Who Starts?

Kurt —  November 28, 2007

It’s been the question in the comments recently — start Bynum or bring him off the bench?

He’s the best offensive center the Lakers have by far, and plays good defense for the most part (opposing centers are shooting just 37.5% and have a PER of 13.5). On the other hand, he averages 5.4 fouls per 40 minutes and starting him means risking having to sit him with foul trouble at key points. Plus, without him the second unit that was such a force for the team early on is dramatically weakened (and the current starting unit with him is not tearing it up).

However, as Rob L. brought up, the question here is really bigger than just Bynum:

Should a coach go with the best starting five athletes, or find the best complementary starting five? Is the answer to this question absolute? Or does it change from team to team? Shouldn’t a coach be able to take the best five athletes and meld them into a cohesive starting five?

I’m going to email this to a couple basketball people and see what they think, and post the responses as updates. What are your thoughts?

UPDATE #1: From Tom Ziller of Sactown Royalty and AOL Fanhouse:

I think you absolutely have to go with the best complementary starting five. Look at San Antonio, with Michael Finley starting over Manu Ginobili. Ginobili is one of the best five two-guards in the league (and Finley might be in the bottom quartile among rotation-level SGs), but he fits the team better coming off the bench and not necessarily playing all of his minutes with Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. Manu played 62% of his minutes with Parker on the floor last year. In that other 38%, the Spurs had a net per-48 +/- of +11.5, which is comparable with the Manu + Parker +/- of +13.3. Finley’s +/- without Parker: +1.89 points per 48 (versus +6.9 with Parker). It’s not just the starting lineup you have to worry about when constructing a rotation — those eight minutes which straddle the first quarter break count too. And this says nothing of the benefits of subbing a roleplaying rebounder (Chuck Hayes?) for a scoring power forward (Luis Scola) in the starting lineup, even though Scola’s a better player. A basketball starting lineup isn’t like a baseball batting order; the pieces need to fit. Starting your five best players usually doesn’t do that.

UPDATE #2: Next up are some great points from Henry of the legen-(wait for it)-dary True Hoop:

Oh man, I am SQUARELY against the “best five players” approach, and so is Gregg Popovich!

I could write a novel about why. Here are some highlights:
• Who starts is not about who deserves honor. It’s a strategy.

• Pretty much no matter what, you always need at least one big man and at least one real deal point guard. On a lot of teams, that rule alone would defeat the “best five” argument.

• As Daryl Morey explained in a Houston Press interview recently, thanks to substitution patterns, you can think of an NBA game as a series of mini-games. Every time there’s a different lineup, a new mini-game begins, and it lasts until the next substitution. As coach, you have to have a plan to win more than your fair share of those mini games. You have to be able to put effective combinations on the floor at all times. So your beginning game strategy must not crap upon our mid-game strategy. Which is why there is a long history of great players — Manu Ginobili, Adrian Dantley, Vinnie Johnson, Bill Walton in Boston — coming off the bench.

• In trying to win a team game, you have to find combinations of players that work. For instance, Shane Battier is not all that great compared to a lot of players, but when he’s on the floor, statistics show the team is good. 82games has examples of player combinations that are highly effective, like last year Kyle Lowry and Mike Miller were, per 48 minutes, the best combination in the NBA. If the sample size is big enough, that kind of stuff is all you need to know. Guys who beat the other team consistently are your best lineup, whether you consider them your best players or not. So, as coach, I think you need to seek lineups that demonstrate they can perform at a high level together. Not lineups that look like you think lineups are supposed to look, feature the highly paid players, etc. If you want to win, play the guys who are in the habit of scoring more points than the other team.

UPDATE #3: Mike from Knickerblogger says the Knicks are struggling with some of the same issues:

In New York, this is the exact problem the Knicks have. For argument sakes, let’s assume that the starting five are the best five players on the team (Marbury, Crawford, Richardson, Zach, and Curry). While there are some that might disagree with this statement, there are enough Knick fans that would play Zach and Curry over Lee, and just as many that would play Marbury/Crawford over Nate Robinson. (And I’m sure Quentin Richardson’s mom still thinks her son should be starting over Balkman). In any case Isiah has put these guys on the court (when possible) at the start of each game. The problem is these players don’t complement each other in the least, and at least 4 of the 5 starters are poor defenders who need the ball to be effective. The Knicks would be better served to play some of their guys that can contribute without the ball and can play defense (Balkman, Lee, Jeffries, Robinson, etc.)

Basketball isn’t baseball where for the most part it doesn’t matter how you fill in your lineup card, as long as you’re not putting your pitcher up after Barry Bonds. Baseball matchups are mostly mano-a-mano events. Think about it, how many times do basketball players acknowledge a good pass that led to an easy basket? Dozens in each game. Now when was the last time anyone hit a homerun and credited the batter behind him for setting up the pitcher? Ummm never? In basketball the parts on the court have to fit together. A prime exampltes are the Spurs who bring Manu off the bench.

to Who Starts?

  1. Rob posted this question in the last comment thread, and kwame a. responded faster than I could get the new post up, So, here is his reponnse:

    kwame a.:

    Rob- I think the onus, as far as lineups/rotations, is on Phil. Phil has to give the team 2 things. 1. direct advice: at the same time Phil ackowledges the teams youth, he stubbornly refuses to call quick timeouts or yank people who make the same mistake over and over. This isn’t a vet team, the problems that are exhibited on the court won’t fix themselves. 2. stability: I know injuries and trades factor in, but look at Phil since has come back the second time around, his rotations are inconsistent and I think one of his great abilites the first time he was with the lakers was to define roles. What is Lukes role? Odoms? Vlads? Its 2007 and our team is mostly under 27, Phil needs to coach to the roster, not his own preferences


  2. I just posted this in the other thread but will copy it here since I didn’t see that Kurt made this thread before I made my post.

    I think it depends on the team and the coaches philosophy. If a team has 3 players that can all put up big offensive numbers then sometimes it works better two have one of those players coming off the bench. This seems to work really well for Dallas and SA. SA starts Duncan and Parker which is enough scoring ability for the starting unit. Then they bring Ginobili off the bench which gives the second unit a big boost in scoring ability as well. It also allows SA to keep 1 or two of their 3 best players on the court at all times and still keep minutes relatively low. Dallas has a similar approach with Nowitzki and Howard starting and Terry coming off the bench. A team like Boston that doesn’t have much besides their 3 best players can’t really do this.

    For the Lakers its good to have Farmar playing on the bench because it allows for a change of speed when the second unit comes in. Fisher provides floor leadership for the first unit and some shooting ability. Then when Farmar comes in he tends to push the tempo which provides energy for the second unit. As far as Bynum is concerned, he seems to have a better chemistry with the 2nd unit. I think its because he is facing 2nd unit players on the opposing team and therefore looks better, and Farmar and Walton tend to look for him more than the first unit does. It also provides a boost in scoring and defense for the second unit. Mihm is clearly still recovering from his two ankle surgeries (he looks really flat and has almost 0 lateral speed right now) so putting him out there with the second unit hurts. I think it would hurt the first units interior defense though so its kind of a tough situation the Lakers have without Brown. Having Brown allows Bynum to come off the bench and provide both offense and defense for the 2nd unit. It also improves the 1st units interior defense and any lack of offensive ability is not that big of a deal because Kobe and Odom can make up for it.


  3. I understand why Phil doesn’t call quick timeouts or yank players when they are not playing well. He feels those things are reactive and punitive. It is maddenig at times as a fan, but in the long haul it is good for these guys to wortk their way through things (to a certain extent) rather than waiting for the timeout to come and save them. Also, at this early stage of the season he is really going to milk the “let them figure this out on their own” philosophy.

    That being said, he did call a TO and yank the second unit when it came out flat last night.

    I agree that he needs to settle on a more fixed rotation, but injuries and position battles make it harder than it sounds.

    As far as a starting 5 go, I think it should be a communication/ chemistry thing. The second unit really needs a stabilizing force. i have noticed Phil has been more inclined to have both LO and KB off the floor at the same time this season.


  4. I would argue that Lamar is a better 6th man than starter. Clearly, he has the ability to be a starter, but with the personnel we have and the skillset he has appear to me to be better suited, the way Ginoboli’s his for SA. Rony’s defense and rebounding are essential to the starting 5, and Luke simply plays better with those guys. Lamar could bring immediate scoring punch off the bench coming in for Luke.


  5. Deciding who to start varies with the circumstances of a team, and the psyche of a particular player is an important consideration. It isn’t simply a matter of athleticism. Some guys play better coming off the bench, while others (see Walton) seem to need a starting role to be effective.

    In the case of Bynum, I would be very surprised if he wasn’t starting by the end of the season. However, I see no reason to rush it. I think the reason he has developed into such an effective player is that the coaching staff has eased him into assuming an important role. Craig W. mentioned that Bynum is a “very young 20”. Last year he was forced to do to much and his production fell off dramatically. This year, it’s all about steady growth, so that he peaks at the right time of the season. I expect him to continue to average a double-double in a very efficient manner through the first half. Then, sometime after the all-star break, I would expect him to take the starting job and boost his numbers up to where he is option 2B. If Jackson plays his cards right with Bynum, he could have one of the better big men in the league by next season (and a very good/consistent one by playoff time). But I don’t think it’s time to take the training wheels off just yet.


  6. The coach should go with the most complimentary team because by definition they will be most productive team. I think this is what is generally practiced too, with only the greatest stars being sure of their starting spot and the other players around them being shuffled around as needs be. Pho does that now in starting Raja over Barbosa, Mia recently implemented some changes to bring JWill and Davis off the bench, of course the Spurs have Manu off the bench.

    I think right now Bynum should be coming off the bench and its the injuries to Kwame, Turiaf and Mihm that are forcing Phil’s hand. Additionally starting Bynum seems to make Phil more inclined to start Rad as well, maybe due to Rad’s defensive ineptitude and the fact that Bynum might be able to better compensate for him more than a banged up Mihm.

    Eventually Bynum will be the Lakers starting 5 (and Farmar the starting 1) so his time starting wont hurt him any, but when we have a reliable alternative to start i think Phil will make the change back unless somehow this current starting unit starts to gel as well as the ‘Bench Mob’ did in the first few weeks of the season.

    L.A. All The Way


  7. Riley moved Ricky Davis to the bench last night and the Heat played much better. In other news out of Miami, Smush missed a team shootaround and is dealing with some legal troubles that the organization has yet to reveal.

    Lamar’s a very “team” guy, but I don’t know if that extends to coming off the bench. He wanted to start right away when he returned to action.

    Get Rony back in there. Move Bynum back.


  8. The first comments from another blogger are in: Tom Ziller at Sactown Royalty brings up the Manu point on picking your starters.


  9. In basketball, teams do not change the 5 players at once and both team at the same time because sitting an important contributor to your team more than necessary because the lineup that you had projected by him is not playing at the moment is a luxury no team can contemplate.

    That said, I do believe in complementary players to adjust at bench rotations.

    Manu Ginobili, Jason Terry, Leandro Barbosa are players that shine brighter when comming from the bench because what they can give to the team might be duplicated in the starting 5
    The combined PER (to use some stattistics) of the first 10 players of rotation is higher bringing those players from the bench than having the 5 better players on court from the beggining.

    IE. Fisher fits better in the starting 5 better than Farmar because of what he brings, mostly 3s and knowledge of the triangle. In the other hand, Farmar fits better in the second unit because of the agressiveness with the ball and running the floor.
    Both Farmar and Fisher, if changed their roles would struggle because Fish would have a harder D on him and wouldn’t get open looks like when sharing floor with Kobe and Lamar and Farmar’s activity and hability to upgrade the tempo of the game would get slown down as his game would be shyer with Kobe and the others all requireing the ball all time

    Do that to all the subs and starters you are considering to swich and you’ll get the answer.

    Sorry for the long post


  10. Now Henry from True Hoop has weighed in, so check the updates.

    7. I don’t think Odom would deal well with coming off the bench, and really we need that other threat out there to keep teams off Kobe.


  11. great points by Tom and Henry. So as applied to the Lakers, if healthy, who is the most complimentary 5?


  12. to answer my own question (sorry) I think its a consensus that Fish and Kobe are the backcourt. I think the real question is the starting 3 frontcourt players. I think its also clear Vlad is most effective off the bench so the decision is Lamar or Luke at the 3, Lamar or Rony at the 4, and Andrew or Kwame at the 5.


  13. I think most of us now would agree with Kwame at the 5 and Turiaf at the 4. I agree that Lamar is subject to mind games and therefore should remain starting at the 3.

    I think Lamar’s duties should be clearly defined and should change the least of all the starters. This is a mental thing and I think Lamar does better when things are not constantly changing. While he was scoring well last night, I also noticed his passing and defensive decisions got worse when new players were subbed in. Once Phil is satisfied with his conditioning, I hope he does not leave Lamar as the lone starter when rotating out the 1st string.


  14. 11. I think the best line up for the Lakers would be Fish, Kobe, Odom, Turiaf, and healthy Brown. I think thats what worked so well earlier and when Brown comes back (which I read could be in 3 games) I think Phil will go back to that line up.


  15. 14. I agree with your starting five, but I’ll go further. Right now, with Kwame out, Mihm should be starting. He is closer to duplicating Kwame’s skill set than Andrew is. Chris and Kwame’s offensive game, such as it is, is similar. The biggest difference is defensively Chris gets banged around. Ever notice how he never has inside position to get the defensive rebound? That being said, with Lamar back, the need for starting center rebs is mitigated a bit.

    Side note on Bynum’s play. Yes, he is more efficient as he plays more minutes against the second string when he comes off the bench. But he is also more efficient because he is playing with Jordan Farmar. Those two seem to have a real feel for each other’s game. Which they should. They’ve been playing together for over a year now.


  16. 15. I think with Ronny back healthy — he looked good defensively ast night — that the Fish, Kobe, Odom, Turiaf first four is the best choices.

    But Mihm over Bynum? You say Chris is closer to Kwame’s skill set. Offensively they are both nothing to write home about (at least now, Mihm pre-injury actually had a decent offensive game, I’m curious to see if it returns as the season goes on) , but as you point out Mihm’s defense isn’t all that yet (opposing centers shooting 55% with a PER of 17). And that’s what he’d be in there to do, play defense. Right now I’d start Bynum, but if he gets in early foul trouble you have no choice but to get lots of Mihm.


  17. Kurt, in my opinion the way you phrased this issue forces the answer you want (or at least that I’ve seen you express on this blog). The question as asked is should a team start its best 5 players at each position or find the best complimentary starting five.

    Asking the question that way begs the question because it implys that the best complimentary starting five is “best.”

    I’m pretty sure most would argee that you start and shape your lineups to give your team the best chance of winning….that is the answer. And the question becomes which lineups at which time give your team the best chance of winning. The answer to that question, in turn, is entirely dependent on the specific dynamics of each individual team and is in no way answerable by selecting a universal approach.

    As applied to the Lakers, the question is whether the benefit of having Bynum improve our bench out weighs the negative of starting Kwame or Mihm.

    Most people on this blog seem to think we don’t necessarily lose much by starting Kwame or Mihm and that we gain a lot by having Bynum drastically improve our bench.

    I, on the other hand, think we lose a lot by playing Kwame or Mihm with our first unit because neither of those players are productive in the least. To me, that point is only buttressed by the fact that our 2nd unit has been impressive and our starters not so much. I think our team is average, at best, and we can’t afford to have our most productive big man not playing the bulk of the minutes. Its not like our starting five with Kwame is out there dominating and we have the luxury of playing around with nuanced lineups.

    To support my case I would point out that Bynum is ALREADY on of the most productive big men in the league and per 48 minutes he is one of the most productive PLAYERS in the NBA.

    Compare that to Kwame and Mihm’s production, which has been unquestionably poor. Both of those players have MAJOR limitations without any major contributions. Bynum, conversely, offers tremendous overall production and minor limitations.

    It is no surprise then that Bynum’s season (+ -) stat is +96 and Kwame’s is -9 and Mihm’s is so bad I’m not even going to calculate it.

    To me, people are confusing our Bynum’s great play off the bench with Bynum’s ability to play great generally. Just because he has good chemistry with Farmar DOESN’T mean he can’t have great chemistry with out starting unit. In fact, based on the last few games, Bynum seems to be developing fantastic chemistry with the starting five, particularly Kobe.

    In sum, I believe Bynum’s contributions when in the starting lineup and playing the bulks of our center’s minutes FAR outweigh any net benefit of having Bynum come off the bench, and I believe that point is clearly demonstrated by Bynum’s overal production (one the best bigs in the NBA) and season + – stats.

    Finally, I will again point out that nearly ever case of having a great player come off the bench (Manu, Terry, Walton, etc.) is from a CHAMPOINSHIP CALIBER team where the team is so loaded sticking a greta player on the bench actually results in a net positive for the team–and that the Lakers don’t even come close to being a championship caliber team nor do they posses loaded talent.


  18. Man, doesn’t it look like Mihm gets slower every game, dude is regressing with each missed layup.


  19. Having said all that, I would add that I think our team is MUCH better when Kwame is healthy because he is significantly more valuable than Mihm.

    In other words, Bynum/Brown would be much more productive than Bynum/Mihm, particularly given Bynum’s proclivity for picking up fouls. Thus, we people argue that we aren’t winning with Bynum starting my response is well of course we aren’t winning–our second best big man isn’t even playing and we are relying on Mihm to play big minutes and he isn’t even healthy yet.


  20. 17. How would you phrase the question? I was not in any way looking for a specific answer, but rather a discussion. And, to be fair, that is Rob L.’s phrasing, I just put it front and center.

    Also, I think nobody has really dealt with the last of those questions yet

    Shouldn’t a coach be able to take the best five athletes and meld them into a cohesive starting five?


  21. Bobby Smith,
    I think you are confusing whether we should start Andrew now, or whether we will start Andrew this year.

    Just looking at statistics does not tell the entire story for Andrew. When he plays he is generally impressive this year. However, he still is only a young 20 and his conditioning over the entire season is still in question. I want Andrew starting – and being effective – when the playoffs start. I don’t want him worn down and mentally tired. I want him eager and pissed off.

    Getting wins now is satisfying to the fans, but we will all be really mad if Andrew’s wall this year occurs in April, instead of Feb like last year.

    This is also a component of our desire to start Kwame now, not Andrew.


  22. 17. I tried to word the question as neutrally as possible. Though if you look at the last question asked(which Kurt just referenced), it should give you a clue as to where my religion is on this question. Which is the exact opposite bias from what you perceived. That being said, I don’t think the answer is absolute. And with the current Lakers squad I believe Phil has to roll with the punches.

    16. Which brings me to my most asinine statement ever. But yeah, I’d give Mihm a try as starter. Defensively he’s worse than Kwame. But this comes mainly from being out of position on more possessions than Kwame or Andrew. But it’s not bad enough to not use him. In this case, the theory is the extra bump the team would receive from Bynum’s 2nd unit offense would more than make up for the extra 3-4 layups you’d give up by starting Mihm. Keeping in mind that Bynum’s 2nd unit presence increases not only his efficiency, but Farmar’s as well.


  23. 20. I would simply ask which combination of players at which times give our team the best chance of winning? For the overwhelming majority of teams in the NBA that means starting and giving the bulk of the minutes to the best player at each position. Many people don’t think that mold fits in the Lakers current roster and I disagree when it comes to our center position. Nevertheless that seems to the be the issue the Lakers coaching staff must address.

    21. I agree. I don’t think just looking at statistics tells the entire story for any player ever. While I do think we should start Drew and give him more minutes I do think his minutes should be monitored. Personally, I wouldn’t take him much above 32 a game until we see how things progress. The problem, as I see it, was that is was only getting 21-24/game behind Kwame and I think that hurts us.

    I would also add–because I like beating the dead horse apparently–that we don’t know how productive Kwame will be with our second unit, specifically an improved Jordan and VladRad, because we haven’t seen it. Maybe Kwame can do well with Walton, Vlad, and Farmar and we can still have a strong bench.


  24. You also need to take into consideration that Bynum, Turiaf, and Farmar are still inexperienced, and very much in a developmental stage. Mihm, and to a much lesser extent, Odom, are still coming back from injuries. Unfortunately, Sasha and Vlad are still unknowns as far as what they will be able to contribute.


  25. I just realized why this issue gets me so fired up–I sometimes did not start in high school even though I demonstrably outplayed our starting 5 man simply because he was 2 inches taller than me. It is like, when you work tirelessly to improve and it shows with your production (like Bynum this year), then you want to start the game and you want to go against the other team’s best every night and you want to be there in crunch time when it matters.

    Perhaps my personal experience clouds my judgment!!! I want Bynum to be better than Kwame because Kwame doesn’t work hard and is grossly overpaid. Bynum worked very hard this summer and it is awesome to see that yield benefits for him and our team. So my opinion may be biased against Kwame for sure.

    Of course, I did farely well in college and that guy never played one minute of college ball.


  26. We should not forget how young Bynum is. Last season he hit the wall really hard about two-thirds of the way through. Bringing him off the bench is a good way to limit his minutes.

    Phil does a good job of making sure the right guys are on the floor at crunch time, and that is the important thing.


  27. Oh, all the Kwame love…

    Not that he doesn’t provide something valuable against some key teams. It’s just that for most teams we face he isn’t all that necessary.

    He usually boards worse than Mihm. His offensive game isn’t anywhere near Chris’s.

    It’s not fair at all to compare Mihm ’07 at the moment, really. He needs more time to get back after not playing basketball for almost two years. And he’s still not 100 percent.

    That said, the Bynum/Mihm combo is pretty damn effective. Both had bad games last night, and our production at the center position was still 18/18.


  28. I do think that Bynum should get the bulk of the minutes (30-32/game),however, I would still start Brown over Bynum. The main reason being that Bynums scoring contributions to the second unit outweigh Browns lack of scoring for the 1st unit.

    There is no universal answer to this question, I think it depends on the teams make up and the players psyche. Again I will use SA as an example.

    This would be an awesome starting line up:
    Parker, Ginobili, Bowen, Duncan, Oberto. Maybe the best trio since Magic, Worthy, Kareem.

    But it leaves a not so great bench: Horry, Elson, Barry, Bonner, Finley Vaughn.

    Taking Ginobili out of that starting line up and putting Finley in still leaves a really good starting line up, but adding Ginobili to the bench makes a much much better bench.

    It also allows Popavich to paly 1 or 2 of those three at all times and still keep their minutes relatively low until the play offs.


  29. ryan,
    I keep hearing about giving Bynum more and more minutes. That is not the point. Give him the minutes needed to continue his development. You seem to think that an unlimited number of minutes will equal an unlimited amount of progress. That is not the case. It is Phil’s job to give Andrew enough minutes to continue to develop without causing him to tire out and learn more slowly.


  30. I think that Phil hasn’t done too bad of a job in distibuting the minutes between Bynum and Kwame/Mihm. The bigger problem in my opinion is the way he is using Vlad, Luke, Rony and Lamar. All four of those forwards bring something different to the table. In theory there should be a combo of those forwards that would play better with the starters and a combo that would mesh with the second unit. Luke and Rony have played better with the first unit, Vlad the second. Lamar, like always, is the wildcard.


  31. I’d start Kwame/Mihm, Ronny, Kobe, Fisher, and Walton–with Bynum, Odom, VladRad, Jordan, and Sasha/Crit off the bench.

    I’d do everything to make these starting/2nd five substitutions permanent.

    I would not be afraid to substitute Trevor for Sasha/Crit (or Walton) for defensive purposes.

    I would try to have Bynum and Farmar available toward the end of games. I’d try to give Bynum an average of 20 minutes per game–under favorable circumstances.

    Misusing Bynum this year would be a crime.


  32. The latest update is in, Mike from Knickerblogger points out the Knicks are dealing with similar issues. Of course, I’d rather have Phil making the decisions than…..


  33. Bobby Smith,
    “Maybe Kwame can do well with Walton, Vlad, and Farmar and we can still have a strong bench”

    Kwame’s only skill is his ability to keep the opposing big man away from the basket/keep a body on him. There are only a few starters in the league where that makes a difference, and fewer second stringers. So with Kwame coming off the bench, you don’t get the benefit of him on defense, but (as others have noted) his complete lack of offense will really disrupt the second team.


  34. Well, I’ve been posting ad nauseum about this issue ever since Kwame got hurt. I like a starting lineup of Kwame/Mihm, Turiaf, Odom, Kobe, and Fish. Second unit would be Bynum, Vlad, Luke, Farmar, and Sasha/Ariza. Barring injury, I think Critt and Coby Karl will soon head to the D-League. They need playing time. As for our open roster spot, I’m guessing the Lakers are keeping it open to either get the Brazilian Hair Bear via trade or to sign a different big. I’ve posted in the past that they could use a big who already knows the triangle, so someone like Jamal Sampson could be useful. Of course, there’s no way Varejao deserves $9 mill per season, which was his most recent demand.


  35. 34. I’m not suggesting a trade or even how one could be made but a turaf, Verajao PF combo would be fun to watch if nothing else.


  36. Two words– John Havlicek


  37. Mike in the Mountain West November 28, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    This is a great conversation but I want to dispel one myth I keep hearing repeated and that is that Bynum is more effective with the second unit because he is facing “lesser” players. On a per minute basis Bynum’s numbers are almost exactly the same whether he starts or comes off the bench. He takes a few less shots as a starter but makes more of them. Presumably because defensive attention on Kobe and Lamar open things up for him.


  38. Good point Mike!
    If Bynum’s production will be about the same with either the 1st or 2nd unit, then I say put him in the 2nd unit and let him get extra minutes in the 4th qtr – rather than the 1st.


  39. I would start Fish, Kobe, LO, Turiaf and Mihm right now until Kwame gets healthy. Earlier in the season, we were killing teams because our 2nd unit was running them off the floor. The bench effort mainly consisted of Farmar, Vlad, Luke and Bynum all playing really well together. Now Vlad and Bynum are in the 1st unit and the 2nd unit is struggling without them. I think we need to go back to what was working. As soon as Ronny gets better, stick him back into the PF spot and let Mihm hold it down until Kwame gets back. You can start Mihm but bring Andrew in fairly early and give him more minutes.


  40. I agree with bringing Drew off the bench, only if he is gonna get the majority of minutes in the 4th quarter.(somewhere between 22-27 mins a game). When Kwame Brown inevitably gets hurt again I would like to see Rony get some minutes at the C. He can play 10 mins a game at C, this would lessen Mihm’s woeful impact and give Rony some more mins.


  41. Agree with 39 and 40. Mihm’s defensive rebounding last night was painful to watch. On the first occasion, he badly mistimed a routine carom while all alone under the basket, and then was too slow to go back up after mistiming it. Wilcox got the rebound after not being close to the play, then dunked over Mihm. On the second occasion, Mihm fumbled a routine rebound, the Seattle big picked it up, and dunked over him. On those two occasions at least, he reminded me of a shorter Chuck Nevitt. As bad as he is, though, I think he still needs to start along with Ronny. Let Bynum finish the game, and if Ronny’s not in foul trouble, he can play a little at center in the second half. Bynum should finish the game with the first unit.


  42. 37. I ran the numbers and you’re totally right (so ignore my comments # 15,22). Bynum and Farmar essentially have the same ORtg whether Bynum starts or comes off the bench. Opposing centers have been slightly more efficient with Bynum starting, but nothing that makes you go wow. I’m looking into other areas: total points, minutes played etc to see what differences, if any, may exist.

    Though I found that Bynum is actually slightly less inefficient as a starter, but his pts/40 is nearly identical because he uses more of the team’s offensive possessions. We’re talking an uptick of 9.13% to 10.82%. Nothing severe.


  43. The problem with playing Rony at center is that he can’t play PF. Against a PHX type team he might be ideal, but against NBA centers he really can get worn out. Also, if he has any injury prone genes this will bring them out.


  44. Way off topic here, but Lakers.com reports that Coby Karl has been assigned to the D-League.


  45. Now he should get some playing time. This will help his game.


  46. I think we all agree that starting the complementary 5 is the best way to go. However, since we play a not-so-common offense and we have always emphasized defense as the key to winning, here’s my 2 cents.

    Bynum’s time to start will come. That’s not to say he can’t, he eventually will, but not now. Ideally I’d still start Kwame over him, now that he’s out, I’d start Mihm.

    Phil has done a god job subbing and spreading the minutes. However, there are patterns that I have observed that are quite counter-intuitive in my book.

    For instance, If Lamar, Ronny and Kwame all play together, that is a decent-good defensive team that commands rebounds. This is the successful formula we played early on.

    I understand sub patterns do not come en masse, but playing Luke, Vlade and Mihm together seems a bit off. Nobody will want to crash the boards and with Sasha as the 2 guard here, everyone is so trigger-happy to shoot the 18-ftr.

    1. Fisher is starting / Farmar leads 2nd unit
    2. Kobe starts / Sasha subs

    There are only 2 things definite and certain on the consensus and that is the backcourt. Everyone seems to be sold on this therefore, let us draw up the froncourt based on timelines.

    Time A (1st 6-8mins, 1st Q)

    The eternal question of starting. Does it really matter? Does Luke really want to “start” and get lesser minutes or can he come off the bench and have more minutes? Its all the same.

    If its Fish and Kobe, I like Luke-Ronny-Drew.

    If we want Lamar to start, its Lamar-Vlade-Mihm.

    If we decide to dominate the boards early, its Lamar-Ronny-Drew (this is our best frontcourt BTW). The problem is, without Kwame, this frontcourt leaves very little rebounding on the second unit.

    Lamar Odom is better off paired with Vlad since Lamar’s rebounding and passing compensates Vlade’s none-existent rebounding and good shooting. Drew commands the post double that frees up Vlade too.

    If the team has Luke, Ronny and Drew, its a team that is largely dependent on Kobe’s firepower and Fish’s outside shooting.

    All in all, Mihm figures to be a starter UNLESS Kwame is active. If Kwame is, then Mihm becomes the 3rd stringer once more.


  47. Warren, I don’t agree with your LO-Vlade-Mihm because we lose too much on the boards. Plus, Phil doesn’t start multiple starting combinations based on the opponent, he wants to start the same 5 most every night. I would make it LO-Rony-Mihm with Walton-Vlade-Bynum for the 2nd unit. We need rebounding and defense for the 1st unit and scoring and rebounding for the 2nd unit.


  48. Warren,
    “without Kwame, this frontcourt leaves very little rebounding on the second unit.”

    In general, I agree, but Kwame is a poor rebounder. He does not add rebounding to whichever group he plays with.


  49. Here’s my starting 5:
    Kwame(when healthy)

    Kwame is not a threat in the post. Lamar is.
    The offense should run thru Lamar in THE POST. This way he can’t zone out because he doesn’t have the ball.
    This way the 2nd unit can be the one that we saw earlier this year with Andrew and Vlad being the 1-2 scoring options and Farmar and Luke being 3-4.
    When Andrew shows that he can get the respect of the officials so they stop calling the ticky-tack fouls on him, THEN he can move into the starting lineup and Kwame can be the backup center he is meant to be.


  50. I wonder what Ziller thinks about the whole Salmons/Artest dilemma. Do you start Salmons, a steady SF or Artest the gutsy defender/shooter (he brings the ball up and shoots lots of 3s)?

    I almost think the best line-ups the Lakers have are the ones Phil started the season with:


    Farmar/Sasha or Ariza/Odom/Vlad/Bynum

    Thing is Bryant and Odom are most effective when they have the ball in isolation. 3 players surrounding Bryant are role players. Only Fisher can consistently develop his own shot.

    Farmar can create his own and Bynum is almost there and I think Ariza is capable given enough playing time.


  51. Its ironic how the league sees Kwame ONLY as an expiring while the in-the-know Laker fan values him more than that.

    Kurt, i ask the forum who among the NBA’s centers are up to par with Kwame’s defense? Lets not talk Camby here since we all know he’s off limits. Would it be blasphemy if I considered Tyson Chandler here?


  52. Awesome site here. Great discussion. I’d chime in with Kobe, Fish, Turiaf, Bynum, and Odom. I think they keep marching Bynum out there and let him take advantage of learning and growing with guys who take so much defensive attention in Kobe and Odom. Bynum gets to grow without as much double teaming, and should be able to pickup several cheapie hoops by cutting to the basket. The refs are picking on him – but newsflash- every young player outside the superstars have to earn the respect.

    I’ll be watching when the Lakers roll into SLC Friday night to battle the Jazz. To read up on the Jazz – http://utahjazzblog.blogspot.com/


  53. Fun discussion, really to be successful in the playoffs we need a few things.

    1. Hard nosed team defense, which means you need the best defenders. In the west there’s so many potent PFs or Centers and b/c Bynum hasn’t found a way to cut his fouls down we go with Kwame here. Against a top notch PF, KG Bynum wasn’t able to defend or score = more work defending big men.

    2. Lamar to get in his groove and score taking off a lot of pressure from Kobe. This means the Lakers need to start posting Lamar down low. Also he needs to start hitting his 3’s when he isn’t down low. Solution? Lamar needs to get his conditioning back so the Lakers don’t mind utilizing him down low and so his shot gets a lil more arc. It’s really flat right now. I think Coach Jackson knows this and saves his best for last. As evidenced in Lamar posting up in the Phoenix playoff series.

    3. Staying focused. We have been losing a lot of games in the 3rd quarter, lack of execution, and closing out quarters. Bynum’s misinterpretation on the inbounds (wasn’t practiced much so can’t criticize) and Kobe missing that last free throw against the Nets.

    Coach Jackson is a genius plain and simple… he knows he can experiment with his team in the regular season and is trying to define roles on the team right now. Let’s not get all riled up if Bynum’s not starting yet. He will when his defense improves. Like many have said we want his optimal playing level to arise at the playoffs so let’s be patient. Luke needs to get his head on straight, same goes to Lamar, Kwame needs to get healthy, and Ariza needs to get an opportunity to play D. I’m excited for the season so let’s roll with it. As long as progress is made I’m content. Can’t wait to see if Ariza contributes.


  54. 49- In theroy Lamar is a threat in the post, however, he has had a hard time even posting up the rookie Jeff Green. He hasn’t been able to establish poisition, it looks like he doesn’t know how to use his body. At this point, I don’t know what Lamar does well, he can’t shoot, his ballhandling/decision-making is atroicuous, he’s smaller this year so he’s not bangin the boards and his d against quick 3’s is suspect. And it’s his 10th year, so don’t expect anything better on the horizon.


  55. I think the question has been answered. Some of the greatest Laker teams ever had Rambis starting with Woolridge, McAdoo, and Thompson on the bench. Also Byron Scott started as a rookie with Michael Cooper on the bench. Neither Havlicek or McHale started for much of their careers. Early evidence suggests that the best starting 5 is Kwame, Luke, Ronny, Fish, and Kobe. Odom needs to spend as much time as possible where he is the primary go-to-scorer and ball handler; this means not playing with Kobe. Will Phil have the guts to do what is right and move Odom to the bench? and will Odom have the strength to accept a move that could actually turn him into perennial 6th man of the year and a star?


  56. I have a question. How can we measure Kwame’s defensive ability? His (+ -) stat is poor, and much lower than Bynum. His rebounding is inexcusably low for a man his size playing that many minutes. He doesn’t block shots or get steals. So if he (+ -) stats are terrible and his defensive stats are terrible, and he has never even been considered for an all nba defensive team, then how to we measure his defensive ability? Other defensive speacialists, e.g., Wallace and Rodman, are rebounding machines, good shot blockers, and they clearly outhustle the competition for loss balls and making plays. I don’t really see Kwame doing any of those things.

    But clearly everyone in Lakerdom thinks Kwame is a strong defender. Is there any way to measure it? I mean, anything at all that we can point to to say see that is what Kwame does for us….


  57. kwame a,
    Even I don’t bang on Lamar as bad as your comment. Actually, I agree with you about Lamar not really changing. However, he is reasonably effective in team defense, he can be effective as a streak shooter, and he can make end-to-end spectacular and unstoppable plays. There is a place for him on our team.

    Lamar is NOT a #2 and he is overpaid. Ok, we get it. Beyond that we have to figure out how to best use him.


  58. 50. I forwarded Ziller your Salmons/Artest question, here is his response:

    Against most teams, I’d start Artest at the four and Salmons at the three and stick Mikki Moore to the bench. But that’s not a real answer. If it was all about the play on the court and not trade value, you’d still start Artest over Salmons. His defense is the only consistent effort this team offers. Salmons can defend, but only in spurts; when he’s dominating the ball on offense (as he was in those first seven starts), he’s a nominal defender. Artest dominates the ball and defends his ass off. If Theus was committed to giving Salmons regular minutes (instead of unpredictable fluctuation — 15 one night, 30 the next with no correlation to how Salmons is playing, just how Martin and Garcia are playing), he’d be playing better than he is. But for defense and possible trade value and self-interest (as in ‘not wanting your nose to get broken’), you have to start Artest.

    But we know we have a decent starting SF in tow once Ron-Ron is freed, at least.


  59. 56. According to 82games.com, opposing centers are shooting just 40% against Kwame but have a high PER of 17.5 due to rebounding and other factors.

    I think Kwame is a good defender against low-post centers, ie. Yao. However if the 5 is mobile (Amare) or can step outside and hit a face-up 15 footer Kwame becomes less effective. It’s really a match-up thing.


  60. Bill Bridges,
    Didn’t you actually play a little ball??? Errr, bang a few heads???

    There are two problems with having Lamar come off the bench. 1) We do lose team defense exactly where we need it the most and 2) LO doesn’t have the strongest psyche in the world and could spiral down worse that Walton did. Of course, better it happen in DEC rather than MAR.


  61. Bobby Smith,
    “But clearly everyone in Lakerdom thinks Kwame is a strong defender”

    Not everyone.

    He is very good at keeping his man from getting to the basket. He is a poor-mediocre help defender, a poor shot blocker, and a poor rebounder. (The latter three are part of the explanation for why he is good staying with his man. He doesn’t do anything else.)

    So overall, he is not a good defender. The Lakers just haven’t had any other options. The trade with Washington to get him was understandable; he showed some promise there and it wasn’t unreasonable to think that he would improve. BUt the contract extension here was (IMO) a complete mistake.


  62. i’ve been saying all along that the ones who start should complement kobe and or LO. the success of the 4 game win streak was predicated by the stellar play and good chemistry of the second unit, especially Bynum, Farmar, and Radmanovic. those three should play more together. With everyone healthy, here’s the ideal starting line up:

    C – Kwame
    PF – Turiaf
    SF – Lamar
    SG – Kobe
    PG – Fish

    this starting 5 can p-lay great defense on any starting 5 of the league. they are all good 1 on 1 defenders, and everyone complements each other. pattern of substitution should be:

    vlad rad or luke replaces lamar at the midpoint or 5 min mark. This will allow lamar to play and be the PF of the second unit. Bynum takes over at the 4min mark, as well as farmar. Turiaf is replaced by either luke or vlad rad. kobe is then replaced with1min to left by ariza or sasha. Lo and farmar can create off the dribble for the second unit, with vlad rad draining threes with the holes farmar creates, or the double teams bynum attracts. What this laker team needs is someone who can create off the dribble and “freestyle” ala-kobe for the second unit. we hope it is farmar, or LO or even JCritt in the near future (sort of like ginobili’s role for the spurs)


  63. Bobby Smith –

    Check out opposing players’ PERs against Kwame. Their rebounds, shooting %, should be way downhill when Kwame is defending (I.E. How poorly did Yao play when matched up against Kwame?)


    Thanks for the answer. Right after I wrote that I had the pleasure of watching Ron-Ron bring the ball up the court and clank a 3 during the closing minutes.

    Another consideration is what if the opposing forward is not talented to the likes of Odom, Marion, LeBron, etc. What if you are playing a team like SA or Dallas? I think I would start Salmons over Ron-Ron in such instances.


  64. 63. Accrodingly to Kurt opposing players have a high PER against Kwame (I didn’t check that myself). Doesn’t PER taking into consideration FG%? Assuming it does, then the one tangible thing Kwame does well (lower oppossing players FG%) doesn’t even equate to a low PER because of Kwame’s myraid other failings. \

    So am I to conculde that Kwame’s defensive prowress is simply mythical?


  65. The one thing (literally the only thing) that Kwame does well is use his big body and muscle to prevent low post players from getting good positions. He muscles them away from the basket and does a fairly good job making them take difficult shots. But he is a sub-par rebounder, not sure why maybe its his hands or poor timing, but he is definitely athletic and strong enough to get good position. His help defense is also suspect though he has slightly improved in that area to just bearable.


  66. 63. I think it depends on the match up. Kwame is a good defender against post-up big men like Yao, but not so good against quicker big men like Amare


  67. Craig W.

    Yup, my namesake was the second best Laker PF ever (after Happy Hairston)… Which only proves that it has been a long time since we had a truly great PF…

    As far as your point. Luke, when properly motivated is not a bad help defender and as the distinction between the 2/3 spot is fuzzy and many teams have one 2/3 as the scorer and another as the stopper (see SA).. Luke could check the weaker offensive player of the two and Kobe can guard the stronger. Of course a team like boston would give us trouble, in which case Ariza might eventually start.

    If defense is the only issue, I think it is manageable. My switch might get some value out of Luke, who is currently useless as a bench player and strengthen both the bench and Lamar’s game. Hopefully Ariza/new player can really be a starting 3 (if Ariza can develop the baseline 3, he really could be a younger, stronger version of Bowen)


  68. Can someone please compare Bynum’s opposing player PER and FG% to Kwame for the season? I would do it, but I don’t know how. Is it even possible given that they often go against the same players in the same game, but at different times?


  69. Since we can get statistics to say almost anything (say that Kobe is only the 4th most effective player in the league, etc) I have to fall back on watching the game from start to finish. Fot me Kwame seems to play good defense against his man at critical times in the game. Those spectacular plays that lift the other team and depress the Lakers happen less often when Kwame is in the game.

    This doesn’t make him an all-star or anything like that, but I do want him in the game when the other team’s best big man is playing. The only time I might change this is at the end of the 4th qtr, in a tight game, when he is subject to getting fouled.


  70. Regarding the “Best Starting 5 Combo” I would have to say it should be Fish, Kobe, Bynum, Turiaf, Odom. Bynum needs to start because he is clearly better than Brown. Brown can still be matched up against Yao and Duncan when need be, but Bynum is far superior.

    As for which lineups have the best chemistry. You need to play to together to build chemistry, and that is why our second unit played so well together. They had more time together throughout the seasons and especially in practice.

    That is why I believe Phil is starting Bynum now instead of Mihm, because he sees where Bynum’s role is going to be down the line and wants to build up the chemistry now so by the time we want to be playing our best ball, our best players are gelling.


  71. 57/67- Craig W. I was not saying Odom is worthless, I am just realistic about what to expect out of him. Too many times people say he is versatile, but he can’t shoot or move well without the ball, so he is not offensivley versatile, he needs the ball to be effective. Defensivley he is too small to guard big 4’s and too slow to guard quick 3’s. I agree with Bill Bridges that Walton plays best with Kobe, and that his overall team D isn’t that big of a drop off compared to Lamar’s. Lamar off the bench may not work, but it has been 4 YEARS and he and Kobe exhibit NO chemistry. I mean, they don’t play off eachother well, it’s just the reality, maybe Lamar would thrive playing in a different role.


  72. By the way, Bill Bridges (I mean me) for his career averaged 11.9 points and 11.9 rebounds. Talk about balance.


  73. Kwame a.

    I agree. Lamar off the bench may be the answer. First, SA does this with Ginobli and it works great. Second, Lamar needs to dribble around and be the main option to be effective. I’ll take this against the other team’s second squad. But, no way against its first.


  74. Here’s a spreadsheet comparing Bynum bench/start. You’ll see it is far from comprehensive. These are just the initial factors I wanted to look at.

    Bynum Bench/Start

    Also, the Start vs. Bench Avgs all refer to Andrew Bynum. For example, I looked at Jordan’s offensive performance in relation to Andrew starting. Those numbers do not refer to Jordan starting.


  75. Thanks Rob L (74) there are some interesting trends there. THough with such a small sample size it is difficult to tell if they are actual trends or just anomalies. Bynums numbers do not seem to differ whether he is starting or coming off the bench. The only thing I can get from it is that maybe he should be getting more posessions. The interesting trend is Jordans productions seems to drop off slightly with Bynum starting. Again with such a small sample size it is difficult to say whether this is from poor play from Jordan to due to Bynum not being their. Its possible that the lack of an interior presence hurts Farmar’s game because he doesn’t as many open shots and has less options to pass the ball when he penetrates.


  76. If we assume Bynum still needs to develope his game,then Bynum should be on the second unit-notwithstanding however many minutes he actually plays. The reason-Practice!
    If Bynum is on the starting team in practice he will be an afterthought to Kobe,Fisher,Lamar. On the Second team he is the guy they run the offense thru,giving him more growth opportunities.


  77. great question, but the answer may be too simple. you go with what works best, not something that you think may work best.

    ideally, i think lineups should change depending on who’s out there for the opposing team, and what mismatches you can exploit while the other team can’t.

    Kobe is a given starter because he is, by definition, a mismatch for the opposing team. If the other team doesn’t have a Bowen who can make Kobe a ‘good’ player as opposed to ‘the best,’ you start your best defensive team. If they do, you try to start somebody else that can help carry his load.


  78. Since the Lakers are not a Championship caliber team this year (even though anything is possible with Phil and Kobe), starting Bynum now and getting him used to the role would be best… even though we still want to limit his minutes (28-32per). He’s going to start eventually and having him up against the best 5’s every night can’t hurt…

    Lamar off the bench would be best since he usually stays out with the second unit while Kobe sits anyway. This would keep a go-to man on the floor at all times, though Lamar would have to buy into the idea… Make it work Phil Jack!

    Give Drew more touches and I can see him getting 20-12 PER before long with 40 minutes… maybe 24-15…