Building a Champion: Redux

Reed —  April 1, 2008

Last July, when we were all frantically in GM and trade machine mode, I wrote an article called, “Building a Champion,” where I tried to analyze what went into the title teams of the last 10 years and how the Lakers matched up. The big picture points:

(1) Title teams need 2-3 stars who complement each other and collectively perform the fundamental basketball skills at the highest level;
(2) Title teams always have veteran, older role players who understand the nuances of the game and are willing to sacrifice personal glory for team success;
(3) The Lakers, as then constituted, were not built for immediate contention as they neither possessed a core of stars who covered the needed breadth of skills nor the veteran role players who understood the game’s intricacies. Kobe and Odom were the only “stars” and they were largely redundant in what they offered; the role players were overwhelmingly young and developing.

Fast forward to today and everything (miraculously) has broken right, leaving us as unquestioned grade A contenders, even in the midst of the most competitive landscape the league has seen in years. Fisher arrived. Bynum emerged as an all star producer. Farmar, Sasha, and Turiaf took steps forward. Radmanovic found his shooting stroke and showed enough (even if limited) focus. Slowly, Kobe believed and found it in him to trust his teammates. Cook became Ariza. Kwame became Gasol. Suddenly, we have the most talented team in the league, 1-12.

But, how do we compare with past title teams? Are we another complete Spurs title team or another Mavs/Kings false hope? Do we have the requisite skill bases covered or do fatal flaws remain that will haunt us against the best teams in big playoff series? Applying last summer’s championship blueprint to the present roster:

1. 2-3 Stars that Complement Each Other

The foundational ingredient of any title team is the presence of 2-3 stars that complement each other. This means that between them they perform the various fundamental basketball skills at an elite level. Look back at the last decade of title teams:

• Shaq, Duncan, and Sheed provided low post scoring
• Shaq, Duncan, and the Wallaces provided interior defense and rebounding
• Kobe, Wade, Parker, Ginobili, and Billups provided playmaking
• Kobe, Wade, Ginobili, and Billups provided clutch scoring down the stretch
• Kobe, Ginobili, Wade, and Billups provided perimeter defense

Obviously, this is shallow analysis, but the point is that you must have stars capable of doing the big work. Very talented teams with multiple stars have failed in the playoffs because their stars were either redundant or lacking in some key area. Nash, Marion, and Amare did not offer interior defense. Nash and Dirk did not offer post scoring or interior defense. Webber, Bibby, and Peja did not offer perimeter defense. The common theme of “almost” teams is that their stars seemed to do the same thing (usually scoring), leaving one key skill unaccounted for. That’s the beauty of Duncan – he dominates the areas of the game that are hardest to find – interior defense and post scoring.

This Laker team seems well positioned on this front – they have 3 legitimate “stars” in Kobe, Gasol, and Bynum and they are not redundant. Kobe handles the playmaking, penetration, perimeter defense, and clutch scoring. Bynum provides interior defense and rebounding. Gasol provides interior scoring and playmaking. Add in Odom’s (often) star quality rebounding and playmaking and you have a solid core of stars who perform all the basketball skills at the highest level.

Of the league’s other title teams, the Spurs (again, Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili), Celtics (Garnett, Pierce, and Allen), Pistons (Billups, Sheed, Hamilton/Prince), and Hornets (Paul, West, and Chandler) seem to also have the bases covered, though some more than others. The Suns, Jazz and Mavs (when healthy) seem to have fatal flaws (Suns – perimeter defense, both by their wings and bigs; Mavs – interior scoring; Jazz – interior and perimeter defense).

2. Veteran Role Players

Look back at the title teams from this decade – they are filled with veteran, older role players who understand the nuances of the game. Horry, Fox, Finley, Bowen, Harper, etc., etc. 21 out of 32 rotation role players from this decade’s title teams were over 30; only 5 of 32 had less than 4 years experience. While young players often seem capable of filling starring roles (e.g. Wade, Kobe), they have traditionally been less adept at successfully filling key lesser roles on championship teams.

When I wrote this post last year many people objected that I overemphasized age and underestimated basic basketball intelligence. This is probably true. Some players get it earlier than others. Certainly someone like Udonis Haslem was able to come right into the league and play like a savvy veteran. The same is probably true of Luke Walton. What makes (many) older players valuable, despite waning physical tools, is their deep understanding of the game, from floor spacing to boxing out to fighting through screens to defending the pick and roll to fearlessness in big moments. For this reason, in the playoffs cagey veterans usually shine while more talented young players come up short (e.g. Barbosa, Doug Christie, etc.).

I have mixed feeling about where our role players stand in this regard. They are undoubtedly talented. In Farmar, Turiaf, Sasha, Radmanovic, Fisher, Walton, and Ariza we have the single most talented collection of 5-12 players in the league. But only Fisher and Walton (to a degree) are playoff tested. A constant complaint all year has been the inability of these role players to correctly play team defense. Do we trust that they will make the “right” play in game 7 in San Antonio? Will Farmar go under a screen too often when he should fight through? Will Radmanovic get burned baseline by a small forward consistently when the plan was to force him into the middle? Will Ronny get into foul trouble when we need him? Do we trust Sasha or Farmar taking the open 3 to decide a series? Do our role players have enough “Rick Fox” and “Robert Horry” in them? I suspect they need to try and fail once before they have the seasoning necessary to win four straight series against stiff competition, but we will see.

3. Other Notes

A few other random thoughts for discussion. First, point differential. This seems to be an even better predictor of playoff success than win-loss record. Here are the point differentials for the last six title teams: 2007: Spurs (+8.4, 1st in the league), 2006: Heat (+3.9, 5th), 2005: Spurs (+7.8, 1st), 2004: Pistons (+5.8, 2nd), 2003: Spurs (+5.4, 3rd), 2002: Lakers (+7.1, 2nd). The 2008 Lakers currently stand at +6.6, good for 3rd in the league. Given the excessive injuries we’ve faced and the late addition of Gasol, I think it is reasonable to say our real point differential is probably at least a point higher, which would put us second in the league and in about the same neighborhood as all the recent title teams.

Second, it simply cannot be overstated how much we have improved at the point guard and center positions with the replacement of Smush and Kwame with Fisher and Bynum/Gasol. In every aspect of the game: defense, scoring efficiency, rebounding, turnovers, etc. Last year, our point guards had the 10th worst collective PER and 4th worst collective PER differential (the difference between what our point guards produced and what they allowed opposing point guards to produce). Our centers were 7th worst in PER differential and 4th worst at PER allowed (defense). PER obviously has its limitations as a statistic, but PER differential is one of the most insightful stats out there because it measures net efficiency – how good were you at (1) creating points with your possessions and (2) creating/valuing possessions versus how good were you at stopping your opponent from doing the same. This year, we see a massive shift the other way. We are 13th in PG PER differential, improving by 13 spots, and 6th in C PER differential, improving by 17 spots.

4. Final Thoughts

Even with the improvement of Portland, New Orleans, Boston, and other teams, I believe we have covered more ground this year than anyone else. We have not necessarily gained the most in terms of wins and losses, but we went from the brink of trading Kobe and starting over with a fractured front office and angry fan base to having the best roster in the league for the next 5 years. No matter what happens this year, we should appreciate the good fortune and enjoy the ride. With the team finally having supporting stars around Kobe that do things he can’t (Odom is great, but he is too redundant to ever be a solid #2), the team is well positioned to fine tune the roster and compete for titles so long as Kobe can perform as an elite player. Though, our chances this year probably lie less with him and more with the ability of our role players to play like veterans – to avoid mistakes, play solid team defense, and hit big shots in the 4th quarter. When they learn to do that, this should be the most complete Laker team in 20 years.

– Reed

Reed

Posts

48 responses to Building a Champion: Redux

  1. The Dude Abides April 1, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    LO will be on Rome is Burning on ESPN, coming up in a few minutes.

  2. the other Stephen April 1, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    that last post was one of the greatest, and this is even greater.

  3. Obviously you’re working within a stringent framework, but that was quality analysis. The only snag is that we haven’t seen our 2-3 stars out there together yet so we don’t know if they will cover all the bases or step on each others’ toes.

    I think Sasha and VladRad are ready to shine in the playoffs. Give Farmar one more year and he’ll be ready as well. No statistical proof to back this up.

    We still gotta play better defense. Most of your analysis and numbers focus on offense.

    My guess, is that Boston is the exact mix your analysis calls for.

  4. Boston’s role players scream “Rick Fox” and “Robert Horry”: Posey, Cassell, PJ Brown, and some very savvy young players.

  5. I think the veteran role player section looks artificially thin because LO was a sort of throw away in the “stars” section. If you just say Bryant/Gasol/Bynum fill the 2-3 star quota, then LO (9th season, 28 years old) headlines your veteran role player list. Scrappy loose rebounds, passing, the occasional score sounds like a nice supporting role. Would you prefer Horry? Fox? Maybe., but this is a pretty good start, anyway.
    Or, if you like, move Gasol to the role players list (I think Bynum can cover interior scoring). He is a 7th year guy (27 years old), and his basketball IQ seems very high.
    One last ray of sunshine: coaches. Every team except Detroit was coached by someone who had already won a championship.

  6. Finally, good news. Pau will most likely play tomorrow and Andrew is running across the court.

    http://www.latimes.com/sports/basketball/nba/lakers/la-sp-lakerep2apr02,1,4423463.story

  7. Potential “x-factors”
    Phoenix: Barbosa, Diaw
    San Antonio: Horry, Finley, Barry
    New Orleans: Pargo, Wells
    Utah: Korver, Milsap
    Denver: J.R. Smith, Nene
    Golden State: Harrington
    Dallas: Terry, Bass

    I think our x-factors (Sasha, Jordan, Rony) match-up well with every other West contender, and I think the biggest x-factor of all could be Drew Bynum, his 20 minutes off the bench could be a huge boost.

  8. If everything works out well, we could very well see the return of The Bench Mob from the beginning of the season.

  9. 5. I agree that if we classify Odom as a role player, we look much stronger there. I think he’s the exact type of smart, savvy player that is instrumental to winning in the playoffs. He’s probably the last Laker I would want taking a big shot or key free throws, but otherwise he’s possibly the best role player in the league — master of the little things.

    7. A few other key role players in the West:

    Phoenix: Bell, Hill
    Spurs: Kurt Thomas, Udoka
    NO: Peja
    GS: Biedrins

    I think Hill, Bell, and Thomas are the exact type of veterans that will end up deciding a playoff series. Glad we added Fish — feels much better knowing he’ll be out there at crunch time. I think in the end he will earn every cent of that $14 million contract.

  10. I think what the Lakers miss is actually a real backup 2 guard and a new-age enforcer power forward.

    The new age enforcer power forward is the 6’6″-6’8″ mesomorph, with long-wing spans, explosive leaping ability, and tenacious on defense and rebounding. Jason Maxiell, Carl Landry, Paul Millsap among others come to mind. Too small to start, they completely change the rhythm of the game off the bench. Because of the NBA’s bias for height, these guys are usually available late first round or second round.

    Also, the Lakers do not have a back-up at the SG. As I’ve said too many times, the Lakers have their future starting PG. His name is Sasha Vujacic. What they don’t have is a guy who can take it to the hole and create at the guard position when Kobe sits. Without Pau or Bynum, this is why the offense has been stagnating so much. (Nick Young was very impressive as the backup SG. In fact, I was surprised how good he turned out to be as I thought he was a Kobe-wannabe without the athleticism when he was at USC.)

  11. 10- Do you think Turiaf is capable of being one of those new-school pf’s you’re talking about? I think if our front-line was healty, he very well could do that. Another guy like that is Craig Smith on the T-Wolves, if he was on a good team he would be valuable, other players say he is the strongest player in the leauge

  12. Great post, Reed. A few other things I’d add is: Championship teams need Luck and a good Trainer.

    I think the lakers need to hire a full time orthopedist the way all our foot injuries have taken longer to heal than they should the last several years (Mihm, Ariza, Gasol…). We need to headhunt whoever is treating Phoenix. Detroit, too. Those guys never get injured.

  13. Kwame. I’m not sure. It doesn’t look like Ronny spends too much time in the weight room. Yeah he’s been running on fumes the last few games but when I see him with his over-sized jersey pulled out (which makes his gut look bigger than it is) and skinny arms and legs, I have this vision of Fred Sanford shuffling into his house from the salvage yard in my head.

    Maybe if he hit the gym he would actually power through a follow-up dunk on a regular basis instead of passing out. The last several games have you noticed that when he gets an offensive rebound, he automatically passes out even when he is unguarded? The Craig Smith, Maxiell types are always attacking the rim and trying to dunk everything. So no not yet for Ronny, neither in attitude nor brawn. I don’t see him stuffing Chandler on his lob-dunk like Maxiell did. Tha’s a new age enforcer. Ronny has the energy, but these guys also have the muscle and attitude.

  14. This LIttle Pinky April 1, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    I’m pumped for the next 5 years!!!!!!!!

  15. Boston does match the “mix”… And I really think they are the team to beat. They will be coming out of the East, so they will be rested comparatively, Whomever comes from the West is going to go though 3 series of the likes we’ve never seen… do you see anyone even close to sweeping? There is something to be said for heart… but rest is key.

  16. Bill,

    Are you suggesting we draft Tyler Hansboro?

  17. Great read (no pun intended). I think we have all but one of the bases covered – a true, mean, fear-instilling-yet-respected veteran enforcer.

    That enforcer needs to be skilled enough to start or at least be in the rotation quite regularly, somewhat big and burly… we have nobody that fits that description.

    Without such a persona, we’ll be labeled ‘soft’ and see a LOT of the physical stuff that got Kobe 15 techs (among other things). I mean, our best player shouldn’t be the one accumulating techs… and the fact that he does says a lot about this team.

  18. Paul,

    Tyler Hansboro would never drop to the second round ala Millsap/Landry. The scouts are going to have to unearth a diamond in the rough. I actually think Kwame a has a great idea. Craig Smith is an unrestricted FA (I think) at a 687,000 salary. He is a more athletic Big Baby, a load down low.

  19. 16/18: What about Joey Dorsey of Memphis. He is currently slotted in the mid 2nd rd. on draftexpress’ mock.

    I love Craig Smith, and he’s a local guy (Fairfax H.S.)

  20. unlike Boston, we did not sell off our future to win now. they might pull it off, but where will they be in 2 years…or 3 or 5?
    regarding Newbie, I bet the Lakers told him they would sign him to 2 ten day contracts, and thus the rest of the season, or why else would he have chosen the Lakers over Clevland who had saved his locker? that along with the fact that he felt he had a real shot at a ring, even though he’d be like 8th 0r 10th off the bench. I do hope he get to see him soon, PJ says he’s their best practice player now.
    yeah, that’s good news on the injury front, took long enough, and thanks Reed, very informative.

  21. chris h, The Celtics will be just fine when McHale trades back Jefferson and Gomes for PJ Brown and Sam Cassell’s used jockstrap.

  22. Re #10

    Sasha is not a point guard. He’s a two that can play some one. I can’t envision him handling the ball, breaking the press, and running an offense for an entire game. Frankly, the thought scares me.

    Farmar is the point guard of the future (for now). In reality, he is better suited as a change of pace 6th man.

  23. The thing with Boston though is that they will likely have to face LeBron in the second round. He has proven to be a tough out in the East the last couple of seasons. If they get past him, they’ll likely have the Pistons waiting for them. So it won’t be as easy as everyone is making it out to be. First round will be cake though.

  24. Warren Wee Lim April 1, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Reed what a read.

    I agree to most points there except that we may have missed out on Odom being the x-factor. Everyone will expect Bynum, Gasol and Kobe but there is absolutely no one who can cover for Odom anymore. I just hope he keeps his “veteran” status since the last time 4 “stars” played for LA, the results were far less too favorable for me to remember.

    Cliche as it can be, the Lakers do not need to add more firepower. Sometimes the offense do stagnates when Kobe stops attacking the hole, but that should not stop a JFarm-Sasha-Luke-Pau-Drew lineup to dominate. Feed the high post, all 3 guards make a cut and have someone lurk the corner. Pau plays the pinch, Drew plays low and rinse, lather, rinse, lather.

    JFarm is sort of “hitting a wall” lately… with Fish out for the season, we have a very big problem.

    Ok that last one was for April Fools :)

  25. 22. If we were any other team, I’d agree wholeheartedly. But the triangle is unique in that it requires an atypical skill set for successful point guards. If you look at what Fisher has contributed (both this year and in during the Lakers’ championship years), he has never really been required or expected to run the offense–that is usually Kobe or Lamar’s job, depending on the lineup. The primary responsibilities of the PG in the triangle are to knock down open jumpers and play defense; I think we’d all agree that Sasha is capable of doing both of these things relatively well. He certainly doesn’t have Fisher’s level of veteran savvy and he’s not yet nearly as clutch, but those two things simply come with time and experience.

    Furthermore, I wouldn’t necessarily give Fisher TOO much of an edge over Fisher in the play-making category. We’re all inclined to think of Fisher as a smart, veteran player–and for the most part he is–but he also has a penchant for ill-advised drives through traffic. Bottom line is that while I’d take Fisher over the Machine in the 4th quarter any day of the week, I think you’d be surprised how well Sasha could fill that role for us.

  26. the other Stephen April 1, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    as for the stuff about turiaf not being strong enough, maybe he should go with whoever trained bynum over the summer. this is la, man. bring in schwarzenegger if you have to.

  27. suns lost to the nuggets…good for us..
    rockets lost to the kings…again good for us..
    warriors lost to SA…not much affect on us…
    hornets won..so it’s looking like we gained some and lost some.
    what a tight race, like a classic pennent race in baseball, not only depends on what you do but your close teams too.
    we’ve just got to avoid those brain farts and finish the season strong!

  28. Reed,
    Very strong as usual.

    And not to be a downer, but we really do look like we are a year away. We have a lot of key players that are relatively inexperienced beyond the first round of the playoffs. (besides our holdovers like Sasha, Farmar, Ronnie, etc, remember too that Gasol has never even won a playoff game) Basically, the ‘Veteran Role Player’ part of this team *is* lacking. We can point to Lamar and Fisher, and they are excellent examples of guys that we need. I also think that in the scheme heavy/one opponent/super game planning style of the playoffs, Luke is going to prove very useful. But we need to see who of the Farmar, Sasha, Ronny, Radman, Ariza (hopefully healthy) group steps into the roles that championship teams need filled. Who is going to be poised? Who is going to make the smart decisions? Who is not going to make mental errors? (and I have more questions too, like defense, shot selection, etc…) If all those guys can step up, then I think we are more than the real deal. We would be an all time team. When you combine role players as talented as those aforementioned guys, and combine them with Kobe and talented + versatile bigs like Gasol, Bynum, and Odom, through in Phil, and that is a true contending team. But it’s gonna be on those other guys. They are gonna have to be big time players in the biggest games of their careers. I think that, ultimately, they have the character to get it done. I just think it may take more than just these last couple playoff losses to the Suns to instill that seasoning that we’ll need to get that championship.

    I also think that besides our struggles in individual games recently and making it hard to stay at the top of the conference, our injuries have robbed the team of the court/game time and practices that really allow a team to gel and gain that chemistry that a team needs to win it all in the playoffs.

    In the end though, I love this team. We are built for now and we are built from 5 years from now. We have Kobe and Phil and Gasol and Bynum and Lamar and some very good, young players that have shown that they can get better and that they want to improve. Character guys. Hard workers. Those are the types building blocks that every organization strives for. We’ve been saying since Bynum started to emerge that this was turning into a great time to be a Laker fan. Gasol has only added to that. Kobe has been anything and everything anyone could ask for. When our role players take the next step parades are going to be planned.

  29. I just finished watching the Rockets at the Kings, live. Interesting game. The Rockets outrebounded the Kings by 21, had five less turnovers and still found a way to lose the game.

    Note to the Lakers on Sunday:
    Give Artest room to shoot if he brings the ball down the court. He was ice cold when shooting immediately after bringing the ball down the court. I know he stunk it up last season when Musselman let him get away with that, and I know Theus does not have confidence in him being the first option.

    Secondly, pound the glass. The Kings do not box out. They rely on athleticism to get rebounds and do not “man up.” They gave up way too many offensive boards. Heck, the Lakers can take their time and select their shots. No more jump shooting.

    Third, whoever Moore guards, has a distinct advantage. It appears Moore plays slow and undersized. While Moore is great on the help D, his man-to-man is weak. Odom or Gasol should dominate this matchup.

    Four, Farmar and Sasha needs to come up big. Garcia played PG on the offensive end and looked out of position. There are a lot of easy turnovers to force. However, Jord and Sash cannot leave him open on the offensive end as this guy has range and spaces well.

    Last, leave Artest on the perimeter. Force him on the outside of the key where he does the least amount of damage. Yes he was 4 of 7 from 3-land, but he had open looks every single time! Let him rack up numbers and keep Martin et al off the score sheet.

  30. I loved reading this post and I am very excited about the Lakers future. This season is a going to be a tough and exciting playoff run, but next season regardless this year’s outcome, the Lakers will be the team to beat! All of our young players will be one year more experienced and hopefully we will have a full season with our “trip towers” starting along side each other, dominating on the boards and outscoring opponents in the paint.

    I do not think that we need a single acquisition for this team to contend for championships over the next several years…All we need is HEALTH!

    Over the past week the Lakers weaknesses have been defense and lack of a post scoring presence. Obviously Bynum will shore help shore up the interior defense and Ariza will do the same for the perimeter defense, as well as take some pressure off Kobe who won’t have to be the top scorer and slow down the opposition’s top scorer simultaneously. I do agree that the role players will have to learn to make the right decisions defending the pick and roll and recognizing which shooters to close on and fight through the screens by the tree point line. Bynum and Gasol’s post scoring will also take some pressure off Kobe who is the only one taking it inside lately (with the exception of an occasional Farmar lay up and an ATTEMPT by Fisher or Walton).

    I believe that Bynum and Gasol will play well together. Bynum does not yet have the ego to whine about his number of shots and Gasol is a very smart mature basketball player, who I believe will do whatever it takes to win, even if that means he has to operate a little further from the basket, as he does have an excellent mid range jumper.

    I am so excited about the playoffs and the Lakers future I could write for hours….but I am sure that this is the last post and that no one else will read this so I will just wait and see what you say about tomorrow’s game……..GREAT POST KURT!

  31. The Dude Abides April 1, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    S. Nicholson, that was a guest post by Reed.

  32. I’m usually more on the side of, “Trainers are just trainers and can’t prevent people from coming down on other people’s ankles during gameplay” however, I think this lends a lot of firepower to the “the training and medical staff aren’t awesome” camp.

    http://theassociation.blogs.com/the_association/2008/04/a-follow-up-to.html

  33. Great post Reed. Although I’d like to add that as a part of your “stars” section, all the main guys had great (or unique, depending on your perspective) nicknames: The Big Diesel, The Big Fundamental, Flash, Mr. Big Shot.

    It’s a good thing Kobe’s being called Lord Vader in the bay, because Mamba still sounds like a drum to me. Plus it’s the dark side. The dark side is cool.

    Re: Jordan Farmar’s recent struggles. Does anyone else see Sasha replacing him down the stretch in the playoffs?

  34. Warren Wee Lim April 2, 2008 at 12:17 am

    Ok mods, what I am about to read contains several “speculative” inputs. I do hope you take it in context and not spin it as an unfounded rumor. Thanks in advance.

    Since the topic is “Building a Champion”, it would be be wise to point out technical terms regarding defense, offense and all that jazz, but it also has to do with the “other” things. On that aspect, here’s my take:

    1. Roster Balance

    “Title teams need 2-3 stars who complement each other and collectively perform the fundamental basketball skills at the highest level.”

    As this phrase suggests, we need high-caliber players that are able to complement each other’s games. Synergy is the term and it takes more than the basic to do this.

    Using the current Laker team, we have particular players to do particular tasks. We have those that perform 2-3 tasks collectively and simultaneously, and they are who we consider as the stars.

    So we have Fish, Kobe, Lamar, Pau and Drew. The consensus 5 best players in each categorical importance that earns them to be our team’s starting 5.

    Backup has J-Farm, Sasha, Ariza, Radmanovic, Turiaf.
    Reserves: Luke, Newble, Mbenga, Mihm, Son of George.

    If we use this analogy, Lamar has to be our SF. In times when Phil goes small, Kobe slides to the three or, Trevor replaces Lamar and Kobe stays the 2. Farmar is invaluable due to our lack of PG depth. Sasha is a combo guard that proves to be Kobe’s alter-ego in trigger-happiness when Kobe sits.

    If we look at our top ten, you will notice that we have 2 pure PGs, 1 combo guard, 2 GFs, 3 pfs, 1 C and 1 PF/C.

    Of course, one would then contend whether Radmanovic and Odom are 4′s playing 3 or 3′s playing the 4.

    Trevor Ariza is a tall guard. He is not by any standard a SF. But then again, Kobe can play the 3.

    The reason why we have some logjams at several positions is because we have too many forwards. However, by definition, we only have 1 true power forward in Ronny and we ask him to play C.

    Guard spot is well-defined because Kobe takes the 2 by will. I mean, I doubt there is any player in the league we can acquire that requires Kobe to move to the three by necessity. Therefore, Sasha being his backup with a no-fear attitude and some defense makes him the perfect backup. He does not cost too much too so, no problem there. PG chores are well-defined with Fish and Farm splitting time. Jordan will eventually inherit this position since he knocks down those threes regulary. Its the defense that leads us to think we still lack in this position.

    I suggest we move one of our “forwards” for a real PF and a real SF not necessarily on that priority. Immediately, with us being in the lux tax territory and Lamar’s humongous salary, he is the 1st name to be dangled in trade talks. We do not necessarily HAVE TO deal him, we just need to define his role.

    If we do move Lamar, I hope management sees it fit to get back more defined players (by that I do not mean 1-dimensional) for the TRI. Then again, there is a learning curve too. We might end up keeping everyone for one more run.

    In the end, contracts aside, players like Haslem, Reggie Evans and Jason Maxiell intrigue me from the “bruiser” category.

    As far as SFs go, there’s no one I’d like better than Shane Battier and Travis Outlaw.

  35. Great post, nice work. Does anyone know more about the status of this kid drafted last year? Sounds exciting…

    Sun Yue

    Position Point guard
    Height 6 ft 9 in
    Weight 205 lb
    Born November 11/06/85
    Hometown: Hebei, China
    Team: Aoshen (Olmpian)
    2nd round draft pick, 2007
    Los Angeles Lakers

    Strengths
    Unusual height for his position, terrific athlete, excellent jumper and quickness … With 6-9 height, he has the ability to play the point guard position … Decent ball handling skills, talented passer, outstanding court vision, good at finding open teammates … Very unselfish with pass first mentality, great fast break player and play-maker, accurate bounce passer … Penetrates well with a good ability to attack the hoop, quick first step … Takes advantage of being left handed catching opponents off guard … Likes to dunk, can do windmill/360 dunks easily … Can shoot anywhere inside the NBA 3-point line … Nice shooting stroke, soft touch, high release points on his shot … Can guard positions from 1 to 4 , taking advantage of his height and length to pressure his opponents to adjust their shooting rhythm … Great lateral speed on defense ; good reflexes as well as leaping ability make him a good shot blocker … He performs as a help defender and even a rebounder under the basket for his team. 2.5 blks,1.9 stls and 7 rebs per game, the numbers reflect his defensive contribution … His versatility gives him a chance to get Quadruple-double statistics in games, granted it’s the ABA…. Shows a great passion to win other than his stats … In addition, his age is not in question.

    Is this our PG of the future? The Chinese Magic Johnson?

  36. Hi Reed,

    It’s hard for me to say, but I like your analysis a great deal–but we’ve got issues in Lakerland.

    The Zenmeister has fifteen “pieces,” but two of his biggest pieces, Pau and ‘Drew, have never played together at all. Two of his most dependable pieces, Kobe and Derek, have nagging injuries that will not go away during the playoffs. At least one of his pieces, Trevor, will not be making his return debut until the playoffs. We’ll have to make due with Ira, a wiley veteran stand-in. There may even be minor stand-in roles for Mbenga and the other Kobe. Only time will tell.

    The Zenmeister needs to put Humpty back together again when Humpty was never together in the first place–and Phil does not have all the kings horses or men (though his backup support is pretty good). Zenman better understand the Japanese “just in time” approach to product delivery perfectly!

    We’ll learn something about the status of one of those returning “pieces” tonight. Should be interesting.

  37. Hopefully Pau doesn’t take too much of a beating on that ankle pounding with Portland’s bigs. We should definitely win this game though since Portland is missing Brandon Roy.

  38. This is from a month ago, so if this is a repeat I apologize but really interesting:Kobe for MFP(Most Feared Player)
    http://fannation.com/blogs/post/153977

    Great break down of championship recipe. We don’t have the wily veterans that we had back in the threepeat era. I believe Ronny is the Rambis/Fox kind of enforcer who will get in peoples face it’s just with the injury situation he’s had to play more and in different roles. It will be nice to have Pau back. Paint scoring here we come.

    When Sasha takes it to the whole my whole body cringes cause it is just akward. I am not too worried about our PG spot we need our bigs healthy.

  39. I am excited as everyone else about this Laker team. However, last summer I said next year would be our year and I am sticking with that opinion. drrayeye put it very well. We are currently a collection of players and not yet a team – it is a great collection – but not yet a team.

    We have seen Gasol fit in so quickly it is scary (thank Kobe for much of that) and we thing everything else will go as easily. I don’t feel the Gasol/Bynum combination will take much adjustment to work, but it is the dominos that follow that move that concern me. I see Lamar’s effectiveness slowing down as he adjusts to being farther from the hoop – also his defense will decline because he will have to defend smaller, faster players out front. I fee the Walton effect for Vlade when he goes to the bench. I fear Phil will give Luke Vlade’s minutes in this situation and now our second team defense will be compromised.

    This is what I feel drrayeye meant by putting “Humpty back together again when Humpty was never together in the first place”.

  40. After watching the NOH ,SAS/GS, PHX/Nuggets games yesterday, i feel that Lakers will be better served remaining the third seed. That way they get to play Houston which will be a goof match up for us. We have the interior scoring which they lack.
    Looking at the way SAS and NOH are playing, I think we cannot climb up from 3rd. Houston also has gained a good lead on the 7th and 8th spots. Hence the Lakers -Houston match will be a reality and we will win such a series hands down…

  41. #37, “should definitely win this game” is a phrase that has most Lakers fans skeptical given the past few games:)

    Great Post Reed. Keep up the good work.

    Warren (#34), I agree with your general assessment, but I do think Trevor is a great natural fit at the 3 spot. The general public is going to be surprised on how great of supporting player he is going become next year (with the safe assumption he is going to improve on his shot over the summer). The kid can flat out play and provides 2 things the Lakers are sorely lacking:
    1. Great perimeter defense with a propensity for steals
    2. His ability to cut correctly in the triangle and find his way to the basket

    Additionally, if you look at his shot……he has great form. He just needs to hit it on a consistent basis and that is something that can be easily worked on over the summer.

    I agree with you in regards to the glut of forwards we have on our team for the future. But rather than looking at LO has the piece to move (although, you can’t ignore he has only 1 year left on his contract thereby making it a good scenario for the team in terms of a potential trade), I think the smart piece to move is Luke. And this is not b/c of his level of play this year….but more b/c how he fits less in the system given the other players around him. I think his lack of athleticism, consistent shooting, and speed makes him the odd man out in terms of improving the team. I also agree that we need another PG who can get to the hole and have the potential to play great D (i.e. Critt!).

    Be that as it may, this is talk all for next year. But getting back to what Reed says……..this all points to a great future for the Lakers for the next 5 years (Although winning this year would be a great start to a budding dynasty)!

  42. Get Bynum coming off the bench and put Radmanovic in to spread the floor. Otherwise we will just have the lane filled with bodies and our inside game becomes useless… (Do you really want Odom jacking up threes?)

    Also, if money is NOT a problem, then there’s no need to move anyone… but maybe we could draft a PG with more defensive awareness and skills (to actually start replacing Fish). Or maybe a defensive forward (a la Mbah a Moute).

    Ideally?

    Starting lineup: Fish, Kobe, Radman, Odom, Gasol
    Bench mob: Farmar, Sasha, Ariza, Ronny, Bynum
    Guys that make us really deep: Luke and Mbenga

    Of course every opponent is different and sometimes we’ll need Luke to be on court and Ariza to stay out. Whatever it takes… Plenty to choose… Let the team gel… We’ll be contenders every year for the next five (winning four, this year I don’t believe it) ;)

  43. I think the Gasol/Odom combo hurts us against NO and SA, not to mention Boston and Detroit. We need to get Bynum minutes in the post before the 2nd round – where he may need to start.

  44. 43. That’s where we should use our depth… Throw Odom to the bench mob, get Bynum on the floor…

  45. Open letter to the Portland Trailblazers:

    Dear Portland Trailblazers,

    Please don’t try hard tonight. What’s the point? Lose a few games, get a higher draft pick. I’m sure the new better-player-than-you’d-have-otherwise-drafted won’t take YOUR minutes. They’ll take Steve Blake’s minutes. And the ladies in the L.A. night clubs will be in much better moods if the Lakers win handily. MUCH better moods.

    Sincerely,
    J.D. Hastings

    Actually, while I’m here, Open letter to the New Orleans Hornets:

    Dear New Orleans Hornets,

    Please lose. What the Hell, man? You guys are harder to put down than Michael Myers on PCP. If you guys went against a family of hungry, rabid bears I get the impression you’d find a way to pull out a victory (not that outscoring the bears would be difficult as they have lousy handles, but you know what I mean). Seriously, LOSE A COUPLE GAMES ALREADY. You’re freaking me out.

    Sincerely,
    J.D. Hastings

  46. I was talking about the road to the finals for the western teams vs eastern teams with my father and he compared it to the 70′s Lakers teams. He talked about how every year they would waltz through, losing maybe a game here and there, and then have to meet up with these battle tested eastern conference teams that had developed a strong sense of belonging, confidence, and toughness.

    As good as Boston is, I can see how that *could* happen again. Whoever comes out of the West (and I surely hope it is the Lakers) will have been tried, measured, and I think have suprememe confidence. I don’t know if it is necessarily a disadvantage to that western conference team.

  47. respect on an excellent post. Also I gotta agree with the enforcer argument. We need our own Charles Oakley patrolling the front lines. Someone to complement kobe’s tenacity.

  48. Warren Wee Lim April 2, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    JD Hastings – LOLz man.

    adb – moving Luke is next to impossible with that 6-yr contract of his…

    Renato – that might be Phil’s strategy for the playoffs until Bynum gets his groove back, possibly in the WCF if we get that far. However, I would insist that Ariza gets the start if he’s ready.