The Case for Luke to Remain a Starter

Darius Soriano —  January 1, 2009

First of all, I just want to say Happy New Year!  And, Thank you to Kurt, the other contributors, and all the faithful commentors that make this site the daily (multiple times) read that it is.  Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

 

The recent post by Kurt that focussed on Lamar Odom and the post by Reed on our team after 30 games got me thinking a lot about the make up of the team, our best lineups, and our roster in general.  As Reed pointed out, we are a top 5 team in both Offensive and Defensive efficiency.  Despite some inconsistent effort and some spotty and sloppy play, the Lakers have been a truly dominant team.  And up to this point, in this forum, we’ve focussed a lot on our Strong Side Zone and how that change in philosophy (when executed properly) is a challenge for teams that face us, especially when they see the defense for the first time.  However, one thing that we have not really discussed in depth is what we’re doing on offense, why it’s working, and who is doing what in making our offensive attack remain one of the best in the NBA.  And in the last 10 games, we’ve seen a change in the lineup that I think has helped us execute on offense and will continue to help us execute on offense for the rest of the season.

For the last 10 games, Luke Walton has been put back into the starting lineup.  And if we go back to the recent past, this is not a new concept.  Two seasons ago, Luke was a mainstay at Small Forward.  But for the first 20 games of this season, Luke had been relegated to mop up time in blowouts or spot duty due to foul trouble to our other SF’s.  But now that he is back starting, we can once again appreciate the things that Bill’s son brings to the table and how that is helping this Laker’s team on offense. 

First off, Luke is a fantastic fit for this offense.  His ability to handle the ball, see the floor, execute the simple and complex pass, post up, penetrate, and shoot the ball is the exact skill set required for a wing player in this offense.  Sure, he could shoot the ball better (an understatement, I know).  And sure, he is not the quickest person whose first step scares defenders.  However, the combination of a good enough jumper, his repetoire of hesitation moves, knowledge of angles, and know how to use his frame to create space for himself to get his shot off are traits that make him an underrated offensive player.  Add to the fact that he has (as mentioned frequently, but bears repeating) a tremendous basketball IQ and he is the type of player that can be a glue player for any motion offense as he knows what to do with the ball.  He is unselfish enough to pass to the open player while also being smart enough to know when to shoot.

X’s and O’s wise, the most important thing that Luke brings to the offense is his want to execute the Triangle in all phases.  What this means is Luke focusses just as hard on making the right pass or making the shot that he takes as he is on moving/cutting off the ball and setting screens to free up his teammates.  If you watch Luke in any given game on any given possesion, you’ll see a player that is doing what he is supposed to be doing on almost every single play.  This level of execution is what makes the Triangle offense one of (if not the) most difficult offenses to defend (especially when every other player is acting in this same manner).  For example, Luke often finds himself as the initiator of the offense from the strong side guard postion.  And when Luke makes an entry pass either to the wing or to the post, he cuts hard and then executes the motion in the offense superbly.  By cutting hard and setting the screens that he’s supposed to with the proper timing and at the proper angle, Luke is consistenly getting his teammates the half step they need to get open.  I mean, how many times have you seen Luke pass to the post from the strong side, cut to the weakside low block and set a good screen that either frees up Gasol/Bynum to roll to the basket?  How many times does he set this same screen for Kobe?  And then when the defense reacts to this and tries to cheat into the lane to defend the curl play, how many times have you seen Luke seal the man that he screens to free himself up for an easy lay up or draw a foul?  These are plays that Luke executes with great frequency that other players that play SF just don’t do on a consistent basis.

Earlier, I also mentioned Luke’s ability to handle the ball.  In our starting lineup, having a third ball handler that can run the fast break or initiate the offense is a key to the offense running smoothly.  When you think back to last season, Odom was that third player.  But this year, with Bynum and Gasol in the lineup together, and Radman starting, we really didn’t have that third player.  But now that Luke is in the starting lineup, he’s getting outlet passes and running the fast break, he’s initiating offense as a primary ball handler, and he’s setting up his teamates for scores.  Once Luke got back to getting minutes consistently, we’ve seen an increase in easy layups and dunks for teammates in the half court, on the fast break, and on the delayed break/early offense.  Luke is masterful at hitting cutters at the right time and at identifying the trailing big man and hitting him in stride to finish at the basket without having to dribble.  When watching the game, these may seem like simple, fundamental plays.  But how often were we seeing them before Luke began getting consistent minutes?

Overall, I understand that Luke is not the perfect player.  As I said earlier, his jumper is not reliable and his lack of quickness (on offense and defense) is obvious.  But, in the end, I like the fact that he’s starting again.  I like that players are running and cutting harder because they know that he’s looking for them.  I like that players are getting open off his screens.  I like that we have another post up option in our half court sets.  I like that Kobe and Fisher don’t always have to bring the ball up and initiate the offense with the first unit.  But most of all, I just like that we’re back to running our sets with more consistency.  Earlier in the season, I commented for a week straight that we were running too much Pick and Roll and isolations (from the wing and the post) in our half court offense.  We were running these types of sets so often that I just stopped saying it.  But for the past ten games, it’s been different.  It’s not all because of Luke, but I do know that before he started playing, it just wasn’t happening.  But I’m not the only guy watching.  What do you guys see?

-Darius

Darius Soriano

Posts

62 responses to The Case for Luke to Remain a Starter

  1. I think that Luke Walton is a really good fit for this offensive scheme, but the truth is he would not have made it on almost any other team in the NBA with his skills.

    Skillswise he is acceptable for the Lakers, but businesswise he is really a bad asset to have with a long contract.

    I am really happy for the guy, I think he is trying hard and is a cool dude. But in this world of the NBA when, half of the league is so stingy with their money, perhaps, signing Luke to that contract was not one of Mitch’s best decisions. Seriously, Luke is no Turiaf or Posey, and I am pretty sure he would have stayed with us for much cheaper

    Happy New Year’s Everyone! May this be THE year for us all Laker fans

  2. Finally some love for Luke. Very nice post.

  3. I like Luke very much. No, really. I like intelligent players and Walton sees the field very well, makes very good decisions, he’s a bright player.

    However his jumpshooting is abysmal. And he’s too slow to penetrate. So what’s good from his cutting and playing the offense?

    The triangle offense is devised to put players in good shooting positions. But then it’s up to the players to convert these positions into points. When a player can’t shoot and can’t drive – the good position given to him by the offense is wasted.

    Walton’s eFG% from jumpshoots is under .300. And almost all of his jumpers are good, 93% of them are assisted.

    To give a context of this number: Bryant’s eFG in shoots after the 20 second of the possession (so usually from forced positions) is .343. So freewheelin’ Kobe Bryant is more efficient than playing in the offense Walton.

    Walton is bad from 3pt range, he also very rarely goes to FT line. He’s the only Laker (except Mbenga) with True Shooting under .450. Farmer has .487 – the reast of the Lakers are above .500.

    As much as I like Walton and as I wish him well – his offense is terribly, awfully disastrous. I don’t know if his basketball intelligence makes up for it.

  4. Interesting thoughts. I agree. The starters seem to run the triangle better when Luke is in the starting line up. He does a lot of the little things that often get overlooked. He does a lot of the things that Fox used to do, initiating the offense, cutting, spacing, setting screens. He just is not as good a shooter or defender as fox was.

    Now if only we could combine ll three of our starting SF’s. Ariza’s athleticism, lateral quickness, long arms and hustle, Vlade’s shooting, and Luke’s passing and high IQ. We’d have a perennial all star. Actually we’d have a better shooting Scottie Pippen.

  5. -at identifying the trailing big man and hitting him in stride to finish at the basket without having to dribble.-
    in my humble opinion, I think you nailed it right there…I love the way luke hits drew when he’s a trailing big, right in stride for a nice open path to a dunk.
    this not only results in a basket, it gets drew in the game, he is young and needs to be excited to sharpen his focus and determination, and luke brings that out in him.

  6. TRad,

    That is exactly what I am trying to say. Very nicely put. I do not have a problem with having Luke, I am just saying we could have had him for much cheaper, that’s all.

  7. I understand that Luke’s contract will always be a factor in judging what type of player he is. If he made the Vet’s Minimum, we’d all say “wow what a great player for what he makes”, so I get that. However, realize that when we signed Luke it was a 6yr./24mil contract. So on average, a 4 mil a year deal. That’s less than the mid-level, and technically less than an average salary for an average level player. I understand that he gets raises every year and that in the last year of his deal, he’ll make 6 mil. But, when he signed the deal, I thought it was reasonable. I actually think that if he signed a deal that was front heavy vs. one that was back heavy, we’d think different about his overall value.

  8. The problem with Luke’s salary is not Luke, it’s Vlad’s salary. Luke is worth the money, both relative to other players in the league at that salary (not counting rookie contracts) and relative to what he provides when he is playing. But people complain because (with Ariza on the team) Luke playing means that Vlad is sitting.

  9. Great post, Darius. Luke’s contributions are subtle and not conducive to sportscenter highlights, so we often overlook them. He undoubtedly has a high basketball IQ and is uniquely focused on moving the basketball and executing the triangle. He also gets unfairly blamed for being a little overpaid.

    However, in the spirit of debate, I’m going to play devil’s advocate for a minute…

    I don’t want to be overly reliant on stats, but I do think they provide a little detail to help us understand what we see (or help us know when what we believe we see isn’t so). Some Luke-relevant stats:

    1. Of the 10 players that have been part of the regular rotation, the team is far and away the worst when Luke is on the court — only outscoring opponents by 1.8 points per 48 minutes. Seven of the other nine are all above +8.7 (including both Ariza and Radmanovic, his competitors for playing time).

    2. Luke has played over 60% of his minutes in the same 5 man lineup — Fisher, Kobe, Walton, Gasol, and Bynum (the starting lineup for the last 10 games). That lineup is among our worst, playing opponents dead even (1.06 offensive efficiency and 1.06 defensive efficiency).

    3. The other two most common Walton lineups are much more effective (subbing Odom in for either Gasol or Bynum), but those lineups have only been on the court for a total of 59 minutes, compared with 128 minutes for the starting lineup. Still, it reveals some kind of positive synergy between Odom and Walton. Perhaps a reason to play them together with the second unit rather than starting Luke?

    4. The team is 5.0 points per 100 possessions worse on offense with Luke on the court and 6.4 points worse on defense. The team shoots a worse % with Luke on the court. Assists go up (63% vs. 57% of made shots), but shooting and rebounding go down and turnovers up — indicating that to date the effect of increased ball movement doesn’t overcome his other limitations.

    5. His shooting is truly abysmal, as others point out.

    By any measure, Ariza is our best small forward and should get the most minutes (and the critical ones). I don’t care if he starts, but he definitely needs to keep finishing (although he didn’t against Boston, if I remember right).

    I think the stats are a little exaggerated against Walton, even if I think they are telling. He has gotten many of his minutes when the team was going through a clear funk (I don’t think this is his fault, but you could say the connection is indicative), and the team and Luke have played much, much better of late (the Boston and New Orleans wins in particular). After sitting so much early in the year, Luke deserves a grace period to work himself back into the flow and find on court chemistry with the team. However, if the numbers continue as they have been (both his personal shooting numbers and team performance when he’s on the court), then I think we should be open to giving his minutes back to others.

    I’m partially playing devil’s advocate and partially truly against the Walton experiment — remain torn. He needs more time for it to be a fair shot, but so far I lean against the move…

  10. What I see, are an uncommon number of badly missed jump shots. I’m not taking anything away from the above points and am not trying to argue against Luke at the 3 to start. Especially with the increase in fast break execution, I think this aspect to the team’s offense is going to provide more problems for opponents then a first unit which is exclusively half-court. My question is, what has happened to Luke’s shot? There was a point a few years ago where he lead the league in 3PT shooting. How has that been taken away from him?

  11. Reed,
    All excellent points. And when I was looking over those same stats in researching this post, I thought they were telling as well. However, I found myself thinking the same things about Luke being inserted to the starting group at a time when we were not playing well and how we have since played our way out of it. I think Luke has been a big part of that. I also noticed that the lineup where Luke and LO are on the court (with Bynum replaced) is a line up that does quite well. I think that when LO comes in, he adds another natural passer that meshes well with Luke’s game.

    In the end, I agree with you that Ariza is our most capable SF. I think, as you do, that he should be getting the majority of the minutes at SF, especially the crunch time minutes. However, if Phil is insistent on leaving Ariza as our 6th man (which, at this point, I agree with completely) I think it should be Luke in the starting group over RadMan. I just think that Luke brings more to the table. I think the things that he’s not as good at are done so well by the other players on the court (like the shooting of Fisher, Kobe, and Gasol) and that the want to run our sets is critical considering Kobe, Gasol, and Bynum are all so much more effective when our sets get them their good looks (rather than them setting up their good looks from their own isolation moves). I don’t think we get that type of playmaking from any of our other SF’s.

    Now, Ariza is a guy that is completely willing to play within our sets and his off ball movement is a necessary and excellent compliment to our guys in the half court. But he’s not a play maker in the half court. And while that may not be needed from him because Kobe and Gasol and Odom are the players that can and will provide that when he (Ariza) is on the court, I still want a player that will set up Kobe and Gasol in the halfcourt in our starting group. On this roster, at SF, that guy is Walton. It’s why, in the end, he’s got my support as a starter.

  12. Luke actually has a quick “first” step. it’s the second and third step that is lacking. Quickness is mental and mentally the guy has the game down, he often gets just past his defender, and then uses his body to shield the ball from the defender. because he cannot he can’t explode to the rim. If you have really ever played this game, you know how easy set offense becomes if you play with guys like Luke.

  13. Excellent post and comments. One little note is that Jordan was famous for calling the triangle a “three quarter offense” and I think there is some truth to that. In crunch time, the Lakers have usually gone to high PnR with Kobe/Pau or Kobe/Bynum, which makes Luke’s triangle effectiveness less crucial, and Ariza’s intense D more relevant.

    Which is to say, I agree that Luke the Starter helps the tri go early to get everyone in the flow and to keep people from focusing jut on Kobe, but in crunchtime, it’s probably better that Luke not be in.

    Having said that, it would be a huge plus if Luke could regain a competent stroke, so I hope Phil keeps giving him the time to do so. I think we’ve seen enough of Vlad over 2+ years to know that he is just not predictable and ever will be.

  14. I agree that Luke helps in many areas, which you point out well — commitment to running the set offense, moving the ball, knowing his role, adding another ballhandler, etc. I think his presence especially helps Bynum, as he sometimes struggles to find touches with so many other weapons out there, and Walton helps him find the ball in spots Drew can be most effective. I also think that Luke deserves more time to get comfortable with the present team.

    However, I also think that at some point the benefits and intangibles he brings to the table need to translate to real, identifiable improved team play. So far, I don’t know that we’ve seen that. The ball is moving better, but the team isn’t scoring more points and other teams aren’t scoring less — and that’s obviously the bottom line. The increased lobs, fast breaks, etc. need to outweigh the missed shots and poor defense. So, let’s watch over the next 10 games to see whether there is good evidence Luke is a net help rather than hindrance.

  15. Amen to Reed.
    I attribute our bad stretch in large to Walton. We don’t need 4 play makers in our starting lineup. With Vrad we would have Fisher, Bryant, and Gasol as play makers. Thats more then enough. Also having Vrad in the starting lineup indirectly creates plays because it creates more room to operate for the 4 other guys. And with Pau and Bynum in the post, they need room to operate.

  16. Luke gives the starting line-up its only real true pass first player. Kobe, Fisher, Gasol are all very talented offensive players, and are all good to excellent passers, but all three are primarily scorers.

    Luke on the other hand can score (average jumpshooter) but is na brilliant passer so he compliments the starting lineup very well. Also he is very adept at taking advantage of any mismatches that might be presented on a switch, and as already said he frees up other players.

  17. Also forgot to add this.

    Many championship teams have that one starter that helps to fill in one of weaknesses or adds something important to the starting lineup

    For the Spurs its was Bowen on Defense (other than an occasional corner three he didn’t scor)

    Celtics (Perkins rebounding)

    Detroit (Wallace rebounding defense)
    and so on

  18. As a follow up, maybe the question shouldn’t be Luke vs. Radmanovic, and should be: why not just give the position to Ariza? Why not start Ariza and play him 35 minutes? Has he shown us enough so far to think he’s more than a 24 minute role player who should split time with another? Maybe Phil is going that way and that’s where we’ll be by the end of the season, but that’s my current preference. He’s young and appears to be in top condition. He seems two steps ahead of both Luke and Radman and shouldn’t be splitting time anymore.

  19. As a laker fan who has been calling for Ariza since the playoffs in May ( Ariza was cleared to play in the San Antonio series I believe), I can’t agree with Reeds comments more. The hustle on the looseball in the first 1/2 of the Christmas day game was a the momentum changer in the game. Luke would have tried to make that play, but he just doesn’t have Ariza’s tools. I think luke can make good contributions in a role ( a la Rick Fox), but Ariza is the stud with confidence on offense and defense. Luke having “basketball IQ” is not just overused it’s cliche. IQ doesnt have a vertical leap, defensive atheticism, nor does it threaten to dunk on you if given space. Phil, pull the trigger and let Ariza get his 30 minutes a game!

  20. 15. The Lakers were playing below standard before Luke was seeing any meaningful minutes. So, I’m not sure how their stretch of less than stellar play could be attributed to Walton.

    18. That may be the more pertanent question and Phil may be going in that direction. Ariza has really shown that he is a major contributor. However, I still do wonder if his efficiency would/will remain as high if he plays starter (30-35) minutes. I’m not doubtful, per se, I just wonder if it will actually be the case.

  21. While Farmar is out we need LO on the 2nd unit to spread the ball around. Also, the combination of Vlade and LO has statistically been a defensive disaster. I think that starting Ariza means Walton has to be paired with LO on the 2nd unit for offensive and defensive continuity. This will completely change the pace of the 2nd unit; if Farmar’s loss hasn’t already done that.

    This is the combination of things I think Phil is working out now.

  22. Keep in mind, Phil is not coaching for a single win, or the best possible efficiency, he is coaching for a season.

    While calling to bench Luke/Vlad or who ever, and bring Ariza in for 35-40 minutes makes sense for a game or two, Phil has to think of the whole season. Injuries (of which Ariza has a history), readiness, and team dynamic are all critical.

    I would argue, keeping a whole team ready for the playoff push is one of Phil’s great strengths as a coach.

    I think that Vlad’s inconsistency finally just became too much for Phil.

    He would rather have Luke’s solid C+ game in and game out to Vlad’s A+ one game and F the next.

  23. Darius,

    I agree with your main point: “But most of all, I just like that we’re back to running our sets with more consistency”.

    Farmar being out is contributing to this positive when our second unit is in also.

    I’m hopeful that Luke will get back to his pre-injury form when he had a great 3 point stroke going.

  24. Before the Christmas game I was more than ready to declare the Luke-as-starter experiment a failure … now, I’m not so sure. We’ve looked much, much better in our recent matchups and Walton’s made some nice contributions in those wins.

    I confess that I’m still a little mystified as to why RadMan had to fall out of the line-up altogether; to my eyes, he seemed to make great strides with his defense this season and his long-range shooting (when on) is often the knock out blow we need. Maybe our early success wasn’t sustainable but there’s no doubt that those first two weeks, when Vlade was in the mix while Luke sat, represented our best basketball of the season so far.

    I guess it’s a product of having too many useful pieces and not enough minutes to go around, so I won’t complain. I am truly loathe to say it, but eventually injuries will come into play and we’ll be lucky to have multiple guys who can contribute at the 3 position.

  25. I meant to add that Ariza’s time will come eventually … I expect that we’ll see him starting next year and getting the extra burn that some are calling for … but in the meantime I don’t think we need to mess with the formula.

  26. Darius good stuff, but Reed was convincing as well.

    It appeared to me as well, that they looked a bit more crisp on offense with Luke, so far. But I think I need to see how consistent we play through these next 10 games before I can a real opinion on it.

    The next 10 are tough.

  27. Don’t want to get off topic and all but this just in off the ESPN site: Stephon Marbury is most likely Boston bound.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=3804977

  28. I think right now Ariza’s skill set is excellent to bring off the bench with the second unit and to close games. He gives us an added impact player off the bench that most other second unit SF can’t keep up with and is a reason our second unit is so good. He might make the starting unit a tad better but not astronomically so, where as he has that effect on the second unit.

  29. Luke plays a lot like a rookie sometimes. His shot selection is atrocious. He makes MANY stupid fouls. Instead of getting back on offense he complains on calls against him… Don’t get me wrong, he is a great guy and at times, adds a lot to the team, but I just think Ariza is better.

  30. Marbury to the Celtics sent a chill down my spine. I don’t know why though.. because conventional knowledge says Marbury would probably destroy the Celts. I don’t know if this dread I’m feeling is for them or for us.. =\

  31. I believe teams will adjust to Luke soon. It’s hard to envision him facilitating the offense when teams can afford to cheat off him. Eventually, he’ll only make things more difficult.

    Luke’s best quality this year, IMHO, has been his assertiveness. If Raddy were as assertive as Luke or Fish, he’d be much more effective. He has the potential to make the Lakers even better.

  32. 30. I don’t think Marbury alone can bring down the Celtics, but I agree that he is not going to give them a lot of quality depth either. He will throw off their offense, barely play defense and as was said is not the big body off the bench they really need. I see far more downside for them than upside, so I hope they go through with it.

  33. the other Stephen January 2, 2009 at 2:03 am

    i see dead celtics.

  34. Darius,
    Your right, i didn’t do research before i said that but even though the bad stretch started before Walton started, it doesn’t mean it had to linger with Walton on the floor. I mean, look at his averages when he started. They are not very appealing. IF he had good defense it would be another story. I think although he does facilitate somewhat, people need to realize he can’t not! He doesn’t score, he doesn’t have range, all he can do is pass or else he would be a liability. Just because he understands this doesn’t make him any better. Id rather every other Laker take a shot before him!
    During the playoffs i can see elite teams deciding to back off Walton and perhaps double Kobe or crowd the painted area. Every other team would rather Walton shoot them to their loss then Kobe and crew beating them.
    On the other hand, Rad starting is more appealing because if you are comparing the two, one doesn’t have better defense then the other. On offense though, Rad stretches defenses with his 3 point touch. This, as i said before, creates more room to operate for Pau and Bynum down low and for Kobe to drive. This is Phil’s formula. All of his Laker teams had three 3 point threats in the starting lineup.
    Truth be told, Ariza is the better of the 3 but i don’t think he should be starting. The first unit (with Rad) is more of slow paced team. The second unit (with Ariza) are faster and they change the pace of the game. These two distinct styles keeps opponents on their heels. If we put Ariza in the starting lineup then our two units will resemble each other more and opponents won’t have to monitor how they are playing us on defense as much.

  35. PS: I am new to this and loving rule 9 of the commenting guidelines hahaha made me laugh!

  36. We are neglecting one thing about RadMan… He’s 1-on-1 defensee. Yes, he fails when providing help sometimes, but if I remember correctly, he has been assigned to the likes of T-Mac and he has done a pretty decent job. So let’s not talk about RadMan as a player of a single skill.

    However, I do agree with Darius and I think Luke is more suitable to play with the starting lineup in certain matchups. On other matchups, maybe RadMan is more suitable if we need to stretch the floor to feed our bigs inside. Regardless, Ariza is and should be getting the majority of minutes off the bench.

    What I fail to understand on NBA coaches (Phil included) is the need to have a starting lineup that almost doesn’t change (30 games and we changed it once). In Europe, starting lineups are decided based on the player’s current form and the matchup. Sometimes you need a better defender, sometimes a shooter or a slasher… Every team is different…

    While I agree that Fish, Kobe and Pau should be starting at all times (and maybe even Bynum), we do have enough depth at SF to make adjustments to every opponent. One of the most difficult things to do is to adjust our defense as a unit if we don’t know what kind of player we are going to face (should I provide more help to others, should I just deny him the ball, should I let him get the ball on the corner and play close to him because he can’t get past me… those sorts of things).

  37. *His 1-on-1 defense (typo)

  38. Problem with Steph on the Celtics (or any other team) is that he’s better than most of them. I don’t think his ego could be kept in check. It might start okay, but realistically, how long? He forced the trade from Minny beause he knew and felt he was better than KG. I think he had issues with Amare as well. So, I think it would harm the C’s eventually, because they would play him in crucial spots and if it works out at first, how could his talent be denied?

    His mintues were taken in NY becasue he is too good to give bench minutes to, yet too much of a cancer to accept them also. He had to be outcast.

    Is is attitude going to change because KG and Co, can keep him in check? Does anyone believe Steph doesn’t feel KG couldn’t do it by himself either and had to get traded to win it all? I think those things would srface at the first hint of “keeping him in check, and if it has to come to that point, and Marbury is released, then what? I don’t think it’s as low risk as many would assume. Cassell wasn’t better than Rondo last year, so the threat was never real, but it still seemed to affect Rondo. Steph is better than Rondo, talent wise, mentally, he is a loser. If it works out, I’m worried, but could it? I don’t think so.

  39. Just in time Dave Berry has analysed Lakers season so far (http://www.wagesofwins.com). I will use his WP48 numbers (if you don’t know what it is – an average player should be .100, great players are above .200, MVP talk starts above .300).

    According to Berry four the most productive Lakers are Gasol (.271), Bryant (.226), Bynum (.211) and Ariza (.271) (and WP48 doesn’t even include the defense, only the stats from the boxscore). Odom has regressed so far, he’s at .085 (last season he was above .200). Vujacic, Radmanovic and Fisher are close to the average (.099. 0.083, 0.106). Farmar, at 0.034 is almost the least productive from all rotation players (the bad shooting is killing him, his TS% is below .500, which is really bad).

    And then there is Walton at -0.012. It is awful and strange. Why strange? Because in the last two seasons Walton was above average – very good 0.158 two seasons ago and .100 a season ago.

    What happened? His rebounding rate is down (career REB36 is 6.1, while this season it’s 5.3), assists are a little up, steals a little down. Turnovers are steady and low (As/TO ratio > 2.5 would be very good even for a PG).

    But then there’s his shooting.

    career 08/09
    FG% .441 .386
    3% .335 .263
    TS% .511 .445
    eFG% .477 .416

    All his shooting ratios (except FT%, but he goes to the line very rarely) are his career low. Never before has Walton shooting that bad – and it’s not even close.

    There is one possible explanation which would give us a hope. Walton’s FGA are way down. In his best shooting season, 06/07, he had 9.3 FGA/G. Last season he had 6.5 FGA/G and his ratios were worse. This season he has 3.8 FGA/G and his shooting is disastrous.

    So after his return to the starting lineup we could expect a little improvement. However… There isn’t much FGAs available. Two seasons ago Bynum was undeveloped, and Walton was our 3rd option (after Kobe and Odom). This season we have Bryant, Gasol, Bynum, Fisher, Odom, Ariza, Vujacic – who are shooting much better than Walton. And we are extremely deep at SF, where Walton must shere minutes with Ariza and Radmanovic, so it’s hard to expect much more attempts going to him.

    Which makes me (again!) regret Lakers signed Radmanovic. Now, I’m afraid, we won’t be able to unload Radman’s or Luke’s contracts and we’ll end up without Ariza. There is a hope though that other teams will undervalue Ariza – his scoring isn’t high and in NBA scoring is extremely overvalued.

  40. We are all saying, “What was wrong with Vlade?”, but have we forgotten how the offense of the 1st team had gotten much more iso? I don’t think Vlade was demoted by anything he had done, but because Fish and Kobe were not passing the ball enough and Phil had to add Walton so that his team would actually run the triangle.

    Ariza would not help in that process at this time and his injury history does argue for being careful with his minutes. We may love him at 35min, but how long would his body stand up to that night after night?

  41. This is the last season on Marbury’s contract, right? Unless he’s a complete idiot he knows that at his age, this next contract is going to be the last decent one he gets. So I think that behavior-wise, this is probably a reasonable risk for the Celtics.
    Is his game suited to coming off the bench, though?

  42. Nah, i just think its good to play Luke because it’ll be easier to trade him then.

  43. Vlad got the 1st 20. Luke is getting the next 20. That’s how I see it. Vlad didn’t play bad enough to get completely benched, just as Luke didn’t do anything to barley get garbage time mintues. Something is up. PJ is figuring out who’s going to be a better fit, and roll with it down the stretch for the sake of the team. 20 game tryouts.

  44. There are a number of good comments coming in on the last post, some related to Marbury. In case you aren’t looking back, I thought Dex 40’s break down of the situation was brilliant (both for its thought and its prose) and want to make sure everyone gets a look.

    Dex 40:

    From the article linked in 42, “Marbury easily ranks as the most accomplished low-cost veteran that the Celtics can add to their bench in-season. Boston also knows it has the option to simply release Marbury without significant salary-cap consequences if he fails to click as a backup or proves unwilling to accept a secondary role.”

    This is all true. Marbury is an accomplished low-cost veteran like Telly Savalas in The Dirty Dozen, whose only drawback is that he’s insane and has a tendency to fire his gun randomly in the air right at the moment when the slightest noise will compromise the mission. The slightest distraction may jeopardize everything, but what the heck, Telly doesn’t cost much and he’s been in a lot of wars.

    It’s a relief to know that the Celtics won’t suffer significant salary-cap consequences if Marbury wreaks havoc on team chemistry and morale for a month or so. They can just release him!

    Easy as Easy Cheese.

    Ainge should be a drug counsellor. Meth is a proven, inexpensive stimulant, and with a little maneuvering you can inject it right into your finely-tuned system, and the initial burst of energy is incredible. But watch out for diminishing returns. And in the fair to middling case that your finely-tuned system shows signs of disruption in the days ahead, why, just quit! After detox, you’ll bounce right back, as good as new, kind of.

    Please Ainge & Co. don’t destroy this team, L.A. called first dibs way before you did.

  45. Moneym,

    I disagree. Vlad is the more movable piece. He’s a 6’10” shooter, who’s someone you can’t leave when he’s on. He can space the floor (.456 3 pt FG%), and rebound because of his size. He’s more of an asset. Luke is considered a system guy.

  46. Stephon doesn’t seem to be loving the idea of backing up Rondo.

    From http://blogs.nypost.com/sports/knicks/archives/2009/01/a_better_year_f.html

    ‘We’ve reported several times the Celtics as a potential destination as they need backcourt depth and Kevin Garnett is more ally than enemy. Marbury has stated publicly he’d be willing to back up Rajon Rondo.

    But in our recent conversations, Marbury’s first preference is to be a starter somewhere.’

    It would be quite a gamble for the Celts to sign him..

  47. Like a lot of you, I find Boston’s alleged interest in Marbury to be most curious … I guess they could use some scoring off their bench, but their depth issues seem more related to a lack of size. Also, Marbury’s not a young player anymore but he and the phrase “veteran leadership” don’t belong in the same sentence. Remember, late last season Cassell was practically killing the Celtics with his poor shot selection; if Marbury feels like he has something to prove and starts gunning, things could be even worse for the C’s. Plus, for all of his talk of this mysterious off-season training regimen Stephon hasn’t played a game that counts in almost a full year (and he looked pretty bad when he did).

    This kind of reminds me of when we added Isaiah Rider to one of our championship rosters: it didn’t turn out to be a disaster for us, but he was ultimately a non-factor in the team’s success. To me, that’s probably the best-case scenario for Boston with Steph, too.

  48. One problem when Luke doesn’t get many minutes is that he stops making the simple plays and gets too creative for his athletic ability. When he gets the minutes he calms down and becomes very efficient.

    41 – you are right, Marbury will be on his best behavior, otherwise his career is over (JR Rider anyone?). He brings offense off the bench and can create off the dribble to set up others like House (House is terrible as a point guard). He played with KG already and his ego can feed off all the “he just wants to win now” hype that the Boston fans and media will dish out until we want to barf.

    If teams go “big” like the Lakers and Portland did to them, they could put KG, Pierce, Ray Allen, Rondo and Marbury on the court – a very tough lineup to match up with.

    Boston has to do something, as they stand now they probably don’t win the title.

  49. Kurt, the problem with the “your comment is awaiting moderation” delay is that once your comment is finally posted, someone else has beat you to the punch! LOL.

  50. TRad,

    Dave Berri’s Wages of Win is utter nonsense.
    His numbers said that Rodman was better than Jordan on the ’96 Bulls. He had Marcus Camby as an MVP candidate last year.

    I don’t mean to disparage all the work he’s done. He has some insights about basketball that strike me as very compelling, but when he tries to create a number for how many wins a player is worth it just becomes garbage.

  51. @44
    Unless he’s a complete idiot

    That’s where your argument breaks down. He’s easily the Knick’s most talented player and yet he got himself kicked off the team. The man’s too egotistical to even be aware that he makes mistakes. There’s a reason teams do better once he leaves.

  52. Even though I am firmly, completely on the pro-Ariza bandwagon, it probably should be pointed out that his efficiency numbers have fallen as the season progresses:

    November: 24 minutes, 9.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.0 turnover, 49% fg.

    December: 25 minutes, 8.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.3 turnovers, 44.6% fg.

    He’s shooting 29.6% from three and 38.3 eFG on jump shots.

    So, there is some reason to believe he might end up a fairly inefficient part of the offense. Still, even if true, it doesn’t seem to matter as the team numbers are so spectacular when he’s on the floor. Four of our top 5 overall lineups feature Ariza at SF, our top 3 defensive lineups, and 4 of our top 6 offensive lineups.

  53. @50

    Gerrit, Berry doesn’t say Rodman was better than Jordan. He could at most say that Rodman was more productive. Which, probably, isn’t true. But is this enough to call Barri’s ideas “utter nonsense”? I disagree.

    Re: Marbury in Celtics. I’d love it. It’s not that Marbury is a cancer (which is true). It’s that Marbury isn’t a good basketball player anymore. His FG% for the last two seasons: .415, .419.

    FT% for the last four seasons: .834, .755, .769, .716.

    His assists/per36 for the last five seasons: 8.0, 7.3, 6.3, 5.3, 5.1 (do we see a trend or what?).

    He’s rebounding and blocking is non-existant. For the last three seasons his ORtg is lower than DRtg.

    “Accomplished”??? What did he accomplish in the NBA? He was and is overhyped and overpaid. I’d love to see Marbury in Celtics – it’d be a great example of subtraction by addition.

    On the second thought: I’d rather play in the finals against Celtics instead of Cavaliers.

  54. the other Stephen January 2, 2009 at 11:58 am

    9. “Luke’s contributions are subtle and not conducive to sportscenter highlights, so we often overlook them.”

    on the contrary, i think his passes lead to the best of sportscenter highlights. i still shiver when i think of that one fastbreak last season against miami.

  55. 51, Gerrit,

    The difference is that he is older now, and knows that this gig won’t last forever. I think that will overpower his ego for a few months.

  56. Off topic, but if you want something to watch while I’m finishing the Jazz preview, check this out:

    http://nba.fanhouse.com/2009/01/02/kevin-garnett-profile-in-courage/

  57. Does anyone else see lots of holes in the ESPN story on Marbury? Lots of unnamed sources and assumptions – if this was as far along as the story claims, wouldn’t there be a bit more meat to the details?

    For argument’s sake, if he does go to Boston, I don’t think he makes much of an improvement. The J.R. Rider example given earlier was a good one. I’d have been more upset had they landed a big man, such as Deke or P.J. Brown again.

  58. God bless fanhouse for that KG piece. He’s totally annoying, plays for the cameras and has the “We’ll believe anything” Boston crowd eating out of his hands with the bogus “I’ll will my team to victory by yelling and mugging for the camera” crap.

    How’d that work out for you in Minnesota, big guy? No wonder Ainge likes KG so much — they’re both overrated whiners who only won titles because they were surrounded by better players.

  59. Jazz preview up.

  60. I love Luke Walton… and besides for offense and defense I think he is a very good player in this league. But if I have to listen to another announcer wet they’re pants over a simple Luke Walton bounce pass to an open teammate I will swallow a whole bottle of Phil Jackson’s magic mushrooms. Either Phil is smart and knows the only way to keep this Lakers team together next year is by trying to trade away Luke’s ludicrous contract by starting him… or maybe coach Jackson is having some acid flashbacks. After all, this is a coach with 9 rings but its also the coach who started Smush Parker ahead of Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic. Its the same coach who played Brian Cook heavy minutes off the bench. Its the same coach who loved Kwame Brown. Its the same coach who started Luke Walton in the past. Its the same coach who played Walton over Trevor Ariza in the finals.. even after Ariza dominated the first half of game 4 only to see him not get off the bench in the 2nd half as the Lakers blew a big lead and ultimately the series. I don’t dislike Luke. Just like i don’t dislike George W. Bush… I dislike the american people for voting for him. The media has an obligation to the fans and the franchise to report the facts. The facts are the Lakers record as well as their offensive efficiency has taken a big hit since Luke has been inserted into the starting lineup. So until the stats backup your thoughts on how Luke helps the offense I can’t do more then laugh at Walton starting for the most glamorous team in the NBA. And if you think starting one of the worst SF’s in the entire league doesn’t hurt your team because he is only playing in the 1st and 3rd quarters I would like you to please stick to watching the WNBA. Luke Walton is a awful NBA basketball player in ever facet of the game except passing where he is only a couple notches above solid. The problem is nobody guards him so the only passes he can make are just to keep the ball moving or to change sides of the floor. The media needs to hold coach Jackson accountable for his decisions just like Phil holds his players accountable for their performances using the media. The only way I’m letting Jackson off the hook is if the Lakers are trying to trade Walton (and that will be very hard because nobody would want him in their rotation even if he was making 10 bucks a year.

  61. 60. I don’t care that he starts Walton because he finishes in games that matter with Ariza.

    As for Kwame and Smush, at the time he didn’t have better options. He didn’t love Kwame, but when he could get Kwame to just rebound and be a big body in the paint, he was useful. There were focus issues that no coach could correct, but Bynum was not ready to start, that was not the Bynum we have now. And, that was not the Farmar we have now either, Smush had the skills to be a good PG but he also had mental issues. When he stayed within the system he could have been a functional backup PG. He just couldn’t.

  62. Darius,

    I’m a late read. I like your analysis very much.

    A factor that you might have emphasized more is experience. Other than Derek, Luke is the only Laker who has transitioned all the way from the Shaq-Kobe to the Gasol-Kobe era. He has earned the confidence of the Laker organization to provide leadership and to facilitate.

    I believe that Trevor is, in fact, the starting 3 already–coming off the bench like Manu–but for a completely different purpose. Luke’s purpose is to keep the Lakers playing as a team from the start–making it easier for Derek, Kobe, Pau and (especially) Andrew to score–providing a reliable defender when it is time to rotate and switch. As the season progresses, Luke’s shooting will improve–and he’ll hit the clutch 3 when the Lakers need it.

    Luke’s apparent problems on defense may not always be his fault. Some critics seem to ignore the amount of unnecessary free lancing that leads to missed rotations and easy layups. Luke may sometimes look wrong because he adheres to a team concept being violated by his teammates.

    I believe that Renato’s suggestion is worth considering: more situational lineups. It may well be the case that VladRad will be more appropriate against some opponents–and Luke for others.

    There is still plenty of time to find out.