Archives For June 2006

Sliders

Kurt —  June 22, 2006

No, this post is not about the Jerry O’Connell TV show (which I loved the first season or so of, but it went downhill after that).

With less than a week before the draft it’s time to focus there. I’m talking about guys sliding down the draft board. Celtics Blog and Lowpost.net teamed up for an interesting look a few weeks back at the success rate of guys who slide (as well as risers) and found some interesting stuff — basically guys who slide 10 spots or more seem to have done so for a good reason, they tend not to pan out. There are plenty of notable exceptions (hello Gilbert Arenas) but for the most part it holds true.

With the Lakers drafting 26th, Brandon Roy is not going to fall to them, but there are a few other guys that could, and that I wouldn’t mind getting. So I thought I’d point out a few.

Kyle Lowry: He’s a 6-0 point guard out of Villanova who scouts say is likely the best defensive point in the draft. He also is known for having a hard edge (not unlike Smush). Considered very competitive and very quick — he can drive the lane in the NBA, something you can’t have enough of these days, The knock on him used to be his outside shot, but he shot 46.8% overall last year and 44.4% from beyond the arc (getting better like that is a sign of a good work ethic). He had an offensive rating of 113.4 (points per 100 possessions used), very close to more heralded teammate Randy Foye and better than Allan Ray. He may not be tall like Phil likes, but this is a guy who can play out top in the NBA and could develop into the kind of starter the Lakers could use in a few years.

Alexander Johnson: I doubt the Florida State power forward will fall to the Lakers simply because he has the “athletic with upside” tag that gets guys drafted early. That said, if he did slide he’s potentially too good to pass. He’s a 6-10, 235 power forward who is strong enough to push people around on the inside and has a consistent 12-15 foot jumper (he had an eFG% of 56%). He grabbed 23.8% of the available defensive boards when he was on the court last year and a very good 12.9% of the offensive ones. He also blocked a lot of shots. He needs polish but could be very good some day.

Hilton Armstrong: Another big, and I know all things being equal the Lakers are more likely to go with someone to be a triangle point/Kobe backup. But Armstrong, like Johnson above, might be hard to look past if he slides down the draft board (even if just as future trade bait). He’s 6-11, 235 out of UConn and has a rep as a very good weak-side shot blocker. He grabbed 16.2% of the available defensive boards last year. He also can shoot the mid-range and finished last year with an eFG% of 61.1%. That would fit nicely in the triangle.

Congratulations Shaq

Kurt —  June 21, 2006

In some corners of Lakerdom today there is bitterness that Shaquille O’Neal went on to win a title in Miami, and to do it before Kobe got his. Not in my heart, however. I’m happy he cemented a well-deserved legacy as one of the games all-time great centers.

What he did in Miami does not diminish or tarnish the three titles in LA, nor does it diminish Kobe or his role in them. Only small minds who don’t love the game think that way. Those were different Shaqs on different teams. He brought me many joyous memories, and I’m not bitter that he’s doing well 3,000 miles away.

Yes, I have had my frustrations and disappointments with Shaq. I wish he and Kobe could have figured out how to coexist in the same locker room. I wish Shaq had shown the dedication to conditioning he had under Riley the last couple years he was in Los Angeles. I wish I could have seen him jump out and show on the pick-and-roll at Staples Center like he did in Dallas.

Father time was telling Shaq it was time to be more like Kareem to Magic rather than the big dog, but maybe he needed a change of scenery to see that. So be it. Like after a relationship had crumbled with a long-time girlfriend, I have moved on. And I’m happy to see he’s done well.

Notes at 3 am

Kurt —  June 20, 2006

• One follow up note on Marcus Banks: in the comments on the post below Kevin Pelton reminded us that Dan Rosenbaum (now employed by an NBA team) came up with as good a defensive statistical metric as anyone ever has, and it ranked Banks as the second best defensive point guard in the league.

• Last year, just one mock draft had the Lakers taking Andrew Bynum at 10 — Basketball Draft Central. Check out thier interesting predicted draft order for this year (Farmar at 13 to Philly?). For the Lakers at 26, this year they are predicting Shannon Brown, which has come up in a few places and would seem a good fit.

• If you want to read the latest draft and free agent speculation, check here for the latest from Eric Pincus — but you’ll be disapointed if you think moving Odom (or Bynum) is a good idea.

• I don’t think this can be said enough — no major talent leaving his rookie contract to become a free agent in 2007 or 2008 (or a few years past that). I can give you 30 million reasons why. Remember that the team that has the rights to a player can offer him larger pay increases and one more year on a max deal, which works out to about $30 million in garunteed money over the course of the contract. Nobody is leaving that on the table (Kobe didn’t). The best you can hope for is a sign-and-trade, but you then are going to have to give up a lot of talent to get your guy.

• The latest Carnival of the NBA blogs is up at the always good Raptor Blog.

• I’m loving having Vinny Chase and the boys back for the summer. Best line from last Sunday, from Drama, made this former Valley boy laugh out loud (and wake up my two month old, who I was holding), “You know everything north of Ventura Boulevard is the devil’s waiting room.”

• From the “yes I’m petty” file: After what a black hole he was in the Finals two years ago for the Lakers, it just pisses me off to see Gary Payton hitting big shots now.

• I really shouldn’t use the word “petty” in relations to these finals because ABC has already tainted it (think Tom).

• As an NBA fan, I can’t say enough that these Finals, and these playoffs, have been way more entertaining than I could have hoped for. There really just is something in the air about the NBA right now, you can feel the energy.

• The only person dragging them down is Bennett Salvatore.

• I’m not saying Wade wasn’t fouled on the last play of the game, or that the majority of calls were not justified, I just think it’s pretty amazing that the Heat had 49 free throws on 69 shot attempts in game 5. My theory is that stars that can penetrate get calls — and that is Wade — and that the home team gets more calls. Look for things to even out tonight in Dallas.

• The Stanley Cup is still the coolest trophy in all of sports, in part because of the great rituals and traditions around it (how many other trophys have gone to strip clubs?). I love watching the players skate around with it, even when I don’t care about the team.

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.

Notes at 3 a.m.

Kurt —  June 15, 2006

You can tell the draft is getting close by the volume and insanity of rumors are starting to fly all over the Web. DraftExpress, which has some of the best player breakdowns and the seemingly most logical mock draft, got into it this week with a few doozies, such as KG to Sacramento for essentially a 10-pound bag of shit.

There are some Laker rumors in that story as well and I’m not really going to get into refuting all of them, save to say the Lakers are not going to trade Odom for Chicago’s two first round draft picks in an poor draft year. Look at it this way — when was the last time Phil Jackson said, “Man, I’ve got too many versatile veterans on this team, I need some kids.”

That said, the rumor mill does have Jackson liking Brandon Roy. I get that — I’ve said here since before March Madness that I liked him and thought he’d be a great triangle fit. But if the Lakers go after him, I expect it will be with Mihm (who in a radio interview the other day Mitch K. basically referred to as the third center) and fillers, not Odom. You just don’t trade a top-30 NBA player for a couple of rookies.

• Jones on the NBA has been watching Kareem Rush workout and says he is fit and ready to play somewhere. He also says that the Bickerstaff comments about Rush’s work ethic were bullshit.

• Hoopsanalyst has started a series of draft breakdowns, starting by looking at the thin point guard class. Plus, there is a statistical breakdown of the Euros expected to be picked in a couple weeks.

• About the NBA Finals: Commenter John in Vancouver made a good comparison — was the Heat’s win in game 3 the “Kobe game” from the 2004 NBA finals? You remember, the one where he tied the game by hitting a three with 2.1 seconds left in regulation then took over in overtime to give the Lakers their only win against the Pistons

Count me in the group that thinks the fact it took a superhuman effort from Dwayne Wade for Miami to just eek out a win against the Mavs is not a good sign for them.

• The Lakers increased ticket prices again this year. In other news, the sun rises in the east.

• I don’t come to these type of decisions quickly, but I think it may be time for Bruce Arena to go as head coach of US Soccer. The game plan he employed against the Czechs was odd at best, and apparently the players were quite confused by it. Why are Beasley and Donovan are being put in more defensive positions?

Arena deserves a lot of credit for building the core of US Soccer up to what it has become, but he is not the man to take it to the next level. The US needs to look for its Phil Jackson, someone who can come in and mold the assembled talent into something more than the parts. Arena appears incapable of that.