Player Pairs (and some other stuff)

Kurt —  December 18, 2006

Now that we’re 23 games into the season — and Phil Jackson has seemingly tried every possible lineup combination in his search for a rotation — that an interesting thing to do is start looking at player pairs. Specifically, what players are playing well with each other (using +/- and other numbers).

For example, who is best paired with Kobe so far? How about Sasha Vujacic — they’ve only played 38 minutes together (not including Washington) and the team’s offensive rating during that time is 121.6 (points per 100 possessions) and during those times opponents have had an offensive rating of just 90.5. There must be something to this because Sasha’s overall numbers are not nearly that good, is it because a spot-up shooter plays well off Kobe?

That said, Kobe has played will with Lamar Odom (the two are +67 in their 533 minutes), Kwame Brown (+60 in 286 minutes), Luke Walton (+43 in 512 minutes) and Smush (+39 in 473 minutes).

One thing that jumps out at you is just how much better this team is with Kwame Brown on the floor. Kwame leads the team in +/- (he is +11.8 per 48 minutes, Kobe is second at +8.5) and every player on the team is in positive numbers (in terms of +/-) when he is playing. It’s pretty clear, right now he is the presence inside for this team, particularly on the defensive end.

Check out all the numbers for yourself, but here are a few more quick observations:

• There aren’t enough minutes to see how well Brown and Turiaf would work together (they have great numbers but just in a couple minutes), but I’d like to see how that combo works.

• Last season Smush was in the positive with every teammate, this season it is just four of them. And the pairing of Parker and Radmanovic has been weak (again, before the Washington numbers) with an offensive rating of 95.8 and a defensive rating of 113.1 — basically the Lakers are being outscored by 17.3 points per 100 possessions when these two play together. So far at least (it was just 50 minutes before Washington).

• Bynum is struggling with everyone except Mo Evans. That’s what Bynum’s inconsistent play gives you (I’m trying not to get too down on a 19 year old, but I agree with kwame a. in the comments that I’d like to see more Turiaf at the center spot on the night’s Bynum is slow on defensive rotations. For example, the Lakers needed to send a hard-foul message to the Wizards’ guards (not Mardy Collins hard, but a firm clean foul) and the only one I remember was Turiaf on Butler.

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Two other things to point you too worth reading. One is another, as always, brilliant bit of insight from Roland Lazenby on his blog:

The Lakers have a 27 point lead in the fourth quarter in Houston, then watch the Rockets furiously whittle it down to 2 and still the Lakers wind up winning on a series of missed Rockets free throws and a no-call (yes, Winter said it looked to him like Kwame Brown goal-tended on that late shot attempt).

Then, the Lakes are down by 21 in a rematch with the Rockets at home in Staples Center and somehow end up winning in double-overtime.

“Unbelievable,” Winter said.

So is the epiphany.

Which came at the tail end of all the fury. That’s when Winter saw the truth that had been sitting under his own nose for years now.

“In this coaching business, you have to be a Zen master,” he realized.

The other is a great interview with Jeff from Celtics Blog over at lowpost.net. I say that not just because Jeff says nice things about me (although that never hurts) but also because it is a great chance to learn a little about a pioneer and maybe the best NBA team blogger out there.

Oh, and David Stern brought out the iron first today. The Lakers will get one game against the depleted Nuggets (Jan. 5 at Staples).


Kurt

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