Midseason Report Card — The Players

Kurt —  January 26, 2006

We’ll go through the players in an order selected by me, with little rhyme or reason. Because I can. After the name of the player you will see his PER and his +/- (per 48 minutes), not the end-all-be-all of statistics but they start to paint a picture of contributions. By the way, there is no way this (or the previous review) could have been done without the Knickerblogger Stats Page or 82games.com, those guys are heroes of mine.

Kobe Bryant (29.1[highest PER in the NBA], +10.1): Over at the APBR Metrics board, the best Laker stats guy walking the planet, Bob Chaikin, put up some interesting numbers about Kobe:

bryant scored 30.6 pts/g over his first 19 games this season, but over his past 20 games he’s averaged 41.0 pts/g, during which he’s shot a very high Scoring FG% (combining 2pters, 3pters, and FTs) of 58.9% – 51% on 2s, 38% on 3s, and 85% on FTs, on 35 scoring opportunities per game (FGA + FTA/2), with just 3.1 turnovers/game. that’s efficient scoring…

Beyond the numbers, Kobe has this season, more than anyone I can remember since Jordan, been able to impose his will on the other team. More than just winning, he is really trying to demoralize opponents and guys trying to guard him. The important part is he is being consistent, bringing that energy every night.

Maybe better than any other player, Kobe has the skills and basketball IQ to exploit the current NBA hand-checking enforcement. He is getting to the line or 10.6 times per 40 minutes, plus taking 27.4 field goal attempts in that same time. He is also averaging 4.2 assists per 40 minutes (only Walton and Odom average more on the Lakers).

Kobe is making his living on the outside — 79% of his shots are jump shots, up from 71% last season and 66% the season before that. The reason appears to be that defenses are doubling him more quickly (sometimes tripling) and taking away the drive, so Kobe is rising above for the jumper. On those jumpers, he is shooting 46.4% (eFG%), a pretty good number, and he has become one of the best midrange shooters in the league.

Defensively, he has primarily covered opposing two guards and has kept them to a PER of 13.7, showing his defense has been good.

Lamar Odom (17.3, +4.0): Phil Jackson has asked a lot of Lamar Odom, but he is not getting the answer he wants every night.

Odom has good numbers overall, yet he gets those with combinations of good nights and some clunkers. It’s not just the scoring — there have been nights when he hasn’t scored 10 points but has been effective. However, there are nights when his leadership, as the guy with the ball in his hands coming up the court, has been both needed and missing.

When you look for the defining reason for the bad nights there seems to be no pattern (for example, his numbers in wins and losses are very similar). For the record, Odom is shooting 49.4% (eFG%) and is averaging 14.6 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists per 40 minutes. He is grabbing 14% of the available rebounds when he is on the floor (trailing only Chris Mihm among the Lakers).

Odom is the one Laker on the roster other than #8 that has the skills to be a threat every night. For the Lakers to really grow as a team, he has to deliver night in and night out.

Smush Parker (13.4, +3.5): Smush has turned out to be quite a find, and credit needs to go to Mitch Kupchak for giving him the chance.

Smush is shooting 54% (eFG%) plus is leading the team with 2 steals per 40 minutes. He’s not just a jump shooter — 34% of his shots are coming in close to the basket, through penetration or moving without the ball and getting lay-ups. He’s shooting 38.7% from three-point range. His defense is an improvement over Chucky Atkins, in particular because Smush creates turnovers, but Smush is not a great defender — opposing point guards are shooting 50.6% (eFG%) when he is on the floor and have a PER of 20.1.

I love the energy Smush brings, but let me honest about his skill level — for a team that will go deep into the playoffs, Smush is the kind of player you want coming off the bench.

Chris Mihm (15.1, +6.3): No one statistic tells everything about a player, but I think Mihm’s +/- tells a lot — his is second best on the team behind Kobe. I think that’s because he is the second most consistent player on the Lakers. That is, when his minutes aren’t limited by foul trouble.

Admittedly, +/- tells you as much about the backup as the player you’re looking at, but the bottom line is the Lakers are a lot better when Mihm is on the floor. Under the tutelage of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, he has developed a left-handed jump hook and is at his highest true shooting percentage of his career, 56.4%. He is grabbing 14.5% of the available rebounds when he is on the floor, the highest percentage of any Laker. He is averaging 2 blocks per 40, best of any Laker playing regularly (Bynum is at 3.1).

The problem continues to be staying on the floor — he is averaging 5.7 fouls per 40 minutes, up from 5.1 last season. Part of it is Mihm is being aggressive going after blocks, but I think there are two parts to his foul trouble: 1) He does pick up some stupid fouls, like reaching in on guards in the backcourt or other off the ball stuff; 2) He really doesn’t get the borderline call from officials. I’m not sure why on the second part, but it’s pretty consistent, he seems to lose all 50/50 calls, and even some 60/40 ones. I have to think that will change as time goes on.

Kwame Brown (8.8. -9.1): Since he’s come back from his injury, I think Kwame has been more focused. He’s grabbed 13.8% of the available rebounds when he is on the floor, and he is holding opposing centers to a PER of 12.8 — he’s played good D against the big men man-to-man. That said, his defensive rotations are often late and he can be an offensive black hole.

I’ve not fully made up my mind about him, but this is what I think right now — Kwame would make a decent backup center in the NBA. If he came off the bench, if he made $3 million per year, he’d be just another guy. Which is what he is. But because he is the number one overall pick, because he is a physical specimen, we expect more. Well, others do, I have stopped. He’s just another guy, and the Lakers tend to do better when he is on the bench.

Andrew Bynum (5.8. -9.8): All the talk is still the three minutes against Shaq a few weeks ago. It should be. And those few minutes showed where Bynum is right now. Shaq dunked over him first, because Shaq is much stronger and knew how to get position. Granted, Shaq is stronger than just about every center in the league, but Bynum needs both some time in the weight room and time for his body to grow — not to mention some on-court experience — to be consistent at the NBA level.

What’s got to make Laker fans happy was the moxie Bynum showed. After Shaq dunked on him, Bynum came down to the other end and asked for the ball. His move was right out of the “drop step for dummies” manual, but if you had seen him in the Summer Pro League in Long Beach you would know just how big a step forward that was for him. By all accounts, Bynum has a great work ethic. His defense and rebounding are already good, and next year he should get the chance to display those skills more. If he continues to improve like he has, he can be a very good center in this league. He needs to keep working.

Devean George (11.3, +4.0): George has been a solid player off the bench, which frankly is about what we should expect out of him. I think his positive number (same as with Walton’s) is that he fits well with what the triangle wants to do on offense, and he knows how to work inside it. That said, I wish he would attempt fewer threes, he is shooting just 28.2% from beyond the arc.

Another key is George is playing good defense off the bench, as reflected in his opponent PER of 13.3 (remember, the league average is 15).

Luke Walton (10.4. +0.4): When Luke Walton is on the floor, the Laker offense runs much more smoothly. His passing skills reward guys who work without the ball, so you see guys work without the ball.

The problem is he is shooting the ball poorly — just 37.1% (eFG%), well below his career average of 46.1%. Specifically, he is shooting just 36.1% on jump shots, and that accounts for 85% of his chances. He is shooting 25% from three-point range. He’s only shooting 45% in close. He needs to develop a consistent outside shot or teams will continue to back off him when he has the ball and dare him to shoot. His defense also continues to be average, at best.

Brian Cook (15.1, +0.1): He can shoot the ball, shooting 53.5% from the field (second best on the Lakers), 43.8% from beyond the arc (best on the team). I love when he and Kobe play the pick-and-pop, it can be almost impossible to defend.

He seems more comfortable away from the basket, and that has affected his rebounding — he grabs 9.8% of the available rebounds when on the floor, a low percentage for someone who plays the four. His defense against opposing fours also is not that great — opponent fours have a PER of 17 against him — and that may be a reason he seems to get fewer minutes from Phil depending on matchups. He brings a lot to the floor that Kwame doesn’t (like an offensive game), but Kwame is better on defense, especially in the post area.

Sasha Vujacic (8.4, +0.2): Credit Sasha for becoming a solid defensive player — it was a weakness when he entered the league and things didn’t look much better at the Summer Pro League. But he is getting Phil’s trust because he is playing good defense off the bench, opposing point guards have a PER of just 13.3 against him.

He is shooting 35.5% from beyond the arc but has an eFG% of just 44.3% — he is the rare player that is shooting better on jump shots (45.6%) than inside on lay-ups and other shots close to the basket (36.8%).

He’s developing into a solid off-the-bench player, he just needs to be more consistent with his shot. And, I guess, stay away from the basket.

Von Wafer (1.4, -18.3): Very athletic, but he needs to spend time in the D League. He needs to play to get some polish and experience, and that’s not going to happen with the Lakers right now.

Kurt

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4 responses to Midseason Report Card — The Players

  1. Hey Kurt, I’ve started to miss your “Next 10 games” posts. Is that just dead?

  2. i’m pretty sure chris mihm doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt from referees because a good portion of the time he’s giving dumb fouls. much like a great defender can get away with a whole lot more body contact. cuts both way.

    love his new year’s resolution, and it seems to be sticking.

  3. John R., the idea is not dead, but it may be a couple of weeks before I can get to it.

  4. What is Mihm’s new year’s resolution?