  3. why would profit have an advantage, since the wizards have to pay his salary if he’s waived?

    if anything green would seem to have the upper hand, since the lakers could save close to half a mil or so signing him to a minimum deal instead.

  4. John, I was under the impression the Lakers got cash in the deal that would offset Profit’s salary, but if they keep him then they keep the cash free and clear. That’s what I saw in the LA Times, but the deal may be otherwise.

    I finally watched the Sacramento preseason game from Friday. Profit is certainly the more polished and professional player, better on the offensive end. My impression over the course of the preseason is Green is the better defender. I’d still put my money on Green being cut but I’d be sad to see him go.

  5. i haven’t watched either player too closely, but i guess i’d go with profit too. he played well under the pressure of being cut. four years under his belt.

    i kept more of an eye on both friday, i remember profit making a nice cut and i think a couple passes and contribute on a couple decent defensive plays. green i saw turn the ball over, leave a guy open at the end to sink a critical three, and blow an easy layup in the clutch.

    i felt bad for him.

  6. this past fridays game was the first game that I was able to see because I am stationed outside of the US, and unfortuneatly AFN (american forces network) isn’t as big of a lakers fan as I am.
    I think the biggest thing that I took away from the game was this. Is Sasha actually playing like a real nba player or were my eyes playing tricks on me. A guy who last year I wanted to throw the remote at everytime that he touched the ball was playing defense like a pro and frustrating Bibby to the point of a technical. I also liked watching Smush play because everything that I have read about him seems to be true.
    The only thing that I didn’t really like was the play of vet. point guard Aaron Mckie. he just seemed like a step slowe then everyone else out there. Maybe its just me but it looked like the only reason that the lakers picked him up was because of his veteran leadership. (off the court.)
    On my last note I would just like to say that I was dissapointed when I saw that Jones was traded for a 2nd round draft pick. It just reminded me too much of last year when the lakers let go of Rush for seemingly nothing. One more day and all of the if’s will be answered.

  7. yeah, sasha played great in that game. it clearly was his best of the preseason. his other seven games were horrid, so i wouldn’t get my hopes too high.

    but you gotta hope.

  8. I can only comment on what I see. I just hope that he can remember how to play if he gets to see some playing time in the regular season. Who else thinks that D. George has a legitimate shot at the number three option in the offense behind Lamar? I think he will surprise a lot of people early on because he is already familiar with the offensive, and it seems as though he has found his shot again. I can only hope that his injury will stay in the past as is not the case for a lot of NBA players.

  9. Christian, first thanks for reading and we’ll try to keep you updated on the Lakers here as best we can.

    Friday was Sasha’s best game but he’ll get his chance this year and if he plays defense like that he’ll get more time. It was good to see, maybe he feared being sent to the NDBL, but whatever it was I’d like to see more of it.

    Devean is going to be coming off the bench, at least at first, but he has been great in the preseason. Comfortable with the offense, contract year, whatever is motivating him this year he has been a nuce surprise. And this coming from a guy who has never been a big D. George fan.

  10. i’m not too surprised. i guess if he keeps putting up numbers like this preseason’s i will be. him being a near-solid contributor off the bench didn’t seem like too much to ask this year.

    hopefully the contract will make him shake off those funks he has quicker than usual.