Marcus Banks: A quick look

Kurt —  June 19, 2006

As the summer wears on, we’ll try to take a closer look at some of the potential future Lakers, both through free agency or a trade. Generally, I think mid-June is a little too soon for this because we are in the midst of the silly season of draft-day trade rumors. However, the rumors of Laker interest in Marcus Banks seem to have some weight, going back a couple of years and coming from reliable sources. So Banks bats leadoff in this occasional series of quick looks.

Banks is an interesting example of how playing in different cities and different systems can change impressions and the stats of a player. Last season in Boston, Banks was coming off the bench, averaging less thank 15 minutes and 5.5 points per game. Then, after the trade to Minnesota, he averaged 30 minutes and 12 points, was more efficient and caught people’s eye.

The first question about any potential point guard for the Lakers is: Can he play defense? Banks can, but he didn’t last year. In Boston last year he allowed opponents to shoot 48.1% and gave up a PER of 19 (for comparison, Smush allowed opposing point guards shot 52.4% on the season with a PER of 18.7, so Banks and Smush fairly equal). In Minnesota things got a little better for Banks, opposing points still shot 48.1% but the PER fell to 17.9, but those numbers still aren’t what the Lakers need.

However, two seasons ago for the Celtics, Banks held opposing points to 40.2% shooting and a PER of 11.5 — amazing numbers. In his rookie year it was 48,1% shooting and a PER 16.3 for those he covered. Banks has shown he can bet a good defender, he just hasn’t done it consistently. He would have to understand that in LA it would be job #1.

Offensively, Banks in Boston and Banks in Minnesota were two different players — the question is will what he likes to do fit with the triangle?

In Boston this year, Banks shot just 45% (eFG%) and 31.6% from three point range, although he did get to the free throw line a fair amount so his true shooting percentage was 53.5%. In Boston, most of his offense came as the ball handler on pick and rolls (22%), as a spot up shooter (21%) and in transition (18%). Frankly, those are pretty similar to what he will be asked to do in Los Angeles, where Kobe and Odom are the ball handlers and offensive options one and two.

Banks thrived more in Minnesota — he hit 36.4% of his three pointers, shot 50% overall and had a true shooting percentage of 54.5%. All good numbers. But how he got the numbers was different — isolation accounted for 24% of his attempts the pick and roll was 22%, transition 21% and spot up was fourth.

The biggest change was that he found his jump shot in Minnesota — he shot just 34.9% on jumpers in Boston but hit a very good 48.2% in the land of 1,000 lakes. (I wanted to tell you why, but the Synergy video system kept crashing my browser when I tried to watch video, so I couldn’t watch the different kind of looks he was getting.)

As a spot up guy, something he would do more of in LA, he was solid last year — overall he shot 41.2%. In Boston, he shot 53.5% (eFG%) on unguarded catch and shoots (considered good by NBA standards), while in Minnesota that fell to an unimpressive 46.6%. What is odd is that those numbers reverse when you talk about catch and shoots where he is covered — he was bad in Boston (16.7%, in just a few chances) but was very good in Minnesota (51.4%).

What he does well everywhere is drive the lane — when he gets to the basket he shot 57.9% inside and got to the line fairly often. He is good driving right or left, the kind of versatility that makes someone hard to cover.

Bottom line, Banks would be a solid offensive fit in the triangle, a slightly better version of Smush Parker. The question is his defense — was last year a fluke or was the 2004 season the fluke. I tend to think that it is somewhere in between, that Banks would be a good but not great defender. Which, frankly, would be a big improvement and well worth the MLE.