Season Review — the forwards

Kurt —  May 30, 2006

For the Laker forwards, it was a year of adjusting to changing roles.

Lamar Odom became the point/forward in the triangle, running the offense at times but becoming a post-up force in the playoffs. Luke Walton, after a pre-season where he looked like a starter then got injured, regained that role at the end of the season and showed what basketball IQ and passing can do in Phil Jackson’s system. Brian Cook became a feared outside shooter. Devean George went from a starter on a team in the finals two years ago to becoming a key contributor off the bench. And Ronny Turiaf went from the operating room to fan favorite faster than anyone imagined.

How those players continue to grow and adjust to those roles — and to any personnel changes — will be a big part of how much the Lakers grow and improve as a team next year.

Lamar Odom had a career year — his best ever totals for eFG% (52.4%), true shooting percentage (55.8%), assists ratio (25.8% of his possessions ended with an assist) while having his lowest turnover rate (12.8% of possessions) and he had his best three-point shooting percentage (37.2%). He pulled down 9.2 rebounds per 40 minutes played, numbers almost equal Chris Mihm and Kwame Brown. He was second to Kobe scoring (total and per 40 minutes), +/- (+5.6 per 48) and just about every other offensive category.

Odom struggled at times early but settled into the offense by the end of the season. Versatility was the key —21% of his offense came on isolation plays, where he usually drove all the way to the basket (6.5 possessions a game ended with Odom finishing near the basket, on which he shot a good 61%); spot-up shooting accounted for 14.7% of his shots, while 12.7% came in the post. And he scored 7.6% of his points on offensive rebounds. A player with that level of versatility creates a nightly match up nightmare for the opposition and late in the season and into the playoffs the Lakers started to exploit those match up problems more efficiently.

Overall, 49% of Odom’s shots were considered jump shots (he shot 41.6%). His one weakness, one teams tried to exploit, is that he prefers to drive left (or baseline from the right side) — when forced to go right (40% of his penetration) he shot just 42.1%, although he still gets to the rim on these half the time. (Let him go left and he shoots 58%.)

Whether handling the ball on the break (something he did well) or posting up, his offense was consistently good. His comfort in the triangle was a key to the growth of this team and he needs to continue to understand when to pick his spots and score, and when to set up teammates. Odom is a key part of the Laker future, despite the rumors bound to swirl, he is not going anywhere in a trade — he is only on the block for a KG level player, and those guys are not being moved this summer.

Luke Walton moved into the starting lineup and played key minutes late in the year, not because of his offense (Cook is the better offensive player, the Laker offense was 2.1 points per 100 possessions better with Cook on the floor than Walton) but because Walton was the better defender (the Lakers were 2.6 per 100 possessions better defensively when Walton was on the floor compared to Cook).

Whether due to injuries or shaken confidence (as he has said), this season was an off one for Walton offensively, particularly in the first half of the season. He had career lows in eFG% (43.9%) and true shooting percentage (47.7%). He continued to dish out assists and grab some boards, but for himself and the team to improve his offense needs to be more consistent next year.

Most of his offense came on spot-up jumpers, 31% of his points came that way but even on unguarded catch and shoots he shot just 33% (straight FG%). Oddly, when covered that improved to 38%, but that is still not where it needs to be. Walton appeared to be most effective when the offense ran through him at the pinch post or out on the elbow, when he could set up teammates — but if he can’t keep the defense honest it will be hard to do much of anything from there.

Next season Walton is scheduled to make $1.25 million in the last year of his deal. His hoops IQ may mean other teams will inquire about him, but if his shooting improves the Lakers may not want to let him go.

Cook’s concerns were not shooting – he and Kobe on the pick-and-pop was one of the best plays the Lakers ran this season.

Cook had an eFG% of 54.6% and shot 42.9% from three-point range (and 52% between 17 feet and the three-point line). Not surprisingly, the spot up jumper was his primary weapon, accounting for 38% of his points – he shot 51% on catch and shoots (58% when unguarded, a lesson other teams learned by the end of the year). Teams did adjust and tried to make him put the ball on the floor, but the real key was to do that and make him go right (when he went left he shot just 34%, but go right and he barely could score).

By the way, Cook was one of the guys who took advantage when the Lakers pushed the pace, 11% of his points came in transition.

The problem was defense. Cook had to defend opposing fours and they shot 49.3% on their way to a PER of 17.7 (the equivalent of having Tim Thomas or Josh Howard playing the four against you every time Cook was on the floor). Cook has shown work ethic in the past — he worked hard to get his jumper where it is now. If he can show that same for the defensive end, the Lakers may (and should) pick up his qualifying offer for 07-08.

One guy likely not to be back is Devean George, who made $5 million last season but likely won’t get an offer near that from the Lakers. I’ve long thought this was a player overvalued by Laker fans for sentimental reasons.

He had a PER of 11.4 last season, which is right at his career average. He had a true shooting percentage of 48.4% (well below the league average) and shot just 31.3% from three-point range. Most of his shots, 41%, came on spot up jumpers but he shot just 38% on catch and shoots (he shot 44.3% [eFG%] overall on jumpers). He’s an average rebounder (he grabbed 11.4% of available rebounds) and turns the ball over almost as often as he makes an assist.

What he does do fairly well is defend, although opposing threes shot 50.3% against him this season. The fact is that George can be a nice contributor to the Lakers, but at $5 million per season he was overpaid. The Lakers should keep him if he’ll take considerably less, otherwise it is time for a friendly parting of the ways.

Ronny Turiaf should stay, not just because of his potential but because of the energy and enthusiasm he brings.

Not surprisingly, most of his points this season were energy points — 22% came of cuts to the hoop, and 22% came on offensive rebounds. Those are effort plays, and that’s where Turiaf’s big heart shows. Overall, he grabbed 13.6% of the available rebounds when on the floor, a good number but one he can improve upon.

Where Turiaf needs to improve most is on defense — opposing power forwards shot 51.6% against him and averaged 12 rebounds per 48 minutes. They had a PER of 24.5, the equivalent of having Shawn Marion or Chris Bosh playing against you nightly. I think Turiaf’s defense will improve, he certainly has the energy and the work ethic, it just needs to be a priority.

Turiaf also needs to work on adding diversity to his offensive game, particularly post moves. He got 67% of his shots close to the basket, but shot just 50% on those. He got 19% of his offense while single covered in the post, but he was very predictable – 57% of those post chances came when he caught the ball on the left block and 100% of the time he turned his left shoulder into the defender and went that direction. On the right block, he split left and right moves 50/50, but he needs that diversity from both sides.

The Lakers will still be looking for a 4/5 to become the high post player that can compliment Kwame (or Mihm) on the low post. That may come through a trade, or maybe a draft pick. However, the in-house core is not bad and can be, at the very least, a solid support group off the bench.

to Season Review — the forwards

  1. As a footnote to this piece, most of these numbers come out of 82games or basketball-reference, but some of the new ones to you regular readers (percentage offense scored in a particular way, such as isolations) is from the new NBA synergy web site that uses film to breakdown player stats.


  2. What would be your thoughts on a Lamar Odom for Zydrunas Ilgauskas trade? I know the Cavs have shown interest in Odom and Z might fit the triangle nicely. Just a thought, wanted your opinion!


  3. Personally, I like Odom in the triangle. The only way I’d move him is for someone (or a package of someones) who could make the Lakers instant contenders, and Big Z is not that. I think he could be a good triangle fit, but Odom is way too steep a price.

    Thoughts from the rest of you?


  4. I agree with the sentiment that says the Lakers should only trade Odom for a KG caliber player, although I would be open to trading him as part of some Machievellian plan forcornering next years #1 and Greg Oden.

    Which forward position is Odom best suited for? At SF he seems to be very effective on the offensive end, but a bit outmatched on the defensive end. I like him as a PF best, in part because it seems it would be easier to find an impact player at SF than PF. Any PF Odom would be outmatched against defensively (Duncan, Amare) would be covered by Kwame anyway.

    I wonder what people think of Marcus Vinicius. He aparently did well in his workout, and has experience working in the triangle. An athletic 6’11 SF is intriguing. If there was some way to get both Vinicius and Roy, my opinion of Kupchak would improve significantly. Although I still like Leon Powe.


  5. By the way, Jordan Farmar fans, this leaked from his workout with the Clippers (via the Bruin Nation blog):

    Farmar worked the pick and roll very well, but reportedly struggled to penetrate and also to stop penetration, and didn’t shoot particularly well.

    Take it with some salt, but workouts will be huge for Farmar and if he is struggling….


  6. Great, great, great, great, great. Good perspective on Odom.

    I was wondering if you were using Synergy for some of these stats. I’m jealous, the damn site shuts down my computer (IE).


  7. KD, I just started looking at synergy and loved it. My new laptop is a Mac, and synergy doesn’t like it, but I can use my wife’s Dell and IE to view some things. However, I can’t watch their video, it crashes the computer as well. I love what they do but, for marketing purposes, they need to make it more compatible with more platforms. How can it not like Firefox?

    And thanks.


  8. I think maybe many people are overvaluing Lamar. He is a good fit for the triangle so far, but there are trades that would be good for the Lakers that don’t net an all-NBA player (lets face it, KG is much more than an all-star, he’s a perennial MVP threat) in return. And why would a team trade a player like KG for a package that doesn’t include at least an all-star? Why would Kevin McHale intentionally make his team much worse and take on long term contracts in return? I mean if the KG package deal is available, take it, but it…just…doesn’t…make…sense.

    Personally I think if you can get an above-competent triangle-style PG/SG AND PF/C for Lamar you take it and either get your SF for the MLE since these are easier to come by than PGs or promote Walton to everyday starter until something comes along. Or if you are confident in the combo of Kwame and the new PF/C then Mihm is expendable and get your SF through trade. Atlanta might take Mihm for one of its 37 above average small forwards.

    This post has been brought to you by the letter P and the hyphen.


  9. Just took a look at starting power forwards throughout the league on 82 games to see how their PER/OPER compared to Lamar’s at the 4.

    Lamar was at 20.2/14.6 as a power forward. The spread there is 5.6, a number bettered by 5 guys in the league: Duncano, KG, Elton Brand, Nowitzki and Jermaine O’Neal. In O’Neal’s case, the difference was marginal–he’s at 5.8.

    There are a number of guys within range of Lamar–Marion, Bosh, Swift, Gasol, Shareef and Jamison all had a similar but slightly lower spread.

    Interestingly, defensively, Lamar’s 14.6 was 2nd best among power forwards, behind only Swift’s 12.3. Only JO was also under 15, indicating that the 4 position right now is strong offensively, but also that Lamar more than held his own defensively.

    Lamar’s numbers are a big improvement defensively over recent years. I wonder if that’s Kwame took Duncan, KG et al, whereas in years past, Lamar had to take those guys, whether here in LA or at Miami. Whatever, it worked. And for Kwame too–his opponent per was 13.5. Put those two guys together, and the Lakers have a strong defensive frontcourt.


  10. Kwame’s man defense was good, but he needs to work on his rotations. There was plenty of times he looked lost in space, and he struggled when his man could shoot from the outside.


  11. You start with a potentially faulty premise. Is Lamar Odom going to play PF going forward or was that a function of Mihm being out and the Lakers playing PHO? If he is the PF, the rotation would seem to be set. So why all this talk about needing another 4/5? Lamar, Kwame and Mihm would seem to be a robust frontcourt rotation.

    In the top 3 5-man’s by minutes Lamar is playing the 3. It would seem to indicate he is playing PF only when someone is hurt or against opposing subs and even then I question if he is guarding the main opposing threat or if they are mostly switching. Keeping Lamar out of harms way for foul trouble would seem to be a notable concern.

    For comparison, in the playoffs when LO played exclusively in the front court, he was -0.7 and -13.4 at PF and C respectively. Why do I get the sense the Lakers do some tricky things defensively to help him when they can that might have played tricks with his regular season stats? Where was Lamar defensively during the Nash/Diaw screen-and-roll parade? Hiding weak side I bet…

    Not that there is anything wrong with any of that, but it all goes into the illusions that possibly create overvaluation. Lamar Odom at SF is above average (+2.8) but thats not even as good as the guy he used to start in front of CM50’s +3.5.

    Let me try to put this in yet another perspective using examples from your Lamar Odom similars list. If you have the chance to significantly upgrade TWO positions for Jamison or Shareef you don’t take it? That might be the chance the Lakers have if they act quickly before Lamar’s stock reverts to reality. The chance might be out there as long as they don’t get stuck confusing Lamar Odom for EB, KG, Duncan, Dirk, etc.


  12. Where is this new “NBA Synergy” website?


  13. No ones claiming a trade for KG straight up for Odom is possible. Its just that getting a player of Odom’s quality is a lot harder than it looks. No, he’s not Elton Brand or Tim Duncan but he’s good and all we are saying is that if Odom is going to be traded, a better player than Odom should be coming back in return.


  14. John R. makes some decent points about Lamar Odom.

    I’m a huge LO fan, but I’ll admit that he’s not on par with EB, KG, Duncan, or Dirk at this point.

    Therefore, for the above-caliber player I agree that a deal makes sense for the Lakers. A deal like that won’t happen, however, b/c the deal would not make sense for the other team.

    The reason that trading LO for something a little bit less valuable than EB/KG/Duncan/Dirk is that the Lakers have invested heavily in LO (shout-out to Gatinho #22) and you break-even in a best-case scenario.

    A deal for two players is intrigueing (ala Jamison & Shareef) but I’m a strong believer that in any two-for-one deal the team getting the one superior player is almost always getting the better deal.

    Now, Mihm for a high draft-pick … that brings up happy memories of Vlade for Kobe.


  15. I think the biggest proponent of always getting the better player in every deal is Isiah Thomas. Any legitamate chance at KG would include Odom, Mihm, a future draft pick, and probably Bynum. Even then another team, like Chicago, could come up with a better offer. Any two for one deal involving Odom would have to get young talent in return, like say Hinrich and Deng from Chicago, and hoping that they mature into better players.


  16. DJ not damon jones May 30, 2006 at 10:47 pm

    i got an idea. we all know KG is wanting out of Minny. u could just see it in his eyes. if he wants to be traded, i think the lakers should trade lamar/devean george and/or chris mihm. this will leave space on the roster, and hopefully we could sign mike james. and that’ll be a good team. but all of this may not come true, i’m just dreaming……


  17. heh. maybe john r IS pure evil.

    i think lamar’s going to improve some more next year. after game 7 he had a good look in his eye. i’m hoping he really works on being able to go right. that could make him a freaking monster.

    i love watching that dude play.


  18. Just to be clear, I wasn’t saying that Lamar was the equal of Dirk or Duncan. Far from it. The big four had PER/OPERs of around +10, compared to Lamar’s +5. Lamar was comparable at the 4 to Jermaine O’Neal last year, along with Shareef and a number of others. The point is not that Lamar could be traded for Dirk or KG (I doubt that very much), but that he is a very good number 4, and that it would be hard for the Lakers to do much better.

    As for whether Lamar’s numbers at the 4 spot are real, well, he played more than 1/2 his time there throughout the season according to 82 games. Having checked the site throughout the season, I recall that his numbers were consistently higher there, though I don’t know the splits at all. In total, he played 44% of the team’s minutes at the 4, and 34% at the 3, plus another 2% at center.

    Frankly I’m surprised that he was so much better at the 4, and would look to smarter basketball minds than mine for reasons why–I felt at the beginning of the season that having him at the 3 would be great. This season, at least, Lamar was an okay small forward and probably the best of the second tier of power forwards, top 5 or 6 in the league. That’s no KG to be sure, but it’s something to build on.


  19. If you play Lamar at the 4, then you have to find a good 3, that can DEFEND! That was the problem with Caron, no defense. Can we acquire a 3 that score and defend well this coming year?


  20. notreallyimportant May 31, 2006 at 8:59 am

    Didn’t caron start defending this year? Or is it just because he is on the wizards so any defense what so ever makes him look like artest.


  21. Just so I can be clear, I tend to mention KG too casually, because he is the mythical “instant contender” trade option, the guy who would make the Lakers or just about any other team instant threats to win it all. However, I don’t think he’s going anywhere, not because he loves his situation but because to trade him would kill the T-Wolves fan base, reducing sponsors and season ticket sales. It would take years to recover. They won’t do it.

    Another thing, and really this is a topic for an off-season post, is that the old defintions of players 1 through 5 really work less and less well as the game has evolved and 82games struggles some with that. Odom is the perfect example, he is a 3/4 but took on point guard responsibilities for much of the year, while Smush was the “1” but really played almost like a 2 in the offense. Or, look at the Suns, how can you call Marion a 4/5? Tim Thomas? The time may be coming for better definitions (there has been some discussion along these lines at the APBR boards).


  22. And Butler’s defensive numbers did improve a lot this year, although it means he’s average instead of bad. I’m not sure of the reason, I didn’t see enough Wizards games to form an opinion/theory.


  23. If Lamar is a 4 then you still need a 3. Either way you need at least 2 starters and the MLE only gets you one. And with Devean George probably gone you lose a decent bench person too.

    Tell me why its better to stand pat than to take a deal for say Ben Gordon and Mike Sweetney (or Deng) and use the MLE to fill in the 3? Chicago is way under the cap so salaries dont have to match and both teams actually benefit. Look at the bubble teams, find one that thinks they are one player away, and get them to cough up 2.

    Now you start Gordon (triangle-style combo guard), Kobe, a random NBA starter 3, Kwame, Sweetney. Smush, Walton and Cook become your bench and you STILL have Mihm to keep or trade.

    Do you hear that? Thats the cold rational voice of pure evil.


  24. John,

    The main problem with that is that all your scoring comes from the backcourt. the big guys are just there to take up space. Odom is nice because he can score inside and out and rebound. I don’t trust that Sweetney rebounds as well as Odom. And neither Kwame or Sweetney are serious post threats. Odom has shown signs of developing a legitimate post game.


  25. Nice work on the Season Reviews. I took a quick look at 2nd half of season TS% & Eff/48 which i am attaching.

    bryant,kobe 56% 32.5
    odom,lamar 58% 25.5
    parker,smush 54% 18.5
    mihm,chris 52% 24.4
    cook,brian 58% 24.2
    brown,kwame 59% 20.5
    george,devean 49% 17.8
    walton,luke 53% 19.7
    vujacic,sasha 48% 13.9
    turiaf,ronny 55% 21.2
    bynum,andrew 41% 16.5

    Comparing it to the Knickerblogger stats shows that Kwame, Luke, and Lamar really improved in the second half.

    Curious to see if it fits with your perceptions from watching the team thru the playoffs.


  26. 24. the problem is that in your scenario your hoping that Gordon and Sweetney improve enough in order to justify the trade, and Im not sure that the Jackson would be thirlled with trading his second best player for two young guys. That would put the Lakers back in the short term, with a chance to improve in the long term. Its not a bad idea, it just doesnt really fit with what the organization is trying to do. Trading Mihm for young talent or pilling up draft picks is one thing, but trading Odom for young guys is another. I think the obvious answer is to trade Mihm to answer one of the starting spots, and using the MLE to answer the other.

    One guy that I think would be interesting is Micheal Pietrus, he’s a stopper at the 3 and has an improving offensive game. If he could be had without giving up much, he could easily replace George.


  27. Sweetney is a comparable rebounder to Lamar, but Sweetney can only really score in the post and last season didn’t do that terribly well (he shot just 30% on jumpers). My impression is his decilne in efficency is a weight/conditioning issue, but he’s never going to have the athleticism of Odom.


  28. Gordon doesnt need to improve to justify being a starter. He is already a +3.5 differential SG with a opp PER of 12.8. Playing beside Kobe will just make the game even easier for him. A combo guard with lockdown ability. This isn’t what the Lakers are looking for? In that deal, Sweetney is the servicable starter OR first big man off the bench if Mihm sticks around, which at least partially negates any conditioning concerns. But that deal was just one example. Similar others could be constructed with suitable will and imagination.

    And speaking of improvement, Lamar Odom’s PER progression:


  29. notreallyimportant May 31, 2006 at 3:21 pm

    Kurt, straight up, will the Lakers be seriously contending in Kobe’s prime?


  30. Bummer, like 3/4ths of my post got cut out. Oh well.


  31. John R., it may have been held up for approval, but if something is missing drop me an email with the rest and I can add/edit it for you.


  32. Notreally, that is the big one. Can they? Yes if they make some shrewd player/personnel moves. Will they? I hope so. I’m rooting for it.