Talking Roster

Kurt —  September 19, 2008

Apparently the Lakers coaching staff is thinking like some commenters on this blog have been — they want to consider Lamar Odom coming off the bench this year. And apparently Odom is game for the idea, making a sort of Manu-like role for himself.

While I’ve been in the “let’s start the big five and see how they mesh before we decide it won’t work camp,” I’ll admit that Odom coming off the bench has what Ziller aptly described as “delightful possibilities.” Odom is the key to the Lakers versatility this year, and the fact that he could come off the bench and play the two, three or four gives Phil Jackson a host of match up possibilities.

But all of those possibilities hinge on one idea — Trevor Ariza has to earn that starting spot.

The question is not at the defensive end of the floor, where he will guard the best opposing two or three (or, at least switch off with Kobe on that task). To have two good wing defenders with Bynum as a backstop would make for a potentially very good defense.

I’ll say this now and it will become my mantra for this season — the Lakers will go as far as their defense will take them.

The question about Ariza is on offense — can he develop a jumper to help spread the floor? He shot just 33% eFG% on jumpers last year, and 27% from three for the season (although, when he got open threes with the Lakers, that improved to the Mendoza-line number of 33.3%). Ariza is explosive, he can run with the break an in the half court he gets to the hole (he had a very good true shooting percentage last season of 59.4% with the Lakers, think of that stat like points per shot attempt, and know Kobe was at 57.6%).

But teams are going to play off him on that weak side, they are going to try to take away the two man game, they will double Pau and Kobe off of him until he makes them pay with consistency from the outside. Rumor is he spent a lot of time this summer shooting jump shots, working on that part of his game. We will see.

The bottom line is that apparently the starting spot is there for the taking. I don’t think Walton or Radman can fill the role the Lakers want (remember the mantra about defense). Ariza can, if he has worked on his game, maybe he can grab that brass ring — and as this is a contract year for him it’s a good time to grab it.

If he does, the Lakers are better and deeper and the possibilities are delightful. If not, if Odom starts, the Lakers are still very, very good. Not a bad problem to have.

——————————————————————

There were questions about some of the Lakers signings of the last couple weeks — CJ Giles, Dwayne Mitchell, Brandon Heath and Jelani McCoy. While I’ll give a brief bit of background, know that these guys are there to fill out the camp roster. They are looking to get noticed, maybe get a D-League spot or a good international gig. They will not end up on the roster, although they can fight for the last spot. By my count, the Lakers have 13 guys under guaranteed deals (counting Sun Yue) and want to carry 14 this season. That means these guys need to beat out Coby Karl and Joe Crawford to get that spot at the end of the bench, a very tough task. Because the Lakers are loaded with vets, they are likely to take a first or second-year player for that spot, someone who can split time with the D-Fenders and be called up in case of injury.

And, after watching Karl this summer, I think it will be hard to wrest that spot away from him.

Dwayne Mitchell is the one guy who, with a spectacular camp, maybe could get that spot. He is a very quick guard who last season averaged 20 ppg in the D-League for Iowa. He showed he can shoot in the Summer League, shooting 61.9% for the Lakers. He worked hard on defense, but I thought made a lot of mental mistakes to go with his good plays. If he can eliminate the mistakes, maybe he can fit as a PG. But, he’s 26 years old, how much will he really improve at this point?

CJ Giles is a big body —6-10, 220 — out of Oregon State. He had enough talent to be recruited to Kansas and enough problems to be kicked out of that school. So he went to Oregon State, and they kicked him off the team mid-season, in part for consistently showing up late to practice. He averaged 6.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 18.1 minutes this season for the Beavs. Maybe some of the other Pac-10 honks out there have a better memory of him than I do, what I remember is that he really didn’t stand out.

Brandon Heath essentially carried San Diego State two seasons ago. His shooting percentage of 50.6% (eFG%) his senior year is not bad considering the volume he had to shoot. Last season he played in France for Entente Orlean, where I imagine he ate well, at least. This summer he played for the Clips.

Jelani McCoy is a 31-year-old, 6-11 center formerly of UCLA and the Lakers. He spent some time with the D-Fenders last season. He has an NBA championship ring from the 01-02 Lakers, when he played in 21 games averaging 5 minutes per. He looked like a guy with a lot of potential as a rookie for Seattle many years ago, but that never panned out.

Kurt

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71 responses to Talking Roster

  1. the other Stephen September 19, 2008 at 11:31 am

    first order of things: i’m tired of hearing gilbert. let your damn knee do the talking.

    these camp invites sound enticing. any word on what the heck joe crawford has been up to?

  2. The only thing I really like about Lamar starting is the opportunity for him and Pau to play on the weak side of the triangle together. Those two play so well off of each other, that I think it would be even better with them lined up on the same side of the floor in the triangle. Otherwise, Lamar coming off the bench could be amazing. Lamar, Farmar, and Sasha coming off the bench??? That’s some bench firepower right there!

  3. It seems to me that if Lamar finds a home coming off the bench and Ariza can’t make teams pay with the corner three, the Lakers could slide Kobe to the 3 and start Sasha. He works hard on D, will kill anyone who leaves him alone in the corner, and Kobe will be able to hold his own defending the other team’s 3.

  4. I love Trevor Ariza on this team because of his cutting and his movement off the ball. The team needs someone like him, someone who’ll take advantage of Gasol’s/Odom’s/Bynum’s passing. Ariza is someone who’ll create additional player movement in the halfcourt and take advantage of open space.

    I also love what he brings to the Lakers on the fastbreak as a finisher. The Lakers will be a much tougher team on the backboards with the return of Bynum, and should be get more stops too, so there will be more fastbreak opportunities for the team. Kobe needs someone to run with him on the break, and I think Ariza does that better than any of the other wings. Ariza brings a level of quickness and high tempo to the Lakers play that none of the other options bring.

  5. http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/players/hollinger?playerId=2426

    http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/players/hollinger?playerId=2429

    Aside from the scoring Ariza’s numbers compare favorably (per 40 minutes) to Luol Deng’s. Hopefully, a good sign.

  6. I really believe that bringing Odom off the bench is in the Lakers and Odom’s best interests. I’m glad that the coaching staff has gone so far as to talk to him about the switch before the season begins. And it’s good to hear that he’s open to the role as well.

    I hope this underscores Odom’s value to the Lakers and gives us a better chance of signing him to an extension. I would hate to lose Odom’s versatility because he feels he isn’t being used properly or wants a larger deal than the Lakers are willing to offer.

  7. Dammit, Riz beat me to it. I wanted to be the first one in when it comes to the start-Sasha camp.

    What we really need from that 3-spot is a Bruce Bowen-type role player. Someone who plays great D and knocks down threes is always a valuable complement to the stars of an NBA team. Ariza provides some defense (although I think he is a little over-rated there), and a good transition game, but no outside shooting. Sasha provides just the right combo of high-energy defense and superb long-range shooting. We may have started VladRad last year, but it was obvious to most people (I think) that our most effective lineup was Farmar-Sasha-Kobe-Odom-Gasol. So why not start games with that lineup this year? Bynum will absolutely dominate coming off of the bench, and I think he’s more suited to it right now than Odom. If the team feels like they have to start Bynum, then including Sasha in the mix seems like a must.

    The problem with the Fisher-Kobe-Ariza-Gasol-Bynum lineup is outside shooting. Fisher had a career year last year when it comes to that, but you can’t count on that happening again. I think he comes back to earth and Farmar starts to get a larger chunk of the minutes. With no outside shooting, opponents will just pack the lane and prevent Gasol & Bynum from operating effectively together.

    I would love to see a front court rotation set up where you always have 2 of Gasol, Bynum, and Odom on the floor, but never all three. I just don’t think that super-huge lineup will work. But we know Odom-Gasol works. We know Odom-Bynum works. I have a feeling Gasol-Bynum will work just fine, but I would keep shooters out there whenever those two are in the front court.

  8. I think Odom to the bench would be a good move as well. I am also glad to hear that Ariza has been in the gym working on jump shots. Another good sign.

    Check out this triangle set: Ariza screens for Fisher and Trevor is left open in space when the defense switches. Ariza has the option to shoot an open jumper or work the ball into Bynum. The defense shifts to help whoever is on Bynum and would allow either Gasol to fill the lane on the weak side or have #24 run the middle of the lane.

    Tex, draw the play up!

  9. David St. Hubbins September 19, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    I like the idea of bringing Lamar off the bench. Not only will it provide some punch for the second unit, but it will allow Lamar to play at the 4 which is his best position. If you remember, Lamar started at the 3 at the beginning of last year with Ronny at the 4 and he really struggled…particularly on defense (not that he is worse defensively than Radmo or Luke). Even though he is skilled and versatile, I just don’t think playing the 3 is a good fit for him.

    The Lakers will be so versatile next year…they can play big or small, fast or slow. They should be able to match up with any style. So, more than thinking about who is starting and who is coming off the bench, what 5 would you like to see on the court the most? For me, I would love to see a lineup of Bynum, Odom, Ariza, Kobe, and Farmar get some minutes together. That lineup would be unbelievably long, athletic, and fast. They would be great defensively, on the glass, and in transition. While they might not be the greatest outside shooting team they can field, they could certainly execute in the triangle in the half court (I think this lineup played very briefly last year before Bynum got hurt). Any other thoughts?

  10. I’ve been in the same camp as Kurt on this. I’ve wanted to see how LO works out at SF and have him be able to pair with Pau on the weakside the way that JONES describes in his post (#2). However, if this does become the manner that Odom is deployed, I trust the coaches to use him the right way. Ultimately, I see Odom being the first guy off the bench and most likely for Bynum or Gasol. If the coaches really think he’s best used as a PF (which is likely considering that’s where he’s had the most success as a Laker) it makes sense that as the first guy off the bench, he’d come in at his most effective position. I know that his versatility is his strong point, but ultimately saying that he’d be the first guy off the bench at SF or SG seems strange considering the log-jam that we have at SF (and if he’s good enough to be the first guy off the bench at that postion, why not start him) and the investment that we’ve made to Sasha and Farmar as our backcourt off the bench.

    My only concern about this is that SF is, technically, our weakest position and using our best bench player (which Odom would become if he no longer starts) to sub in at a position that is as strong as PF (considering how well Pau played for us last season) doesn’t have our best players on the court most often.

    And, while I’m high on Ariza, I wonder if he’s grown enough on offense and is versatile enough to provide the well rounded game I’d like to see in our starting 5. I know that his defense is potentially the asset that can put our team over the top in the half court and that his ability to run the floor and slash off the weakside playing off the attention drawn by Kobe, Gasol, and Bynum can serve our offense well. But Ariza is not a ball handler (or hasn’t been traditionally) and if he is in the starting 5 that would leave us with only Kobe and Fish as guys that can lead the break or guys that can (potentially) take a rebound and initiate the offense themselves in our starting unit. Odom is another guy that can do that and has excelled at that in recent seasons, and so far, Trevor has not shown that ability yet. This isn’t meant to knock down Ariza, because like I said, I’m high on him and think he’ll be a strong contributor to us next season. But, if I’m looking to maximize the team, I still think that having Odom start at SF and having our first sub be one of our other SF’s like Ariza or Radman or Luke and then move Odom to the bench or have one of them sub for Pau/Bynum and then shift the lineup accordingly. I’m not a coach, though, so what do I know?…

  11. Having Odom come off the bench this season rather than start at the 3 makes a great deal of sense to me–for many reasons. In my thinking, the Lakers have two core players at each position:

    PG: Fisher, Farmar
    2G: Bryant, Vujucic
    3F: Walton, Arisa
    4F: Gasol, VladRad
    C: Bynum, Mihm

    Note that I don’t include Lamar in the top 10. That’s because Lamar can naturally come in at any position as a “tweener,” and instantly transform the Laker team.

    Early on in the season, Trevor will get his chance to start at least part of the time at the 3, but may play only 20 minutes or so. Ariza may initially alternate with VladRad until Luke is 100%, but i believe that they will be the tandem of choice. Of course, the Lakers can still use Kobe at the 3, so that position is unlikely to be a weakness for the Lakers.

    Early in the season, Pau may back up Andrew with Lamar returning to his familiar 4 spot, but I believe that the Lakers want to play Mihm as the true backup for Andrew for at least 10 minutes per game and restrict Pau to the 4 except for emergencies, eventually backed up by VladRad.

    I foresee Lamar playing significant minutes in every game–sometimes starting at the 3, sometimes subbing at the 1, sometimes returning to the 4–maybe even playing center under certain circumstances. I think he’ll love the chance to display his versatility.

    Given the usual injuries that happen every year, Lamar is likely to play about as many minutes as he did last year.

    The Lakers will be able to show a lot of “looks.”

    This upcoming season should be a blast!

  12. It gets tempting, for obvious reasons, to compare these Lakers to what the Bulls were doing under Jackson. I’ve had times watching LO rebound that made me think Worm. The tip, tip tenacity for the rebound pumps me up in ways only matched by a touch pass orgy in the paint. That said, setting aside the Worm or the Pippen comparisons, what if LO provides something more like Kukoc’s set. Maybe not the shooting. Okay, not the shooting but pretty much everything else is there with, to my eye, more strength coming from LO then TK had. The handle, the length, the penetration… there is something to this and I recall Kukoc coming of the bench once Rodman was onboard. We don’t have a Harpo but Fish is nice. Kobe is poorman’s Jordan. Ariza is Poorman’s Pippin (potential to grow into middle-class man’s status), Gasol is nothing like Rodman (I think they play a different sport) and Bynum is better then anything Jordan ever played with at the 5 on a team that didn’t have colored rings or stars involved. With LO giving us the Kukoc role the bench mob might actually give us what the very effective and underrated Bulls bench did.

    Any word on Mihm’s condition. The less Pau needs to man the 5 the better the team will be.

  13. We’ll have to see how Mihm plays, but I will defend Pau at the five. If I remember correctly, the Lakers made the NBA Finals with Gasol at the five.

    Look, it’s a matter of matchups. There are games where sitting Drew and having a smaller lineup with Pau at the five is going to be the best way to win. Two nights latter a big lineup with a front line of LO, Pau and Bynum will be the best unit. What makes this Laker team dangerous is the versatility, but with that will come less set player rotations than we’re used to and more situational substitutions. The key is getting the players to buy into that.

  14. For the Ariza-Odom move to make sense, Ariza just needs to approach Odom’s level of outside shooting, which wouldn’t be a monumental task.

  15. Exhelorvr, that’s a good point I meant to put in the main post and forgot. Odom shot just 40% on jumpers last year. That is a number that Ariza should be able to best.

  16. I think one of the biggest problems about Lamar Odom starting at small forward is the backup bigs. There’s a lack of quality there that hurts the bench and the Lakers overall depth. It’s putting more pressure on Odom to play a significant amount of time at power forward.

    I know I’d be a lot more comfortable about Odom at small forward if the team had a Varejao or someone of that ilk to give Gasol/Bynum a breather. Or even someone like Ronny Turiaf … but instead Mihm and Powell ….

    Also, on the other side of the depth coin, the Lakers have three (Ariza, Walton, Radmanovic) other options at small forward who can contribute.

    The rest of the roster is making this decision more difficult, and Odom as a 6th man more enticing.

  17. long time reader first time call-er writer…

    Am I missing something here? Didn’t we win the west with Vlad at the SF?

    Look I am not saying that he is the answer for all questions at SF, but if we are talking about right now as it stands who plays what (without the benefit of camp), then I am not yet handing Ariza the SF position. Don’t get me wrong this guys potential has me geeked, but here’s some things to consider:

    1) The reason Vlad was starting at SF was for the exact reason everyone points out as a primary need for the SF position – Shooting, the ability to space the floor. It seemed to me that Vlads role was to come in and establish that spacing in the 1st and 3rd quarters in order to allow the Lakers to get into their game plan offensively and build a lead. I think our success spoke volumes about this game plan.
    2) If we have a healthy Bynum back then our Defense improves significantly so that the need for improved D out of the SF would appear to be less than last year. The need for D should be balanced with the objectives on offense and with the knowledge that we had success last year with Vlad at the SF.
    3) Though Phil doesn’t like to change line ups game to game, instead putting the onus on the other team to match his line up, I trust him to exploit match ups game to game. Just because someone starts doesn’t guarantee that they will play the majority of minutes.
    4) Ariza is on the slight side for a SF. He has generally decent reb numbers but can he handle a physical SF, like a Gomes, Posey, Granger.
    5) I think that we have a number of guys that can play multiple positions and Ariza is one of them. He can play SG and SF and one of the more exciting things isn’t necessarily who starts but who plays.

    I am all for waiting for camp to see but if the season were starting today my starting 5 would be Fish, Kobe, Vlad, Pau, and Bynum. And Odom off the bench as Power/Point Forward or even Small Forward is something I have been thinking about since the season ended.

  18. I have always been one who believes in starting your best 5 guys and then mixing it up depending on the match ups with your substitutions. I think that the best 5 are Bynum, Gasol, Odom, Kobe and Fisher. D Fish gets the close nod over Farmar and Sasha because of his experience. Drunken5yearold: Fisher did have a great year from behind the arc last year, but he is a career 37% shooter from long range, so I don’t expect that to change much.

    One of the main reasons that I haven’t even considered bringing Odom off the bench until now is that I thought it would destroy his confidence. He is a very emotional player. Not to mention, Jeff Schwartz, his agent probably does not want Odom to become a bench player for the first time in his career, which may cause a big pay cut next year when he is a free agent.

    Ariza has showed a lot of promise defensively and I love his athleticism, but we do not know if he can become as complete of a player as you would like to be a starter. Odom is a better finisher, ball handler, rebounder and even shooter at this point. Odom is not a great defender, but I do not see it as a glaring weakness, especially as some have mentioned, Bynum will help shore up the defense a bit. As broadly agreed Odom will have minutes at the 4, where he has been very effective. That can happen with a substitution of Ariza for Gasol or Bynum and Odom just slides down.

    I am still in the camp to say to start Odom. Although his reported willingness to come off the bench is a great sign of his character and willingness to do what it takes to help the team win a championship. I will be interested to see how they mix it when I go to a preseason game or two next month.

  19. As fans of fairly deep teams we tend to think of the roster like a baseball manager imagining different line-ups to take advantage of matchups. But basketball coaches prefer stability and spending scarce practice time on set units. So coaches will go w/set starting units preferring the cohesion gained over theoretical edges.
    Of course smart coaches wil make in-game subs to get every edge possible. Long way of saying Phi wil let camp and the Exhibition games determine his starting line-up. And somewhere around Jan he’ll make a change to shake up the team and help it get over the Jan/Feb grind.

    Lamar as 6th man makes alot of sense. It’s hard to imagine Bynum getting more than 30min/game early and Gaso shoud prob be imited to 36 or so,esp early on. It’s also hard to imagine Mihm/Powell/Rad getting more than 10min/game at the 4 or 5,so that’s at least 20min for Lamar at the 4 and prob another 10-12 at the 3 when Kobe is on the bench. Note that this coud mean Lamar and Kobe are on the floor together less than 1/2 a game. Perhaps this would make Lamar more assertive when he’s the “star” on the court while Kobe rests.

    As to Lamar and his agent worrying about next yr’s contract,I think everyone knows Lamar is going to take a major pay cut.(Ask Marion and his agent.) Posey got a nice raise for being a good 6th man,Ginobili isn’t going to get short-changed because he doesn’t start and Childress had some very nice offers tied to sign-n-trades that Atl didn’t want. Being a quality 6th Man can still get a player paid.

  20. Every time I make reference to my prediction for next season that states:

    The Lakers will win 70 plus regular season games and the NBA Championship

    .. by necessity, it is always with the proviso … IF THEY CAN STAY HEALTHY AND AVOID ANY SERIOUS INJURIES … which, in my book, HAS ALWAYS MEANT including the return to full health of both Andrew Bynum AND Trevor Ariza.

    IMO … most NBA observers, astute or otherwise, still do not comprehend fully what it is T-Ariza is capable of bring to the table every night for this Lakers team PLAYING ALONGSIDE …

    Kobe, Pau, Baby Huey, Fish, Lamar, Sasha, Spaceman, JF, Luke, Mihm, Powell, Yue, etc.

    A usual, Dave is on the right track.

    For the benefit of those who may not have seen this specific game early last season, here is a box score for you to consider:

    http://www.nba.com/games/20071225/PHXLAL/boxscore.html

    Now … add to that Lakers’ line-up ^^^, right there … Pau Gasol.

    Although I would have preferred the Lakers kept Ronny Turiaf in the fold with this year’s team because of the toughness, defense of multiple positions, and overall selfless attitude he brought to the group last season … IMO, when you essentially add Trevor Ariza AND Andrew Bynum to the Lakers’ team that was denied the NBA Title last season by a great band of Celtics, in an historic season for that storied franchise … what you get this season, in LA, is the type of player roster that CAN go down in history, as Sir Charles alluded to one time last season on a TNT broadcast, as the BEST TEAM IN LAKERS’ HISTORY, bar none … if they can stay healthy this next year, under the expert direction of Phil Jackson … in a very deep and balanced Western Conference with a swack of really tough teams … to the tune of 70 plus W’s and the tie-breaking championship the ZenMaster NEEDS to eclipse the great Red Auerbach as the coach with the most League Championships accrued in history.

    IMO … how Dr. Phil decides to use T-Ariza this season is one of the Keys to the Kingdom for this specific group of Lakers.

    Hopefully he chooses wisely … rather than poorly. :-)

  21. and, BTW … the 5-Man line-up I am most interested in seeing on the floor at some point for this group of Lakers is in fact this one, right here:

    Guards – Kobe, Lamar & Ariza
    Bigs – Pau & Bynum

    in the Triangle,

    which, IMHO … is the type of versatile line-up the great Pat Riley would have killed for the opportunity to coach just one time in his historic NBA career.

  22. Nobody is going to win 70 games this season. I think 60 would win the West, probably can do it with 59. The reason simply is that the West is still very deep — New Orleans, San Antonio and (a healthy) Houston are contenders for sure. Beating Utah will never be easy. Dallas and Phoenix still have a lot of talent and on any given night can beat you. There are fewer cupcakes in the East. Bottom line, wins will still be tough to come by.

    By the way, off topic some, but Houston this year is better suited to handle the inevitable injury to Yao or Tracy than ever before. They will still be good without one of the big two, Artest provides some scoring and the defense will still be good. To win the title all the pieces need to be healthy come the playoffs, but this team will weather the storm better. Kevin Pelton put that idea in my head and I think he’s right.

  23. 17. Sam, I think your points about Radman are solid, but I think myself and a lot of us are banking on Ariza stepping up this season. I think my main problem with Radman is he is inconsistent. He certainly gets pigeonholed as just a shooter when his game is better rounded that, but his focus is not consistent. And I’m not sure that is going to change.

  24. well, kurt, he IS from Mars.

  25. Having too many good players is never a problem.

    I agree with Kurt- the starting lineup should be fluid depending on the matchup, with all the key guys assured of getting their minutes regardless.

  26. Sorry to take so long responding Kurt. My point isn’t that Gasol can’t play the 5. I would argue that the Lakers are better off if he doesn’t have to play there much. Having him at the 4 is mas bueno. Obviously the team can get far with him at the 5. I think they get further with Bynum’s muscle. The more I rewatch the Finals and compare them to our play against Utah the more I get the impression that this muscle was the big difference in spite of how effective they were against Utah’s reputation. Okur brings a different skill set then Perkins and while Boozer is very physical, he doesn’t have the length that can handle Gasol or the strength to overpower LO. KG and Perkins had a different combination of length and strength and the SFs in Boston are much bigger and stronger then Utah’s boys. Gasol backed by Bynum is much better for the team then LO or Turiaf backed by Gasol or any other way you might interchange those three. I also think Gasol could use having a little less banging then he gets at the 5.

    I see allot of people still mentioning how much they would have liked keeping Turiaf. While I like the guy and what he brought to the team, to me, we made a trade of Turiaf for Bynum. I make that trade everyday plus leap years.

    Looking back at the 3-peat years we had a pretty tough team. Okay, Goldifox was chinning up on Doug Christy but still, the team was tough. They had Shaq in the middle which provided an overpowering strength at the core of the team. Three years ago a young kid named Bynum took an elbow from Shaq and didn’t get blown back quite as much as most men would have been. I have a pretty good feeling that Bynum’s biggest competition will come from Oden, in terms of strength, but it looks like maturity coupled with training are going to make Bynum a force that can provide that central core of strength that very few teams (Orlando, Portland and thats about it) have. We saw Jermain O’Neal (granted he was injured), Chandler, Camby and Shaq outclassed by our boy before his injury. I’m sorry but I don’t consider Yao to be a FORCE in the paint. He is skilled. He is big. He has strength but he’s not a beast.

    Back to my main point, the more Bynum can handle the middle and Mihm is used as back-up the more the Lakers can overpower their opponents.

    I’m not sure that I agree that the Lakers’ versatility (having many combinations they can use) is their biggest strength. Their biggest strength is that at each position they have a starting player who brings allot to the table. A unit consisting of Bynum, Gasol, Ariza, Kobe and Fisher is a very tough unit to beat. They can pass, they have some good shooting. They are long. They are active, they are athletic, they can finish (I think Ariza finishes better then LO). That they might be able to bring LO off the bench is amazing and does feed into the versitility of the line-up. But the strength of the team lies in the great talet they have at each starting position. The versatility helps.

    Any bets that Ariza will provide more then Devin George did?

  27. “I’ll say this now and it will become my mantra for this season — the Lakers will go as far as their defense will take them.”

    Exactly. We’ll be fine in the regular season, but when it comes to the grind of the WCF and Finals (hopefully), it will be our defense that will keep this year from ending like this last one.

    But I think there’s one important thing that no one’s mentioning. We keep rating Ariza and Kobe as how well they defend individually. I think it’s far more important that we have strong TEAM defense, strong rotations and defensive schemes. If you look at a team like Cleveland, IMO the best defensive team in the league, there’s not a single defender that individually would be considered “lockdown.” (West and Pavlovic are solid, but no more so than Ariza). The key is their team defense. Same with Houston. Since when have Rafer Alston, T-Mac, or Yao been known to be great defenders? It’s the incredible team defense instilled by Jeff Van Gundy that gives them their identity.

    I know Phil’s teams are based on offense, but he needs to place a higher importance on team defense this year. (Maybe even bring in an assistant coach, our own Tom Thibodeau.) Team D – and not how well Ariza and Kobe defend individually – will be the key to this season.

  28. Snoopy, I think you’re right that the team defense needs to improve. But don’t sell Phil Jackson’s defensive coaching short. While the Lakers teams since he came back in 05-06 have been average at best, his teams in Chicago and his first stint in LA were very good defensively. Remember, in 98-99, the Lakers were second in the league in offense but 23rd in defense at 104.6 points per 100 opponent possessions. The next year, under Phil, the offense was at an almost identical level, but the defense improved to 98.2, best in the NBA, and the Lakers won a title.

    Phil knows how to coach defense. But he needs players who buy in.

  29. I look at the Lakers as having two important defensive weaknesses:

    (1) The first being small forward. This won’t matter much in the Western Conference because there’s few top tier small forward’s who are capable of taking the series of the scruff of the neck and winning.

    I think Peja Stojakovic is the player who’d worry be the most because no Lakers’ player has shown the defensive discipline to stick with him on the three point line, so he’s had better than normal performances against LA … and NO are very difficult to beat when they have three high scorers.

    As I said I don’t think it’s too large of a problem against Western Conference teams, but then comes the East and the NBA Finals. You have Boston with Paul Pierce, and Cleveland with LeBron James. Then a step down to Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis. From there fine match-ups with someone like Detroit/Phily.

    To beat whoever comes out of the East it’s going to be very important that the Lakers small forward can somewhat contain a Pierce/James, otherwise you’re giving the opponents best offensive player and an easy matchup and that’s never good. Very dangerous to the Lakers.

    The worry here is that Trever Ariza doesn’t do well against those small forwards in the East. He struggles against players with physical strength, with a midpost game, or a low post game (mainly Pierce here). He’s far less effective defensively against these types of players. Now maybe Ariza improves under good coaching and better teammates, or just natural progression … but it’s been a problem in the past for him which is a worry.

    This is one of the reasons why I’m most interested in seeing Lamar Odom play some small forward because he might be able to solve that, although he’d have other weaknesses.

    (2) The second problem is pick and roll defense. There seems to be an increasing number of pick and rolls every season and plenty of teams out West and East use them to great effect and very often.

    The three best defensive teams in the league in my opinion are Boston, Houston, Cleveland. They’re the three best at defending the screen and roll. One of biggest reasons for this is how well their big men step up and show on the screens. They’re phenomenal at it and it gives their defense a huge boost. It makes penetration very difficult and helps keep the ball in front of the defenders.

    Moving back to the Lakers …. Pau Gasol is poor, and can be very poor, at defending screen and rolls. I also thought that Bynum was average at this, and that this was the biggest area for improvement for him on the defensive side of the floor.

    I think this is an area where LA have to find a lot of internal improvement. Bynum was coming on leaps and bounds defensively so I think there will be a natural progression there … but he and Gasol have to take it upon themselves to make a far greater effort in this regard.

    One of the other interesting things about Lamar Odom here is that he could give the Lakers three shot blockers on the court at the same time, which would help clean up some poor-average pick and roll defense. They could collapse the paint very effectively. On the other side, he’s the best big the Lakers have defensively on the pick and roll and he could help there.

    There’s my concerns with the Lakers defense – which I think will be very good next year, but unless those two areas improve it’ll be a notch below those other top defensive teams like Boston – and also some places where the Lamar Odom question slots in. I think Phil has to experiment with Odom at the three.

  30. When the Lakers got Gasol last season, Odom’s percentages and stats skyrocketed. He became the third option, and looked so much more comfortable in that spot. Odom is meant to play with Gasol and Farmar/Vujacic. I don’t see him being a 6th man because he played so well with Gasol…

  31. From Truehoop, Mitch on Sun Yue:

    http://www.nba.com/lakers/news/kupchak_interview_080919.html

    My favorite part: “Memphis also wanted Sun in the trade, but we wanted to keep at least one of those 2 guys so Memphis wanted Marc and we are happy that we were able to keep Sun Yue, because we liked him when we drafted him”

    Okay, so in the midst of robbing Memphis blind in a trade that left me in hysterical giggles for a full month afterwards, Kupchak actually had the stones to continue haggling over how many 2nd round draft picks to include? It’s a wonder he didn’t demand the shoes the memphis GM was wearing at the same time…

  32. God I hope Bynum comes back strong. Our championship campaign would have more than slight setback without, no?

  33. I understand about the defense on Ariza.
    but odom is an awsome player. He cant be benched….imagine This Starting 5, Fisher, Kobe, Odom, Pau, Bynum. That cant be stopped.

  34. As much as I’d love to see Ariza explode this season and blossom into something he has never been, I’m much a pessimist in that regard and highly doubt that any player can suddenly become a better shooter by spending an offseason on his jumper.

    So I expect Ariza to be better, but he’s still coming off a n injury and this is his true first season as a Laker. But for him to start over Odom, Luke and Vlad? I think that’s a big if. Surely he brings something, but he also lacks Lamar’s versatility on the floor, Luke’s understanding in the offense, and Vlad’s outside shooting.

    I think then, it is only reasonable to think that the basic picture is to have Fisher, Kobe, Odom, Pau and Bynum start. If anything, I’m partial to starting Farmar over Fisher, since I’m sure Farmar has not spent his summer fooling around – he probably worked on his three as well, which wasn’t all that bad to begin with.

    And having versatile Odom on the floor allows us to make substitutions much more easily without disrupting the flow – take Pau or Bynum out, and you can place a 1, 2, or 3 in the lineup since Kobe and Odom can both slide a spot, as can Pau if it’s Bynum that’s going to the bench first.

  35. the other Stephen September 22, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    33. i can think it could be stopped..a starting five of five kobe bryants.

  36. the other Stephen September 22, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    *of how. man, sorry. my wiring is all befuddled with not being able to watch the showtime lakers. instead, i have to watch and support nfl teams that i have no hometown interest in. for those of you nfl fans, which team do you guys think should relocate to LA?

  37. is there another 6-10, 3rd option, double -double guy in the league that can also start and finish the break without having to look for a guard. how much fire did odom need when he was dragging boozer up and down the floor in the playoffs?

  38. Whose skills will best mesh with the rest of the starters, and with the bench?

    Ariza and Odom are approx the same outside shooting. Ariza is a better perimeter defender. Odom is a better ball handler, but with Kobe and FIsher, and the triangle, that doesn’t help as much as it could with other teams. Ariza is arguably a stronger finisher. Odom is a better rebounder, but playing with Gasol and Bynum, and defending on the perimeter, that is not as much a factor.
    There is a glut of small forwards on the team – Walton and Vlad are both very capable of being a backup SF, while there is not a strong backup PF. (Too soon to tell on Powell, imo.)
    It seems to me that, while Odom pretty clearly ranks higher than Ariza on the list of “best in the NBA”, it suits this team best for him to come off the bench and for Aeiza to start.

  39. exhelodrvr (#38),
    I’d actually argue that we need 3 ball handlers on the court at the same time for the purpose of more balance. I’d like for more than just 2 players to be able to bring the ball up court against pressure and initiate the offense and would then lean more towards Odom. Last season, we started a non ball handler at SF (RadMan) but that fact was not as meaningful because of Odom’s presence. If you replace Odom with Gasol (at PF) and then replace a non ball handler (RadMan) with another non ball handler (Ariza) I think we’ll miss that 3rd guy that can handle the ball that takes some of that pressure off Fish and Kobe and allows them play off the ball more.

    Also, in the same way that Odom could be the first player off the bench for Bynum or Gasol, I think one of our SF’s could be the first guy off the bench for either of those same bigs (sliding Odom to PF, just like you were saying) or replacing LO and having him go to the bench as the first guy to sit.

    Like I said, earlier, I do think that Ariza’s defensive ability is a factor in this decision making, but overall, Ariza’s less a threat in the half-court on offense and even on defense, I can see areas (like weakside help, switching on screens between SF’s and PF/C’s, and rotations that lead to boxing out bigs underneath) where Odom would be superior to Ariza because of Odom’s superior size and length. I know that in strict man to man defense Ariza is better and that Ariza’s quickness is better suited for closing out on shooters and rotating along the perimeter, but strict man to man is not the only facet of defense and Odom’s length could come in handy on contesting shooters and in rotating as well.

  40. Darius,
    “I’d actually argue that we need 3 ball handlers on the court at the same time for the purpose of more balance”

    More ball handlers are always better, just like having more shooters or more rebounders. But when you already have two very good ball handlers, you’re getting a diminishing return out of the third. And the passing skills of both Bynum and Gasol are above average for bigs, further decreasing the relative benefit of Lamar. The diminishing return also applies to his rebounding, when he is playing with Gasol and Bynum. But he would be the best backup PF in the league – that’s a 15 minute matchup the Lakers win every game. Then play him with the starters for another 15 minutes in “big” lineups, or as PF with Gasol.

    The redundancy of his skill set is why Lamar is probably expendable after this season (assuming reasonable health from the rest of the team) if he doesn’t take a significant pay cut.

  41. as much as i like sasha and would love to motivate lamar to play the way hes capable of playing night in and night out there is no way you can start sasha or move kobe to the three all season while sashas shooting is as good as kobes d to play a whole season like that is impossible did no one notice the way the celtics posted up on kobe or repeatedly burned sashas d not to mention that a whole season of that would wear on both players its just not a good idea if ariza can hit his jumpers consistantly, improve his 3s and prove his defense thats a decent possibility but part of lamars value is the the fact that he provides boards and blocks from the 3 spot and a motivated lamar would be the best option

  42. How feasible is it to have a flexible roster? I like the point that Dave made that Ariza struggles with stronger SFs such as Pierce or Lebron. Ariza is perfect for the smaller/lighter SFs, and Odom might do a better job on the bigger ones. But the question is, is it practical to shift lineups like that? Can Odom and Ariza adjust to both coming off the bench and starting depending on the opponent? For a particularly heady player, such as Manu, I don’t see it as a problem. I think Lamar might have a little more trouble with it though….a lot more actually.

    There are some very insightful theories and strategies in these comments. Bottom line is we can never be sure which strategy is best until we try it during the season. I’m sure the coaching will play around with the lineup and find the best possible fit.

  43. exhelodrvr,
    I’d rather have more skill on the court at all times than less. Odom provides that.

    Ultimately, we have many players that would provide positive attributes in the starting lineup. I think we could make convincing arguments for Ariza, Odom, Vlad, Walton, Sasha, or Farmar to be the fifth starter alongside Fish, Kobe, Pau, and Bynum. So, really it’s splitting hairs when talking about the different options and who should or shouldn’t start.

    But your point about Odom playing PF against backups doesn’t just apply only if he were to come off the bench. Those same 15 minutes you cite he’d play against back up PF’s if he came off the bench could just as easily be played by him if started at SF then shifted to PF when Pau/Bynum were substituted for by a SF (Ariza for example).

    As for redundancy, I understand that some of Odom’s skills are provided by others. However, he’s the only big that can also handle the ball while also being the only ball handler that can effectively rebound and play inside when needed. If you combine all those skills in support of Kobe, Fish, Gasol, and Bynum I think he’s the one player on the entire team that actually can make all of their jobs easier. You know, we always talk about how Pau makes LO better or how Kobe makes Bynum better or how Bynum will make Pau better, but Odom’s skill set compliments all those players. Like I said earlier, he can help Bynum and Pau on the glass and help Kobe and Fish with the ball handling and intiating of the offense and can also be a playmaker as a driver from the perimeter or as a slasher and and interior passer out of our traditional offensive sets. I’m not saying other players wouldn’t be effective, but I’m saying that Odom would be more effective than others because he can do more. Realize too, that Odom was second in minutes to Kobe, so his versatility and ability to play long minutes at multiple positions was already part of last years plan. I see the same thing working this year, just starting at SF instead of PF and then shifting around as needed in order to keep the starters more fresh. We’ve all talked about Kobe and Gasol getting more rest because of their long summer(s) with their National Team(s) and questioned Bynum’s fitness and ability to play major minutes coming off his injury. Odom in the starting lineup will help provide that rest for those players more than if he comes off the bench, imo.

  44. When Bynum comes out of the game (18 minutes) the best 4-5 combination they have is Gasol Odom. When Gasol comes out of the game (15 minutes) the best 4-5 combination they have is Bynum Odom. Mihm and Powell are options for mop up time. Therefore, Odom could be playing 30 minutes at the 4 and he is not going to start there. Is extra minutes will come at the 3 in the 4th quarter when needed.

  45. People seem down on Powell, but I think he will surprise some people. If he is playing 15 minutes a game, he is a solid role player off the bench. The problem has been how he has been used, the Clippers had him starting at points last year. That is trouble. But 12-15 off the bench, he will be solid and bring some energy.

  46. Kurt, I couldn’t agree more. I think Powell could fill the minute gap that Turiaf filled last year. Minute allocations will always depend on health and also how the roster is shaped next season. Mitch is not beyond tweaking the personell if it makes the team better. He traded 4 players from the active roster last year (Cook, Evans, Kwame, and Critt) for 2 players (Ariza and Gasol). If he makes any moves next season (while seemingly unlikely now is still a possibility) it could be a similar scenario where it’s a 2 for 1 or a 3 for 2 where we actually would need other players to fill in because we would be giving up a roster spot with that type of deal. So players that we think of now as end of the bench players or guys that only get blow out minutes could end up being guys that play 10-15 minutes per game for us. Especially considering the talent level of guys like Powell, Mihm, or (an improved) Koby Karl. You never know what factors develop that end up making players relevant for a team.

  47. Darius, I like your scenario. I usually call 2-for-1s a quality trade as supposed to what its originally called.

    But if we have to make some kind of roster move, which is very unlikely IMO, it would now be to support the biggest problem we have and that is the payroll. These “tiny” players actually fill up the team and we all know how Phil loves those unheralded names that come up big (ie Jud Buechler, Craig Hodges, Tyronn Lue, Mark Madsen, Slava Medvedenko). I think Josh Powell fits this bill perfectly and it will depend on how fast he can catch up with the offensive and defensive concepts of the triangle.

    Upon saying this, I would not be surprised to see the Lakers do a quantity trade (in the form of a 2-for-1 going our way, with the other guy being a natural plug-in player and the other immediately being waived/cut. This of course refers to a possible Lamar Odom trade, wherein if the “other” player earned an expiring 3-4m and was waived – and consequently picked up by another team – would effect in the Lakers cutting some salary.

  48. Hey all,

    I haven’t posted in a while. How’s everything? Not only does Ariza need to shoot better, but he will have to be able to pass well. That might be more important than an improved shot.

  49. Drunken5yearold & Riz,

    i’ve been advocating Sasha tostart for a while, especially if Lo stays at the 3. His shooting will help space the floor. Plus, I don’t think they gave him that contract to stay on the bench.

    But what i cannot not for the lie of me, is try to figure out what the substitution patterns will look like. Outside of Farmar and Ariza probably being the the bench players who see the most action, I think rotations will be game by game. there are just too many lineups the Lakers can throw out there.

    Phil like to have Kobe and ant least one or 2 other starters on the floor with the subs in late 1st/early 2nd quarters, but right now, that could be anyone. I know we have all touched on this before, and still we can’t figure it out. I can’t wait for camp to start.

  50. Kurt…..

    I need an edit comment tool.

  51. Kurt,

    re: #22

    I think even you might be surprised at just how good this year’s Lakers team is going to be … IF THEY CAN STAY HEALTHY.

    I realize fully that the West is very deep this season, AND that the East teams have improved, as well.

    I just don’t think many people realize how good this list of players is …

    in combination with one another, under the direction of Phil Jackson, having gone to the FINALS last season and LOSING to the Boston Celtics.

    There’s a reason Kobe is putting off his surgery.

    Surgery can wait … when/if HISTORY is in store for the Lakers this season.

    [e.g. Who knows where Lamar is going to be NEXT season? Or, where Phil is going to be? Or, Tex? Or, Andrew Bynum? Or, D-Fish? THIS is THE season in the MIND of Kobe Bryant & Co., IMO. The pieces have NOW been assembled. The experience of last season has been gained. With a healthy roster, this team, this season ... for Phil & Kobe, etc. ... may NEVER, EVER come their way again. Carpe Diem!]

    PS. And … If it does happen, all that I ask is that you remember with fondness where it was you actually heard it first. :-) Keep your fingers crossed, and say a prayer for good health. Destiny awaits.

  52. Everyone seems to be forgetting about Chris Mihm. If he is not healthy, then Pau is the backup C, which forces the rotations. If he is healthy, that increases the possibility of Lamar at SF.

  53. Maybe we should pick up Marbury?

    Just bored and trying to bait an argument.

  54. 53. Great idea, he may be the most unselfish, perfect triangle player in the league right now. Maybe we can trade Bynum for him?

    Good news, new post up later today and a pretty good one (if I do say so myself) looking at the Hornets.

  55. #53. Maybe? I’m going to boycott games if this doesn’t happen.

    I do wonder where he’ll wind up though. It’s interesting to me how the two PG’s that were considered so great 5-6 years ago were Marbury and Francis. Now, those guys are almost out of the league.

  56. re: Marbury & Francis

    Considered great by whom? :-)

  57. A serious thought about Marbury. Rumor is when he gets bought out Miami may sign him. I get that Miami needs a PG, but is Marbury really a good fit at all. Wade handles the ball, Marbury is a spotty outside shooter (32.6% career from three, but better the last couple of years). He shoots fairly well from the right-side wing, but will not blow your doors off anywhere else on the floor. And, you know he is trouble in the locker room.

    If you were the Heat would you sign him? Even for a year at the vets minimum?

  58. #57. Miami also has a rookie coach (Erik Spoelstra) who never played in the NBA or any high level basketball. Doesn’t seem that he would have an easier time getting through to Marbury than veteran coaches (and ex-players) Larry Brown or Isiah Thomas did. Marbury might be too much to ask a rookie coach to handle.

  59. I don’t know if there’s bad blood between Marbury and Garnett, but I think Marbury would make for a more potent back-up pg than Cassell. It’s the kind of low-risk, high-reward move I think Ainge might entertain. I believe the Celtics would be more formidable with Marbury in the fold.

  60. Marbury is so crazy, I have no idea what would work for him and what wouldn’t.

    I would hope that a player of Wade’s caliber could keep him in check, but I have no clue. I also think that if you’re the Heat, you roll the dice on a vet’s min. contract and see what you get. if things are really that bad, waive him. But if things do go well, you’ve got a good talent that could end up helping the team. He’s played high level ball before, has also played with Marion before, and would seemingly be looking for redemption. However, Marbury + Southbeach might make a glorious match, and not in a good way.

  61. I’m just sad we don’t get to see D’Antoni constantly pouting about Marbury subverting his team, on and off the court. Not sure I’ll ever get over the 2006 collapse against the Suns.

  62. @ 57 Is Marbury really a good fit at all for any team?

    Anyway, I can’t see him being comfortable alongside Wade since they both dominate the ball and are limited outside shooters. Besides, Marion and Beasley are going to want their shots and Marbury isn’t going to suddenly become a facilitator after all these years.

  63. Reed,
    I agree 100% on that Suns series. And when it comes to the league there are few guys that I don’t like, but D’Antoni is one of them. He just rubs me the wrong way. All the crossed arm, foot stomping reminds me of some small child in the grocery store whose mom won’t buy them that bag of Skittles. Plus he looks like one of those puppets from “Team America”.

  64. I swear, if I wanted to, I could just turn this blog into a daily Fire Joe Morgan style rant against stupid Laker media columns:

    http://lakers.freedomblogging.com/2008/09/23/could-marbury-help/

  65. Really Kurt? You don’t like bad columns like that one?

    I love this site because Reed, in full on mocking mode, said maybe we should sign Marbury, while another site basically says why not do it? Why not? I think Kurt could write a dissertation on that very topic.

  66. 64- I think if you read the whole thing they are addressing the daydreaming fans who might suggest such a thing. They make the case for Marbury then end the piece with every reason not to do it, ending with, “To take a flyer on Marbury would be a risk to team chemistry. Is it worth that risk?” I get the impression the author would say no.

  67. Marbury to GS and we find out if Nelson really is the PG Whisperer. :)

  68. New post up, looking at the Hornets.

    66. I think you are right, but he’s clearly trying to drive hits or create some controversy for little reason. Well, I guess his job is to drive hits, but I’d like to think there are better ways to do it.

  69. @31, J.D. Hastings – Yea, that quote was kinda funny when you think about it, huh.
    @33, marcos – I would like to see that line-up in action myself.

  70. Gasol wants to return to Spain after winning a championship and finishing his current contract with the Lakers:

    Ahora estás centrado en los Lakers y en lograr un anillo de campeón que es tu gran ilusión pero ¿qué necesitarías para plantearte tu vuelta a Europa?

    Ganar un anillo sería fundamental, pero me gustaría cumplir los tres años de contrato que me quedan con los Lakers. Sería importante para mi carrera y entonces ya me plantearía cosas porque también me apetecería volver a Europa para conseguir campeonatos y victorias.

    Bad news for our lakes.

  71. Use Odom like a Rodman. Just rely on him for rebounds and defense.

    Teach him how to get better on defense. How to keep eye on ball while guarding someone and how to hide his arms and hands so the shooter will be guessing where the block will come from.

    His offense should just be a bonus instead of something that needs to be brought to the every game.