Experimenting With The Offense

Kurt —  November 17, 2008

Nomuskles called it a “lopsided polygon,” but whatever term you want to use what the Lakers have been running on offense of late is not the triangle. The off the ball movement is minimal (particularly with the starers) and the passing that made this team a joy to watch late last year has been replaced with more isolation and relying on talent rather than the offense.

Bill Bridges, one of the smartest members of the family around here, broke it down in the comments, and his thoughts deserved a broader audience and discussion:

If the first half of the season can be devoted to experimentation such as determining the rotation and the best fit combos, we are now a fifth of the way through this stage. I would strongly urge that Phil devote the second fifth toward a different set of lineups and rotations.

If we discount the 3 games against the Clippers and Mavs and the first game against Portland (where they were obviously affected by first game jitters and the loss of Oden). The Lakers are 3 – 1. During many of these games and even against Dallas and the Clippers the starting unit put the Lakers in a hole to climb out of.

The first unit is just not working as well as the rest of the rotations. I would contend that the balance is wrong. The notion the Vlad’s 3 point shooting “opens” up the court for Pau and Bynum just has not worked out. What would really open up the court is a few possessions that the Lakers actually run the triangle to the 2nd or 3rd options possibly resulting in a corner three for … Pau! (who apparently beats Sasha regularly in 3 point shooting in practice). Or running the triangle’s corner sequence resulting in a pass in from the corner to Bynum who’s sealed his man for the dunk (remember Fox to Shaq?)

A quick examination of players’ tendencies may shed some light.

1. Kobe does not play well without the ball. His best position in the triangle is the mid post (right block). He has rarely been seen in this position this year.

2. Fisher. Does not play well without ball except to rotate for open 3’s. He shoots 40% lifetime on layups but insists on disproving Einstein’s observation about insanity. When hot is a good catch n shooter but also likes to dribble and shoot. Will keep shooting , hot or not.

3. Bynum’s a low post player. Best initiation point is low left block.

4. Pau’s best initiation point is low left block. but also right high post.

5. Vlad … Not good without the ball except like Fisher sliding on the perimeter for open 3’s . Very unreliable finisher at the rim.

The starting 5 then has 3 players who like playing with the ball in Kobe, Pau, and Fish. Nobody who really plays well off-the ball. And no slasher other than Kobe. As Kobe has basically decided not to slash this year, there is no slasher in the starting 5. (In the 1st quarter, Kobe is playing “facilitator”, and in the 4th, he seems to be relying almost exclusively on jump shots – blame it on the long season, or his age… but that he is taking it to the hole less is obvious)

This composition creates a few problems. The triangle requires players to catch, read, pass, and move. All 5 players rotate around until one has a good shot. Both Pau and Kobe’s natural inclination is to catch and hold the ball and look for cutters. Fisher and Vlad are drifting on the perimeter (and if they were to cut , you wouldn’t want to pass it them). Bynum has not been establishing deep low post position to be a position to receive the ball.

The result, stagnation, short shot clock, shots out of rhythm.

Time to change the mix.

1. Ariza for Vlad. You get excellent movement off the ball. A slashing finisher to receive Pau and Kobe and as good a 3 pointer as Vlad – at least from the corner.

2. Sasha for Vlad. Kobe moves over to 3. This is the line up I believe to be the best against Boston. Sasha runs around covering Ray, Kobe plays Pierce. Sasha is much more aggressive than Vlad and much more consistent. Kobe initiates much more from an attacking position.

3. Luke for Vlad. Can’t be any worse . Remember the start of the 3rd against NOH? Vlad had a sequence of ignomy – turnover on first possession, foul, missed 3 etc…
At least Luke would keep the ball moving in the triangle.

4. LO for Vlad. LO became quite proficient at slashing to the rim and receiving passes from Pau.

I would also replace Fish, but Jackson would never do this. In vlad and fish we have two inconsistent perimeter shooters who are not good finishers and only average at best moving with out the ball. In Pau and Kobe we have two play makers looking to find non-existing cutting teammates.

Time for the second phase of the experiment….