Preview and Chat: The Washington Wizards

Kurt —  December 17, 2006

Last Season’s Lakers. Houston certainly gave “The Kobe Rules” a shot, trying a few different ways to force the ball out of Kobe’s hands. At one point late in the first half, when Kobe had been bringing the ball up the court, the Rockets started trapping him with two men as soon as he crossed half court. They tried that more later, along with other steps, all of which wasn’t terribly successful (Kobe shot 51.3% [eFG%] despite using 40% of the Laker possessions).

The Lakers won in double OT, but that game look like last season’s Lakers — a lot of Kobe and not much else. Odom being out is chance for the rest of the team to grow, to step up, So far, there’s been limited evidence of that. And for the most part, one player taking a lot of shots is not conducive to winning.

Cook or Radmanovic? Vlad got the start, but in crunch time against Houston it was Cook on the floor (Vlad went out three-quarters of the way through the third never to return). In the last two games Cook is +20 and Radmanovic -19. If I’m Phil, the thought of moving Cook into the starting lineup is starting to gain momentum in my mind, even if I’m not making the move yet.

Defensive Challenge. The Washington Wizards are the kind of team that presents a match up challenge for the Lakers, particularly without Odom. Playing point is the exciting (if a bit odd) Gilbert Arenas, old-friend Caron Butler is at the three and Antawn Jamison is at the four.

Arenas is the leader, with a PER of 25.8 (10th best in the NBA this season) and a crazy good +/- of +28.3 (per 48 minutes, meaning the team outscores its opponents by that much when he is on the floor). He is shooting 47.5% on jumpers, 39.9% on threes and is quick enough to get into the lane. Also 18% of his possessions are ending in an assist. That’s a tough match up for Smush and Farmar (or anyone in the league).

Butler is scoring 18.7 points per 40 minutes and is adding 8.2 rebounds in that time. Jamison is shooting 52.5% (eFG%) on the season and his scoring and rebounding numbers are very similar to Butler’s.

The Wizards are going to score, they have the sixth most efficient offense in the league at 110.5 points per 100 possessions (the Lakers are at 109.6, 10th in the league). To slow them down the Lakers are going to need to have good rotations and Kwame/Bynum are going to have to take over the paint, block some balls and generally do some intimidation. And do it without getting in foul trouble.

But the Lakers should score plenty. Bet the over, because the Wizards have the third-worst defense in the league. Team’s shoot well against them (50.6% eFG%) but also grab 30% of their missed shots, shots there are a lot of chance for offensive put backs.

Defensively the Wizards are weakest along the front line — opposing threes have a PER of 19.7 against them, and both fours and fives are above average. The Lakers should be able to get the ball inside today and score, and look for a big game from Walton.

Blogging with the enemy. If you want to know what’s in the Wizards’ heads — well, not Arenas, I’m not sure we want to know that — there’s a new Wizards blog, Bullets Forever, worth checking out.

Things to look for. While Arenas is driving the lane, two-guard DeShawn Stevenson is shooting 42.1% from beyond the three-point line, the Lakers can’t collapse and just ignore him.

The Wizards are not an abnormally good shooting team — they are 15th in the NBA — but they don’t turn the ball over much (14.7% of possessions, third best in the NBA) and they get to the line a lot (seventh most per shot in the league). So keys for the Lakers would be creating some turnovers and staying out of foul trouble.

To me, the key is Bynum/Kwame. If they can set a defensive tone, and if they can grab a bunch of offensive rebounds, the Lakers should be able to control the paint and get the win. Phil has been frustrated with the pair of late, they need to step up tonight.

If nothing else, the Wizards are one of the more entertaining teams in the league to watch.



25 responses to Preview and Chat: The Washington Wizards

  1. I think Phil should stick with VladRad for now. I like the idea of him having a chance to start and get acclimated to playing with Kobe, I think, if the Lakers are gonna keep Vlad, that is important for him to be able to play effectivley with the starting unit. This will only make the team stronger when Lamar gets back. Also, having cook on the second unit ensures that there will be some bench scoring, and I think Phil likes having Andrew in with Cook, so Andrew can protect the hoop.

  2. Hey, thanks for the shout!

    I had not been exposed to that stat about the Wizards’ inability to defend small forwards. I would have assumed that the Wizards’ biggest struggle would be defending power forwards with Jamison around, but I guess I was wrong. You would think Butler should be a strong defender, but I guess he hasn’t been thus far.

  3. Hey Kurt,

    I am a little surprised that you haven’t said anything about the MSG brawl, and its possibble effects on the leagues top scorer.

  4. Anyone notice how nobody seems to care about the, oh i’d say, once every two months bench-clearing basebrawl, or the every nite hockey fite, but when a scuffle in a physical sport like basketball happens its the end of the world, hmmm, pretty interesting, wonder why?

  5. I know, we can say what we want here, but I suggest we refrain from talking about any ‘brawl’. All the emphasis is what I called “ESPN Motivated”, meaning it’s there to draw viewers/readers and doesn’t really impart any information.

    Yeah! I know what happened; now lets move on to the important stuff — like Laker comparisons, suggestions, etc.

  6. because fights are part of hockey, and basebrawls really have been around a long time. The NBA is on high alert for these fights because it involved the fans a few years back. The NBA is unique in that it allows fans to be in such close proximity to the players (without a layer of plexiglass between them).

  7. 2. Regarding Caron Butler, we had this discussion when he was a Laker. He’s athletic and seems like he’s a good defender, but the numbers suggest otherwise. Opposing threes had a PER of 20 against him in LA. Now, I think part of what holds him back is that in LA (Mihm) and Washington, there is no good in-the-paint help defender to slow guys who get past him. But still, you’d expect a little more.

    Anyone with a better memory of that than I chime in please.

  8. Ian, I’m not sure what to say about the brawl, save that I think it’s sad in that it reinforces an image (media driven or not, true or not) that the NBA is full of thugs.

    As for the leage’s leading scorer (by PPG), Melo is one and likely will miss games, #2 is Iverson. So, are you ready for the NBA’s leading scorer at the end of the season being Joe Johnson?

  9. Well that was a big shot by B. Cook.

  10. can’t believe the lakers lost after hustling hard to make it into overtime..this team definitely needs odom back so they don’t give up easy points in the first half..i have a feeling the lakers are going to be losing a lot more if they don’t adjust quickly(ie. down by 10 in the half @ home against the wizards) the wizards haven’t beaten the lakers since the 70s and the lakers lose simply because they rely too much on kobe and they jack up poor shots..

  11. 10 – I didn’t see the game, but the boxscore doesn’t indicate that the Lakers’ problem tonight had anything to do with jacking up poor shots or relying on Kobe. I saw Arenas had 60 points, the Wiz shot 50%, and the Lakers gave up over 140 points.

  12. WE CANT REBOUND! Why is Bynum’s coordinations sooooo bad, he is always late on rotating to help and often mistimes his jumps.

  13. The wiz also had 60 free throw (arenas w/ 27) attempts to the lakers 30. That’ll get ya.

  14. 13 – Conspiracy!

  15. The difference was the free throws (which ties back to the Lakers weakness stopping guys off the dribble on the perimeter and poor rotations inside). I mentioned they get to the line a lot in the previews, but I didn’t think it would be this bad.

    They play defense on this road trip like they have in the last three games and it’s going to be a long couple of weeks.

  16. Well, although Arenas’ 60 will over shadow kobe’s 45 it is worth noting that he was insanely efficient. By my calculation a TS% of 79.2. Where as arenas is waaay down there at 68.4 :).
    also it is nice to see Vlad get his shot going for the first time.

  17. I did watch the game and…
    1) Yes the Lakers did jack up too many threes, especially in the first half. They didn’t try to drive very much – see the free throw discrepency (no conspiracy involved).

    2) We have to remember Bynum is not only a YOUNG 19, but also played very few high school games. This guy is the definition of potential. Let’s not pull a Kwame on him. Expecting him to be an experienced rebounder, defender, scorer in his second year of ball – with his experience – is just not realistic. All our guys were overwhelmed last night – let’s not pick on just one. We are going to see some good nights and probably more ‘learning’ nights from Andrew.

  18. I dont necessarily mean to pick on Andrew, as much as the fact that his presence on the court is killing us on defense. An interior presence is necessary today with the new rules, and if Andrew can’t pick it up quick enough Ronny should be put in, it’s more on Phil, I mean yeah Andrew is young and looks lost and now that teams have seen tape they are exploiting that consistently. Turiaf gives the team no other player on the team does and if Phil refuses to play him at the four in lieu of Cook and Vlad, then put him in at the 5 for 10-12 mins a nite, he’ll help the defense and bring enthusiasm.

  19. kwame a makes a good point. turiaf is a very cerebral player. he makes adjustments and moves his feet. i think his presence makes us better defensively in spurts. his offense isn’t even that bad either, although the shooting of radman and cook is tempting to keep on the court, but let’s face it, those two aren’t good on defense. if we don’t have our minds in focus, we will have lots of problems defending the dribble penetration, no matter who is on the court. and kobe, you can’t guard a point guard like arenas, and it doesn’t mean you aren’t the best player in the world, or that you have a small penis. gilbert is a fast player who is very big for how quick he is. i love kobe for being so competitive though! he wants revenge next game. i’m sure he’ll get it also. tough loss!

  20. 17 – It may have FELT like the Lakers shot too many threes in the first half, but considering they were 6/14 on 3-point shots – good for a stellar 43%. They clearly performed well in that area.

    The Lakes scored 126 points in REGULATION. They should’ve blown the Wizards out by 30. The problem was defense.

    Yeah, you can argue that maybe their offense wasn’t balanced, and they should’ve driven to the basket more, but the bottom line is they scored points. The results were there, regardless of how they got the results.

    By the way, in light of Kobe’s quotes regarding Arenas, I will not miss the next matchup.

  21. If Kobe would like a one on one rematch with Gilbert next summer, I know of a great court on main beach in Laguna they could use . . . . .

    Smushaholics noted that the defense didn’t get REALLY bad until Smush was benched in the fourth quarter.

  22. Who was guarding Gilbert anyway? Was it Kobe?

  23. 22. Smush early, Farmar had some time on him, then Kobe late. None of them did a great job on him, but to be fair there was little help on rotations and Arenas got into one of those zones (he did take some iffy shots, but they fell, it was like watching Kobe in that way).

  24. im just glad gil didnt sign with the clips when he had the chance. dont want to see him 4 times a year, he is like iverson with a jumper

  25. By the time Kobe switched to guarding Arenas, he was in foul trouble and had to watch it. He couldn’t bring his usual intensity for fear of fouling out. But I was there and ,Holy Smokes, Arenas was on fire. As a Laker fan it stunk. But as a b-ball fan it was a thing of beauty to watch.