Our Man Vlad Is Rad

Kurt —  July 2, 2006

One of the two off-season priorities for the Lakers was to get some more scoring punch out of the three spot, and it took all of one day to do that.

The Lakers apparently have agreed in principle to sign Vladimir Radmanovic to a deal for the full MLE for five years (that starts at $5 mil this year and is worth about $31 over the course of the deal). Nothing can be finalized until July 12, and Vlad has had some squirrelly contract dealings before (ask Seattle fans) but it appears to be a done deal.

The signing of Vlad makes the Lakers a more dangerous offensive team — they have a deadly outside shooter who will make it harder to just collapse on Kobe (or Odom). But the Lakers were the eighth best offensive team in the league last season (scoring 109.8 points per 100 possessions, ahead of teams like the Spurs and Cavs). However, they were weaker on defense (15th in the league), particularly on the perimeter, and this signing likely makes that problem worse.

What Vlad can do is stretch the defense — he hit 39% of his threes last season, 41.8% in his time with the Clippers. And you can expect plenty of them, 55% of his shots last season were threes. It’s not hard to envision what the Lakers picture, Kobe drives the lane, draws the double, kicks the ball out and one pass later Vlad’s draining a three. Also, Kobe could have another very dangerous pick-and-pop partner. With the Clippers Vlad averaged 15.4 points per 40 minutes, shot a good 54.4% (eFG%) with a true shooting percentage of 56.8%. No doubt he can shoot the rock.

It’s a bit cliché to say this about Euros, but he may be 6-10 but he won’t be hanging out near the hoop. Last season 79% of his shots were jumpers (and he shot 55.6% [eFG%] on those and just 50.9% on his shots close to the basket). Also he’ll grab a few boards but not a lot, last season he pulled down 10.8% of the available rebounds, a number that is pretty average (and maybe weak for his height).

While Vlad will fit well in the triangle offense, his defense is a liability (it’s the reason he was -2.9 with the Clippers and -1.9 with the Sonics last season).

He is particularly weak on the perimeter, where the Lakers need the most defensive help. Just to jog your memory, in the Suns/Clippers playoff series the Suns started using whoever Vlad was guarding to come out and run the pick-and-roll with Nash so they could get that switch.

Last season with the Clippers, opposing threes shot 53.1% (eFG%) and had a PER of 19.1 — basically the equivalent of having Richard Jefferson playing against you at the three nightly. In Seattle4 it was worse, threes shot 54.7% and had a PER of 22.7. For comparison, Walton held opposing threes to 44% shooting and a PER of 13.2 (below the league average of 15). If you’re saying to yourself “Well, he’s 6-10, make him guard some fours” the idea is a good one — but it doesn’t work. In Seattle last season he allowed opposing fours to shoot 53.4% and have a PER of 19.8. And, the season before, when he played more four for the Sonics (their better offensive season) he allowed fours to shoot 54.8%.

You can try to hide him defensively, but you’re going to have to ask more of Odom and expect Kwame to be better on defensive rotations than he was last year.

If Vlad doesn’t solve the perimeter defensive issue, and he’s taking up the full MLE, then how do you solve it? Specifically, how do you get in that better defensive point guard? I’m not sure we’re going to get anyone better than Smush for the veteran’s exemption. Maybe this means you have to trade Mihm (and some other players/picks) to get your starting point. I’m not sure that Minnesota wants to do a sign-and-trade for Marcus Banks, they would prefer to keep him. Toronto has Mike James, but they just got their center in a trade. So, who do you get?

Let me be clear — I like the pick up of Vlad. However we’ll have to see what other moves Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss have up their sleeves to see how this really fits in with the overall plans for next year. In and of itself signing Vlad is not moving the Lakers very far up the ladder in the Western Conference.