The Starting Lineup

Kurt —  October 8, 2007

Most teams go to camp with a pretty good idea of who the starting five will be, and I think most Laker fans thought they knew too — Fisher, Bryant, Walton, Odom and Bynum (or, maybe Brown).

But a new idea that fits with the team’s focus on defense and energy has come to the front — starting Ronny Turiaf at the four, moving Lamar Odom to the three and having Luke Walton come off the bench. It was talked about in the comments here in the theoretical early last week (credit to kwame a. and Carter), then Phil Jackson said he was thinking about doing it later in the week. (No, those two things are not related.)

There’s a lot to like with the idea. A front line of Odom, Turiaf, Bynum is going to be big, hit the boards hard and bring a lot more energy on defense than what we saw last year — but there are concerns and tradeoffs, too.

First, let’s look at the numbers of what this lineup would bring us on the defensive end (based on last year’s performance).

Stat 06-07 07-08?
Blocks (per 40 min.) 3.9 6.4
Rebounds(per 40 min.) 26.8 30.2
Off. Reb. (per 40) 6.8 8.2

That is a lot more blocks, and a little intimidation in the paint along with it, plus that front line would be a force on the glass. For a more all-encompassing stat, let’s look at the defensive PER across the front line (3, 4, 5):

06-07: 16.8/17.4/18.6
07-08: 13.4/16.3/18.6

In all honesty I think the results will be even better at the four and five spots — both Turiaf and Bynum will be a year more experienced and savvy. (For the record, I had last year’s starting front line as Walton, Odom and Bynum. I chose Bynum as the center for last year because he started more games than Kwame and played a higher percentage of the team’s minutes at center. I think he’ll be the starter this year because he has shown to be more in shape and ready for the workload, plus he is healthy and Kwame is not.)

The one concern on the defensive end is fouls — last year Turiaf averaged 7.4 fouls per 40 minutes, and if he is going to start he can’t do that. In part because he’ll have to be pulled five minutes into every game because he’ll have his second foul, and because he’ll push other teams toward the bonus early.

Putting Odom at the three, playing more on the wing (with Kobe facilitating the offense more) strikes me as a better fit for the triangle. It will put Odom in a position where he can shoot from the midrange or drive the lane, depending on what the defense gives him. That said, for this really to work, Odom needs to improve on his 39.6% (eFG%) on jump shots last year and his 29.7% shooting from three. He should improve those numbers as this switch should put him more in his comfort zone out on the perimeter, but if he doesn’t teams will lay off and dare him to shoot from the outside.

And then there is, no doubt, some sacrificing of offense in the starting five when you replace Walton with Tuiaf. Walton could space the floor better, shot 38.7% from three last year and is a more adept passer. Turiaf shoots well (54.9% last season) but he needs to be closer to the basket — last season he wisely didn’t even attempt a three. The Lakers will need Odom/Kobe/Fish and Bynum to pick up some of the scoring lost, something I think would happen.

What you lose in offense in the starting five you gain coming off the bench. The second five would be Farmar, Evans, Walton, Radmanovic and Kwame. (In reality, that five would not get a lot of time as a unit because Phil would play Odom or Kobe mixed in with that group to provide some offense). With Farmar and Walton on the floor you get guys who will run the offense and get teammates some easy, open looks. Radmanovic is a guy who can knock down those looks if he returns to anything near his form. Evans will be solid at both ends, as always.

But with Walton and Radmanovic on the front line, whichever center is out there with them will have to be a defensive force in the paint because those two will not be.

All that said, the idea of starting Turiaf has grown on me. Even if he is not the guy on the floor at the end of the game, he will ensure that there is energy from the opening tip off, and he will bring some defense that the Lakers sorely need to the table. It should make the Lakers a better team.

At least on paper. It will be interesting to see how things go, starting Tuesday night.

Kurt

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28 responses to The Starting Lineup

  1. I remember last year when we all thought that maybe the best role model that Kwame could look to was Ben Wallace…crash the boards, use his body to clog up the middle, focus on playing D…but alas, Kwame just couldn’t get it.

    I think that a Ben Wallace style of player would benefit us in the same way it helped Detroit, and I think Ronnie could become that kind of player, no doubt his head and heart are more willing and capable to try to become that kind of player.

    I agree, that this new thinking about having Ronnie start, and being that Ben Wallacesque force will be a great boost to the team.

    maybe if Kwame sees Ronnies star starting to shine, while he’s watching from the bench, maybe Kwame will realize it’s his contract year, and he could be considered a “bust” in the league, an overpaid, underachiever …maybe finally he’ll get motivated and show this city he can man up and get his head and heart into the game.
    what I’d love to see happen is some desire and energy from players like Kwame that we’ve more or less given up.
    I still say we are in for a few surprises this year.
    we are overdue for a “breakout star” the unexpected boost like the Spurs got from Ginolbli, or Bowen…that could come from Mo Evans, maybe Crit, Andrew…ya never know…so we’ll just sit back and watch.

  2. I’d hope best case Kwame steps it up because it’s a contract year but I just can’t shake the feeling that he’s going to be traded no matter how he produces. He’s so shaky that it’s a much better bet to try to get something for him to improve the roster/appease Kobe than pray for consistent solid performances.

  3. I think the sudden gush of wind that blew Phil’s way may prove to be a very good thing. I think even Phil realizes that Walton is not an NBA starter-quality guy, but might be perfect as the 6th man. I don’t know how this helps motivation-wise but I think the kind of player and person Luke is, he’ll be ok.

    Then everything seems to fall into place. Luke will then be better conserved for injuries, Odom will slide to 3, also conserving his health for too much banging that his body cannot seem to sustain. Then Bynum is paired with a defensive on-ball defender that might help him do the clogging of lanes and pulling those rebounds as Ronny does the boxing out. And if its any consolation, Ronny can hit that 15 footer mind you.

    Then there’s Odom at the 3. Are you kidding me? At 6’10, while he may be slower than Josh Howard or Nocioni or LeBron, what do they do on defense? He should practice that 3-pointer more too.

    I still count Farmar as my starting PG – even though we know Fish is reported to be starting. Bynum will be my starting center backed by Mihm.

    One more thing – aren’t we positioned very well to trade Kwame for added firepower or help? Or is Mitch so infatuated with the guy… I see Minny as an interested prospect in exchange for Blount – we get to cut some salary from this year’s payroll by 1M. but add 15M more over the next 2 years. Blount can be our insurance IF Mihm decides to seek greener pastures.

  4. Just a thought: Kobe – Lamar – Vlade – Turiaf – Bynum lineup could be a monster. Kobe can defend the PG, the rest of gang bang can play zone.

  5. The Dude Abides October 8, 2007 at 3:38 am

    All of the hustle in the world won’t give Kwame the two most important things he needs to succeed in the NBA–his left hand, and his right hand.

  6. The Dude Abides October 8, 2007 at 3:40 am

    I should add that I meant, “his left hand, and his right hand, working together to catch passes in the lane.

  7. With the depth that we have, if we get off to a good start – read Kobe / Turiaf – we should be able to hold our leads with the 2nd unit out there. And we haven’t even mentioned Crit (it would be good to give him time to develop, but I suspect Phil will want his 6’5″, athletic frame out there too much not to try him out.

  8. the other Stephen October 8, 2007 at 9:34 am

    4. maybe kwame should wear baseball mitts.

    everyone’s seen the elie seckbach interview with the team, right? the one where bynum’s muscles look like papayas?

  9. I like Odom at the 3. The primary worry was that Lamar is not a shooter from outside. Does the 3 have to be a shooter in the triangle? I thought the beauty of the triangle is that the parts are interchangeable. I’d like to see Odom post up and slash to the hole with and without the ball from tihis position. One of the PG’s has to step up and increase his FG%. I like the old school approach. Have the backcourt shoot and drive, and the frront court man the wings and the post positions and bang away inside. In other words, couldn’t we utilize Odom more like a Worthy than a Pippen?

  10. paul. From what I remember Pippen was used quite a bit on the inside. Someone can correct me if I am wrong, but I remember him posting up and slashing to the basket just as often, if not more often then playing on the perimeter.

  11. Ronny is my man! I love the idea of him getting more action, but starting sounds great to me. But I think the most important point was Kurt’s that he really has to watch his fouling. If all is good on that front, I think it gives the Lakers a good edge.

    Another thought is that since, like Kurt said, Odom or Kobe will be mixed in with the second unit, it’s likely that Lamar will also play some four as well. This is why I have always sided with not giving him up in trades, because not only can he oversize most 3s in the league, but he can also be a big mismatch for 4s as well. Another thing that I would be interested to see Phil exploit is that since the parts of the triangle are often interchangeable, if Radmanovic can show a pulse, playing him and Lamar with one of our centers would be an interesting offensive suit. Both have good size, and Vlad is relatively quick for his frame, I think it would give the 3s and 4s they are matched up with fits.

  12. re: 8 – I was excited for this season already. I’m a die-hard laker fan and really do think that the team has a whole hell of a lot of potential, but i didn’t realize just how much potential until you recommended that video. Bynum. Looks. Huge. There was already all this talk about the work he’s put in, but look at the man; he’s a friggin beast now. That short video of bynum’s physical improvement has single handedly swayed me from the “trade-the-guy-before-he-implodes” camp to the other side. More along the lines of keep him for 07-08 and hang on for the KB24, LO, AB show. Make no mistake lake-o-philes, this will be an exciting season.

    Also, and this is such a non-sequitur, but i think kobe goes for 100 this season and REALLY sparks the “who’s the GOAT” debate.

  13. Last year I thought that we started at least 2 back-ups (and maybe 3): Smush, Walton, and Bynum. Now, if Bynum does step up and can be a quality starter, then we will only be starting 1 back-up: Turiaf. I can live with that, though, becuase Turiaf is a true hustle player who’s contributions go beyond the stat sheet. His energy is contagious, and his game is much more well rounded than what he has shown in the past. So I, too, think this will be a good move.

    I also think that Walton will be the true sixth man. When he comes in he can be a facilitator for the 2nd unit, and Odom can go to the 4 and we can play with (essentially) last years starting core as our 2nd unit. Overall, a move like this shows our depth, and in the long run will help in keepiing players like Walton and Odom in situations where they can hopefull avoid injuries. All positives in my eyes.

  14. 8. Bynum does look huge. He also doesn’t look so much like a little (his face not his body) anymore. He seems like he has grown into his body a little more.

  15. A big factor for this coming season will be Phil Jackson’s rotations/lineups. Last year, due to injury and Phil’s nature, the lineups and rotations were shuffled too much. I hope that Phil can settle in on 5-6 bench players that will be key. I hope Evans, Farmar, Vlad, Walton (or Ronny), Kwame and Mihm. I like Sasha, and Cook can be useful, but I think they aren’t getting better, and we need more defense on the floor.

  16. The story I read in the Register this morning suggested that the best shooter in camp so far has been Coby Karl. Perhaps he can be the player Sasha was supposed to be, and we can have at least on legitimate threat from the outside. The story says that Mitch would like to carry only 14 on contract, but there is a possibility that they might carry 15.

  17. The problem with Sasha is all mental. That sounds like the running theme with the Lakers. Be it Sasha, Bynum, Kwame, whoever, their biggest problem seems to be something that is tough to “fix.” Basketball is not a thinking man’s game, at least not for the players actually on the court. It has so much to do with reaction times and just having a “feel” for the game. Court presence is a tremendous advantage and all the great players have it. Role players, however small a role they play, also need this “skill” in some small dose. It’s why Sasha drains jumpers all day in practice and in pre-game warm-ups. It’s also why he chucks brick after brick in “live” game action. Wish it weren’t so because he could be a hell of an asset if he could ever translate his touch into a game environment on a consistent basis.

  18. If only Sasha could bottle that Dallas game where he had 18 points, including the game-winning three.

  19. LA Times talked about how Jordan Farmar has developed a chip on his shoulder. Supposedly once he heard the Lakers drafted Javaris he headed to the gym and continued working out. Word out of camp is that he is one of the biggest surprises in training camp. Coach PJ, “He’s playing really well, I think his decisions are better. I think his shooting’s better right now too.”

    Apparently the fight for PG minutes has sparked improved play, we can only hope this transcends to the regular season.

    Finally, Turiaf has a sore knee, as does Kobe, and Luke has a strained hamstring. Can we please get healthy before the season starts? We want to see all the work from the offseason equates to.

    The biggest thing FBG prays for is health and I hope we get it.

  20. 10 players accounted for in the main post, leaving Mihm and Cook? Sasha? Crittendon? Karl? I think all but Karl make the 15 man roster. Though apparantly the word from camp is he’s playing better than Sasha. I think you have to take Mihm because big men have value. Cook probably makes the 12 man because not taking him to every game admits a mistake (which re-signing him was).

    Anyone catching the pre-season games in europe at all? It’s so nice to have basketball on tv again.

  21. Kurt,
    I have my doubts Bynum or Kwame will be the starting C if Turaif starts. Mihm would seem to be far more logical. Pairing Kwame w/Turaif would be a huge drag on the Lakers offence as neither has shown they can score in the low post and Kwame’s hands are too poor to do anything w/passes off a driver being picked up by help D. I expect Turaif will get a suprising number of baskets by diving to basket if Lamar and Kobe look for him. And I don’t think that Phil trusts Bynum enough to start him at beginning of season.(If you start to believe Warren and his conspiracy theories,here’s one for you. Phil starts Mihn at begin of season,then when team hits rough patch in Jan/Feb he shakes up team by moving Bynum into starting spot.)
    With Mihm,they can post Lamar down low where he should have an edge over most 3s while Mihn drags his man outside or else Mihn gets open jumpers all night long. Kwame can come in for Turaif if he gets in foul trouble,w/Mihm sliding over to the 4. Bynum comes in for Mihm.
    I wouldn’t worry too much about Turaif’s fouls. I think he’ll be a 20-25 min player,not a 25-30 minute player,unless Kwame is traded or Mihm gets hurt again.
    If I may use a Rockets analogy,Chuck Hayes had foul problems when he first started last yr,but by the end of the season he had learned how to stay in the game. I expect Turaif will have the same experience.

    To me the most important aspect of starting Turaif is the Lakers are really serious about defense. Too often they talk of the importance of D but their personnel decisions revolve around offensive skills. The

  22. I’ve known Farmar for a long time. His motivation to succeed and his level of confidence is on par with Kobe Bryant. He is not going to give up that starting job easily. As well, I know he’s focused on transforming his game to fit in the triangle better. As Fisher realized after the 2000 season, Jordan has realized that as a PG in that system he needs to be able to hit a spot up J and play defense. I’m pretty sure most of his time in the gym has been spent working on knocking down spot up jumpers.

  23. I’m with you on Farmar Jones, I think Fisher is merely a transient mentor for the 2 we have. Fish can teach them all about being the professional and all, and they can figure their games for themselves. I think Farmar could be a Tony Parker-type of PG.

  24. 21. I actually think Turiaf has a solid offensive game, especially for the triangle. He can hit that Horace Grant 10-12 ft. jumper from the high post and baseline, and he has a good turn-around move on the block. Actually, outside of Mihm, he is the only guy (Mihm at Texas, Turiaf at Gonzaga) on the Lakers to ever show the ability to be a low-post threat.I do think you’re right though, they might very well start Mihm and Turiaf.

  25. sorry for the ‘anonymous’ post.

  26. A better second-squad lineup is moving kwame over to the 4, mihm at the 5, and drop radman. You get a lot better defense, and not a huge loss of scoring.

  27. 21. I think who plays best in camp will determine playing time at the five. I hope someone steps up and owns that position, and Mihm might be the guy. Two years ago, pre-injury, he was playing pretty well.

    26. If Radman is hitting his shots, I’d keep him in the rotation. Kwame and Mihm need to be near the basket to be effective, which throws off triangle spacing. I think Radman could surprise a few people this year.

  28. hey guys, check out John Ireland’s blog post from Lakers training camp. It is an interesting read.

    http://cbs2.com/johnireland