What the Stats Show Us

Bill Bridges —  November 26, 2009

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Since the days of Show Time (and even from the West/Baylor/Chamberlain era), the Lakers have been known as an offensive team. Despite the mantras of “Defensive wins championships” and “No rebounds, no rings”, most fans and all of the press basically ignored these aphorisms as it applies to the Lakers. No, the Laker s are about scoring, and scoring in spectacular ways.
Well if the 2009/2010 Lakers continue at current pace, they are about to shatter  this perception. With basically the same personnel*, they have transformed from an outstanding offensive team that played very good defense to a mediocre offensive team that plays outstanding defense.
In 08/09, LAL was ranked 3rd at offensive efficiency at 112.8 and 6th at defensive efficiency at 104.7. The league average was 108.3. This year the Lakers are 19th on offensive at 105.5 and 3rd on defense at 100. The league average is 106.0. Had the bench been able to maintain large 4th quarter leads, undoubtedly both the offensive and defensive ratings would be better. However, this marginal increase might have pushed the Lakers to 15 – 17th on offense whereas on defense the Lakers would be 1st.
Even with the spotty bench play, the Lakers would be #1 on defense if they had a higher Defensive Rebounding Rate because of their excellent defensive EFG% and . Although recently improved, the Lakers’ Defensive rebounding rate is  .712 which is 24th in the league. Offensive rebounds create shots at the rim or shots while the defense is in scramble mode (remember Tim Thomas’s back breaking 3 in game 6 when the Lakers couldn’t handle the defensive rebound?) and increases the defensive team’s Ortg.
So the questions that come to mind are:
1. Why is the defense so good
2. Why are they so poor at defensive rebounding
3. Why has the offense slowed (and why is the Ortg so much lower)
The answers to all three points are related.  It is no secret that the Lakers have thrived in the paint this year.  Using the NBA hotspots designations, last year the 42% of the Lakers’ FGA was at the rim (for a FG% of 58%). This year whilst shooting a slightly lower FG% of 55%(no doubt due to Kobe’s dominance and Pau’s absence), 44% of their shots are at the rim. No doubt this increases with Pau’s return.
Shots in the paint slows and disrupts the opponent’s offense. Short shots do not create long rebounds. Long rebounds fuels fast breaks. Made baskets is the best catalyst of good defense as the offense begins by taking the ball out of the rim. This is where EFG% is misleading. I’d much rather have a team shoot 60% from 2 exclusively than 40% from 3 even though the EFG% is the same because there are 20% less missed shots that could possibly create transition offense for the opposition.
So shots in the paint improves the Lakers’ ability to get back and get their defense set. Bynum, especially has been hustling back. In addition, the team seems to have a coherent scheme on defending the screenroll. They do not stick to one scheme. Sometimes the defender goes under the screen, other times he fights over. When he fights over, the big consistently shows aggressively and gets back to his man. The Lakers have been very good this year at reducing penetration. Reducing penetration and the resulting kick out for a wide-open 3, results in a defensive 3FG% of .297, best in the league. Their overall FG% defensive isn’t too shabby either at .421, second in the league. Fisher’s perimeter defense has been outstanding – not coincidentally aided by Bynum’s improvement on the show and recovery phases of screenroll defense. Farmar has been surprisingly good also, especially at fighting over screens – a skill I thought he would never ever get.
So nearly 71% of the opponent’s 3 point shots result in misses. Missed 3 point shots create long rebounds.  Long rebounds’ trajectories are more volatile than short shots.  Remember your high school physics? E = ½ mv^2. A long shot by definition has higher kinetic energy and the bounce is both longer and more erratic. Long erratic bounces create more opportunities for the offensive team to rebound the ball. Also, when teammates expect a miss they crash the boards more. Whereas when every shot is going in teammates begin to jog back on defense. Of course, here Bynum’s eagerness the run down on offense to establish the “seal” on offense does not help him in working harder for a tough rebound.  He has improved markedly in this arena though in the last few games and this has helped as has the guards’ aggressiveness in rebounding long misses (in the Knicks game,  Fisher collected 5 defensive rebounds which must be a season high). So as long as the Laker’s deter post offense, reduce dribble penetration, and rotate out to shooter, opponent’s 3FG% will be low. Pau’s return, better guard rebounding, and more focus from Bynum will help, but the Lakers will not lead the league in Defensive Rebounding Rate.
What about on offense. Surprisingly this year’s Lakers have a higher pace than last year’s,  96 versus 94.3 for 6th fastest in the league.  So why is the Lakers’ offensive so much worse this year than last.:
1. Pau’s absense. An obvious factor as he is such an excellent facilitator.
2. Abysmal shooting by the bench
3. LO has not been posting up. He is very effective posting up on the right block but can’t remember more than a few instances when the Lakers used him in this way. It is as if he expected the spate of 3 point shooting in the finals to carry over. It hasn’t LO has reverted back to the mean. And it hurts.
Now that he is in the second unit, LO should be the go to guy in the post. This will increase his FG% give better  floor balance, and create open perimeter looks. LO will pass out of double teams whereas Bynum has trouble doing so. I look for PJ to set up LO down low more often with the second unit. This will dramatically improve the  offense rather than having him floating around on the perimeter taking  jump shots.  Improved offense,  especially low post offense, means better defense. This will help to improve point #2.
I could write an entire post detailing how good Artest has been on defense but anyone who watched him shut down Joe Johnson and Kevin Durant can’t wonder whether the Artest/Ariza trade was an upgrade or not – at least on defense. He is finishing 50% at the rim which is a worry but not surprising.

Since the days of Show Time (and even from the West/Baylor/Chamberlain era), the Lakers have been known as an offensive team. Despite the mantras of “Defensive wins championships” and “No rebounds, no rings”, most fans and all of the press basically ignored these aphorisms as it applies to the Lakers. No, the Laker s are about scoring, and scoring in spectacular ways.

Well if the 2009/2010 Lakers continue at current pace, they are about to shatter  this perception. With basically the same personnel*, they have transformed from an outstanding offensive team that played very good defense to a mediocre offensive team that plays outstanding defense.

In 08/09, LAL was ranked 3rd at offensive efficiency at 112.8 and 6th at defensive efficiency at 104.7. The league average was 108.3. This year the Lakers are 19th on offense at 105.5 and 3rd on defense at 100. The league average is 106.0. Had the bench been able to maintain large 4th quarter leads, undoubtedly both the offensive and defensive ratings would be better. However, this marginal increase might have pushed the Lakers to 15 – 17th on offense whereas on defense the Lakers would be 1st.

Even with the spotty bench play, the Lakers would be #1 on defense if they had a higher Defensive Rebounding Rate because of their excellent defensive EFG% . And lthough recently improved, the Lakers’ Defensive rebounding rate is  .712 which is 24th in the league. Offensive rebounds create shots at the rim or shots while the defense is in scramble mode (remember Tim Thomas’s back breaking 3 in game 6 when the Lakers couldn’t handle the defensive rebound?) and increases the defensive team’s Ortg.

So the questions that come to mind are:

  1. Why is the defense so good
  2. Why are they so poor at defensive rebounding
  3. Why is the offense so mediocre

The answers to all three points are related.  It is no secret that the Lakers have thrived in the paint this year.  Using the NBA hotspots designations, last year the 42% of the Lakers’ FGA was at the rim (for a FG% of 58%). This year whilst shooting a slightly lower FG% of 55%(no doubt due to Kobe’s dominance and Pau’s absence), 44% of their shots are at the rim. Both the rate and FG% should increases with Pau’s return.

Shots in the paint act to reduce the opponent’s offensive efficiency. Short shots do not create long rebounds. Long rebounds fuels fast breaks. Transition offense is the easiest and most efficient offense. Reducing this improves defensive efficiency. A made baskets is the best catalyst of good defense as the offense begins by taking the ball out of the rim and the defense can get set. This is where EFG% is misleading. I’d much rather have a team shoot 60% from 2 exclusively than 40% from 3 even though the EFG% is the same because there are 20% less missed shots that could possibly create transition offense for the opposition.

So shots in the paint improves the Lakers’ ability to get back and get their defense set. Bynum, especially has been hustling back – for the first time in his career. In addition, the team seems to have a strategy on defending the screenroll. They do not stick to one scheme. Sometimes the defender goes under the screen, other times he fights over. When he fights over, the big consistently shows aggressively and gets back to his man. The Lakers have been very good this year at reducing penetration. Reducing penetration and the resulting kick out for a wide-open 3, shows in their defensive 3FG% of .297, best in the league. Their overall FG% defensive isn’t too shabby either at .421, second in the league. Fisher’s perimeter defense has been outstanding – not coincidentally aided by Bynum’s improvement on the show and recovery phases of screenroll defense. Farmar has been surprisingly good also, especially at fighting over screens – a skill I thought he would never ever get.

So nearly 71% of the opponent’s 3 point shots result in misses. Missed 3 point shots create long rebounds.  Long rebounds’ trajectories are more volatile than short shots and harder to gage.  Remember your high school physics? E = ½ mv^2. A long shot by definition has higher kinetic energy and the bounce is both longer and more erratic. Long erratic bounces create more opportunities for the offensive team to rebound the ball. Also, when teammates expect a miss they crash the boards more. Whereas when every shot is going in teammates begin to jog back on defense. Of course, here Bynum’s eagerness the run down on offense to establish the “seal” on offense does not help him in working harder for a tough rebound.  He has improved markedly in this arena though in the last few games and this has helped as has the guards’ recent aggressiveness in rebounding long misses (in the Knicks game,  Fisher collected 5 defensive rebounds which must be a season high). So as long as the Laker’s deter post offense, reduce dribble penetration, and rotate out to shooter, opponent’s 3FG% will be low. Pau’s return, better guard rebounding, and more focus from Bynum will help, but the Lakers will not lead the league in Defensive Rebounding Rate.

What about on offense. Surprisingly this year’s Lakers have a higher pace than last year’s,  96 versus 94.3 for 6th fastest in the league.  So why is the Lakers’ offense so much worse this year than last. Some possible reasons:

1. Pau’s absense. An obvious factor as he is such an excellent facilitator.

2. Abysmal shooting by the bench. (As well as the selfish play, turnovers etc. etc.  let’s not go on …)

3. LO has not been posting up. He is very effective posting up on the right block but can’t remember more than a few instances when the Lakers used him in this way. It is as if he expected the spate of 3 point shooting in the finals to carry over. It hasn’t and LO has reverted back to the mean. And it hurts.

Now that he is in the second unit, LO should be the go to guy in the post. This will increase his FG%, creat better  floor balance, and generate open perimeter looks. LO will pass out of double teams whereas Bynum has trouble doing so. I look for PJ to set up LO down low more often with the second unit. This will dramatically improve the  offense rather than having him floating around on the perimeter taking  jump shots.  Improved offense,  especially low post offense, means better defense. This will help to improve point #2.

4. The lack of free throws. The Lakers have been poor at drawing fouls and going to the line. They are 28th in the league averaging .185 FT attempts per FGA. Free throws are the best quality shots, of course. Free throws also help the defense, for reasons already mentioned. What is odd is that given that the Lakers are the most low-post oriented team and get the most points in the paint in the League, you would think that it would also draw a lot more free throws. Indeed the other teams with low FT/FGA ratios are all perimeter teams; the Knicks, Bucks, Wolves, and Bulls. This is hard to understand.  Perhaps the fact that post play is officiated as a wrestling match whereas the perimeter is a dance hall hurts the Lakers. Pau, Bynum, and Kobe can be pounded inside without a call whereas the slightest incidental contact to Chris Paul draws a whistle. Other factors include that the Lakers do not have a single player who aggressively drive to the rim and finish with the exception of Kobe. And even Kobe drives less than he did before. Contrast the Lakers with Denver. Anthony, Billups, Lawson, and even Smith will aggressively drive to the hole and look for contact. When the Lakers drive, they seem to shy away from contact (other than Kobe – and Fish but then he never gets any calls). The Lakers were poor last year too, ranking 21st in the league. However, this year’s disparity with the highest foul-drawing teams is ridiculous. The difference of the FT/FGA rate of the best team (Denver at .29) to LA was .06  (.29 -.23) in 08/09. This means that last year, for every 100 FGA, Denver shot 6 more free throws than the Lakers. A significant disparity but not overly so. This year that difference is .144 (.329 – .185). That means that for 100FGA, Denver (yes it is Denver again) shoots 14.4 more free throws than the Lakers. This difference is outrageous and I think explains more than any other of the reasons above why the offensive efficiency is so low.

*I could write an entire post detailing how good Artest has been on defense but anyone who watched him shut down Joe Johnson and Kevin Durant can’t wonder whether the Artest/Ariza trade was an upgrade or not – at least on defense. On offense he is finishing 50% at the rim which is a worry but not surprising and has not been a over-dribbling ball-hog at all this year as many feared.

Bill Bridges

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54 responses to What the Stats Show Us

  1. Wonder if Carmelo intentionally used the yellow sleeve to camouflage his arm shoving Kobe ;)

    I would not read too much into our stats this season as we haven’t had Pau and thus not sure if this is an aberration or a trend. But just like last season, I fear that Denver will really stretch us, as their tendencies really hurt us if we don’t get calls.

    And about us being more Offense… I think it’s a West Coast thing. Even in Football we’re more offense-oriented ;)

  2. Bill, great post as usual.

    But one of Artest’s main plusses was supposed to be driving from the right wing moving to his left and drawing fouls… but he is thriving as a threeball shooter (and quite good I might add) thus the reduced FTs… compared to Ariza who always moved and slashed, he gets more FTs that way. So that can be partly attributed to this.

  3. Addendum: He (Artest) is also refraining from aggressively banging inside coz he knows he is the 4th option on offense… he is also becoming Steve Nash with all his blind passes.

    Would you rather have him bang and do what he does (including dominate the ball) or stay the way he is right now? I’d prefer the latter.

  4. My guess about our absurdly low FT-FG ratio is that I believe the officials subconsciously help out Laker opponents, perhaps because they feel some sort of sympathy for them or subconsciously resent the Lakers (and Phil and Kobe). “Ah, the Lakers don’t need that call, they’re so good they’ll win the game anyway.”

    Kobe gets fewer “superstar” calls than any other elite NBA player. In his highlight game against the Zombie Sonics, he was fouled hard (hip-checked) on that behind the backboard shot, and he was bumped on the way up on his reverse layup then hit in the face as he released the ball. No call.

    On Pau’s highlight dunk the other night against the Knicks, he was hammered so hard that the refs could have legitimately called a flagrant. Instead, no foul was called. And now we have Ron-Ron on the team, so it’s only going to get worse. Doesn’t matter, the guys will win another chip in June anyway.

  5. Excellent Post Bill!

    We added Artest and Bynum to our starting line-up this year. As compared to last years version (with Odum and Ariza), the Lakers starters are bigger and relatively slower. This decrease in speed will have consequences on the offensive end. I believe that this slower overall offensive speed and the decrease in guard penetration (in favor of post-ups) are the top 2 reasons that we aren’t getting many calls.

    As you pointed out, this years lakers have played with their most effective penetrating guard (Kobe) in the post. He doesn’t get to generate much speed before defenders contact him. Thus I believe that officials are less inclined to blow their whistles when compared to Kobe hitting the lane off penetration from the perimeter.

    Dwane Wade and Lebron James illustrate this principle best. Most believe that officials favor them because they are stars. I think that they get more calls then most because their speed on the dribble put pressure on official to make quick (sometimes bad) decisions. At high speeds even the slightest contact looks significant. This is not true for the typical contact in the post.

    I believe that the Lakers should add speed to their starting line-up by starting Farmar insted (a fast penetrator) of Fisher (a relatively slow, spot up shooter). Our starting lineup needs speed and our second unit needs leadership. I think we could accomplish both with one move.

  6. 5. That might explain part of it, but the team was also very low last season. Probably would have been even lower both seasons except for the fact that they win so much, so they get more FTs at the end of the game than other teams because the opponent is forced to foul.

  7. Good stuff Bill, love reading your posts on bball strategy.

    One point though, the four factors numbers you quote are actually (FT makes / FG Attempts), which compounds the effect of both the Lakers shooting significantly fewer free-throws attempts per field goal attempt than the Nuggets (0.248 to 0.41) and converting them at a much lower rate of success (74.4% to 80.3%).

    The Lakers numbers in both components are down noticeably on last year too (0.298 FTA/FGA at 77% for 08/09) .

  8. 4,
    I couldn’t agree more. There are many reasons why the refs don’t give the Lakers calls. But I don’t think its because they don’t like LA. It has more to do with trying to keep games close (something that you know who recently wrote in his book).

    Re: Pace
    I think the fast pace has a lot to do with the teams numerous offensive weapons. You won’t see the shot clock run down often because there is always a great shot available almost immediately.

  9. I actually think that improving the abysmal fourth-quarter performance would move the offensive ranking up quite a bit. At 19th, the Lakers are solidly in the middle of the pack. Teams are tightly bunched there, and a modest improvement there moves your ordinal ranking quite a bit. My guess–albeit without looking at the specific numbers, since it’s still early in the season–is that the same kind of move that would move the Lakers from 3rd to 1st defensively would move them from 19th to like 12th or 10th offensively.

  10. 9, I’d be willing to bet that it is bench play in general that is holding the Lakers down in all the rankings. The blown leads and bad fouls will lead to a poor defensive efficiency ranking, and the turnovers, poor shooting, and inability to score points in general will lead to a poor offensive efficiency ranking.

    Even using a measure as rudimentary as 82games.com’s “Win%,” which is basically the number of games in which a team outscored/was outscored when a particular player was on the floor, the Laker bench is playing like a .400 team.

    http://www.82games.com/0910/0910LAL1.HTM

    Farmar is the highest bench player at a flat 50%. Powell, Walton, Brown are around 40%. Mbenga, Vujacic, and Morrison are all around 20%.

  11. Man, great post – thought-provoking, insightful. And great comments. I didn’t join the thanks of yesterday – so thanks, Kurt and the other contributors. Thanks to the regulars here who make this a must read for me a couple times a day, at least.

    I’ll simply echo things that have already been said. I think having Pau back will increase our offensive numbers (as would games that lasted more than 3 quarters).

    On the defensive side, I think Artest and Bynum are the key pieces (call me captain obvious) to the change. I think Artest, in particular, has changed our identity – he pushes us up a notch (or two).

    I’d love to see some numbers on the offensive efficiency of the guys he is guarding – comparing that to their season averages. Is he as doing as good a job as he appears to be?

  12. Having to play without Gasol, while Artest is learning the system, creates a significant amount of “newness” in the starting lineup; this especially affected the offense. That affects the bench play, too, because that means the bench is playing with Mbenga instead of Gasol/Bynum.

  13. Anyone paying attention to Kurt Rambis and his pack? 1-14 for the worst franchise start ever.. Henry Abbot on truehoop making a good point.. Nets lost to the wolves in their season opener.. To give a little perspective on how bad the wolves’ situation is.. we could easily be talking about them gunning for the league’s worst start instead of new jersey..

    From that (led by the guy we expected to take over phil) to byron scott (another ex-laker and potential phil-replacement) getting the axe so early in the season.. Really makes you wonder how the whole coaching thing is gonna play out.

  14. Trevor did a great job guarding the passing lanes, but Ron-Ron is a better overall defender and also much stronger – for the superstar 3s.

    However, I do think Andrew’s increased time and defensive efficiency is an underlying reason for defensive improvement. We haven’t had a really active center since Vlade and not a good moving defensive center since Kareem. This has been as much a given with the Lakers as our traditional PG play. Now Andrew is defending screen-and-rolls and this has become the favorite weapon of most teams. I don’t think our defensive emergence is a coincidence.

  15. I think we need to cut Rambis some slack, that he deserves a few years to turn things around. First, that roster sucks. Phil Jackson would not have much of a better record with that group. Two, hiring Rambis meant a whole new group having to learn the triangle offense, and if you watch their games two things are clear: 1) They don’t get it yet, their spacing is horrific (especially on the weak side) and 2) They don’t have the personnel to run it. The only guy on that roster really built for the triangle, Kevin Love, is out injured. Finally, if you are going to switch to running the triangle, it’s really a multi-year commitment to get players that fit the system then teach them the offense. Sure, Phil had first-year success with the Bulls and Lakers, but those rosters were stacked.

    Bottom line, I think at the end of next season we can start to judge if Rambis can do that job, but it is way, way to early right now. Scott, on the other hand, has had his players turn on him twice in two different cities. Not good.

  16. We as fans are so spoiled. We want to be the best at everything. Number 1 in defense, number 1 on offense, number 1 in steals, rebounds, etc etc etc

    The explosion of internet and evolution of statistics has completely taken over the beautiful game of basketball

    When you play in your playground, does it matter that you had 5 assists and only 4 points? All that matters is that you win the game and stay on the court.

    That is the essence of basketball!

    As for the bench. Yes they are awful! But what do you expect from them? We want them to be as good as other teams’ starters, but that will never happen. Lakers are a team of the stars and it will always remain so. There are always 2-3 megastars (Kobe, Pau, maybe Drew), 1-2 borderline stars (LO, maybe Artest) and a good player (Artest). There are only 240 minutes in total that a team can play in regulation. Think about that for a second. In order to get better and develop, you need to be able to play to gain the confidence (not the knowledge, because that can be gained in practice arguably). When you play behind the stars that we have, there is simply not enough time for bench to play and develop

    Also, this is LA and all celebrities are stars here. An equivalent of Sasha Vujacic is Eddie House in Boston, but no one really talks about him (Eddie) as much and he is in less of a spotlight. Too much fame and popularity can destroy anyone’s psyche, especially that of a 22-24 year old. Farmar, Sasha and other might think they are stars already, mainly because of the media attention they receive and this effects their game.

    And last but not least, Lakers have 2 max guys, one almost max, one above average and a couple of MLEs. So tell me now, when 6 guys on your team make up more than the luxury threshold, how (and why) are you supposed to get more good players? It is simply business counterintuiitive

  17. I meant to add into my last post (turkey hangover) that one difference I have noticed in Bynum is the lack of foul trouble. That seems to be a big switch from last year. If I recall, he sometimes had trouble staying on the court and a lot of reaching fouls, etc.

  18. 17 – Truly.

    I wonder if Drew fouled a lot last year because he was compensating for his injury?

  19. 7. you are absolutely right. The ratio is free throws made / field goal attempts. So even worse – for the Lakers.

  20. If you want to be entertained for 10 minutes today, check out this video of Shannon Brown’s dunks over people.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcVLa02MDNc&feature=player_embedded

  21. Bill, geat post.

    I think you’re exactly right that the Lakers don’t go by the regular mantras of winning in the NBA. They aren’t always the best defensive team, last year they didn’t bring it every night and still won, they don’t “get to the free throw line”. Yet, they keep winning, and are the best franchise the league has seen (yes, including Boston).

    Even though we were ranked high in ft attempts when Shaq was here, we still had by far the worst ft% in the league. If ft are the easiest way to score points, it doesn’t realy help if Shaq is the one shooting most of them. Speaking of which, if speed on the perimeter is how you get to the ft line, then how do explain Shaq, D12, Yao, and we can go on but you get the point.

  22. Echoing others: great and interesting post, thank you very much.

  23. #16 Mamula, I think Eddie House might have been a poor choice of comparison. Isn’t his kid the featured subject of the reality show “My Dad’s a Pro”?

  24. 23. Yes, you are right. I should have probably said Marco Belinelli or Kyle Lowry

  25. 25,
    The funny thing is its not that much of a long shot for the Lakers to add a star PG. Fisher’s 5 million and Adam Morrison’s 5 million are both coming off the books at the end of this year. So you could make a trade for a star PG and still not add much to the payroll. We are the Los Angeles Lakers… I actually would be surprised if we didn’t try and trade our expiring contracts. It would be nice to have 5 all stars in the starting lineup and a star (Odom) coming off the bench.

  26. Excellent, excellent post. I’ve only watched 5 or 6 Laker games this year but now feel like I’ve seen them all.

  27. R-, appreciate the response. Just wanted to see if anyone else saw this; ESPN has a poll right now that is asking which sophomore GUARD you are most impressed with right now… OK. One of the choices is Michael Beasley?! Even better, none of the choices is Derrick Rose?! Either I’m going crazy or that is “Bass Ackwards!”

  28. I just went through and killed all the trade talk speculation — again, we are not going to get into that at this site. It’s nothing personal, but things suddenly start to mushroom and every thread gets hijacked by trade talk. It has happened before, hence the strict policy. Other Lakers sites welcome this kind of conversation if you want to continue the thread.

    Also, read the ESPN weekend Daily Dime. Ellis IS NOT on the block. It’s all about as BS as that Register columnist this week dreaming up ways CP3 could be a Laker. Also, people are seriously overestimating how much of a demand there is for Farmar out there, and expiring deals are harder to move now than they were three or four years ago. Too many GMs got burned.

  29. Kurt, no hard feeling. I didn’t know that was a rule at FB&G but since it is… Do you think you could delete the negative threads people post about laker fans being spoiled? I hate weaving threw the posts about why we shouldn’t debate about our lacking bench and when kobe isn’t playing at “mamba status.” It’s one thing for people to give a reality check every now and then but most of them need to find another blog spot like a clipper’s or celtics’ site to post that stuff about us. In all fairness, that seems just as justified for blog filtering.

  30. http://www.latimes.com/

    this is the e-front page of today’s LA Times, poor Sasha, I bet he’s not really having a very nice Thanksgiving. sure he’s got the hot girlfriend and all, but he’s gotta be hating all this negative PR. but, I can’t say I have that much sympathy for the dude, he’s making $5 million this year, and $5.4 next year. he should be performing, period. live up to that contract. or else, he’s done. go retire on that $15M.

  31. http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-lakers-fyi27-2009nov27,0,1641824.story

    fun little article. 145-100?

    Kobe & Fisher chanting “We want Tacos?”

    They’re in good spirits.

  32. Kurt,
    I like your take on expiring contracts… but i disagree. With the economy the way it is now more than ever teams are trying to get rid of very good (but not great) players with big, long contracts. But few teams would also want to add those contracts. The Spurs just swung such a deal this summer. If the Spurs could trade garbage (Bruce Bowen and company) for Richard Jefferson I think the Lakers would trade Fisher & Morrison (over 10 million in expiring k) for a Monta Ellis type player.

  33. Here’s the thing about what is and isn’t allowed in the comments here at Kurt’s excellent site: he chose these rules to foster the kind of basketball discussion he enjoys seeing. (I happen to agree with him.) So there is no right and wrong, per se. You can’t look at the rules and think if X isn’t allowed than Y shouldn’t be either. Think of it like going to someone’s house. Let’s say someone has you take your shoes off when you come inside. Doesn’t matter if you like your shoes on. It’s their house and you chose to come inside. Just enjoy the stay. The couch is super comfortable.

  34. Great post, Bill. I think its pretty obvious the FT deficit is just a ploy by the league so they have something to point to when they blatantly deliver the championship to us via 1 or 2 calls later in the year. That’s how far ahead they plan for these things. They already have junior high refs making calls to pad the stats for the next Lebron so his hype is adequately elevated by the time they gift him his championships…

  35. Rob 33- Understood completely. I’ve been following FB&G for a while now on a daily basis because of its in depth analysis such as this post today (very well done Bill) and the type of comments I mentioned in my last thread just doesn’t give the site any justice. I enjoy being able to read Kurt’s along w/ the FB&G communiy’s articles and comments and I am particularly glad I can sit back and “enjoy the stay.”

  36. Hey great post. When it comes to writing this stuff you guys are incredible – no doubt.

    I succumbed to my basketball withdrawal (no lakers games on TV for way too long now) and caught the Jazz-Bulls game last night. Milsap and Co. are playing some good ball, admittedly against an oddly young looking Bulls team (didn’t get that vibe last year – Gordon departure maybe?). At any rate Deron was threading the needle with quick passes at the top of the P&R on either corner of the free-throw line —And Boozer was finishing very well. Not to mention Ronnie Brewer putting on his ShanWOW hat for some sick ally-dunks.

    Anyone else watching these guys? I know we beat them pretty handily last year but they still put up a fight and now (without AK47) they seem to be gunning for attention.

  37. Watching the Rockets play the Spurs, it’s glaringly obvious that Ariza just doesn’t have the array of offensive skills needed to carry the load as effectively as most go-to guys. He often gets stuck after picking up his dribble and has to improvise tough shots. Still, he’s already had a steal + high flying dunk and a spot-up 3…and he does those well.

  38. Aaron, I agree that for some teams right now there is value in an expiring deal, I just think it’s a lot harder to fleece teams into a wretched deal now. On that note, I bet all the other GM’s niss Mr. Thomas running the Knicks.

  39. RE Monta Ellis – Why would the Lakers want *him*? I follow the W’s and love Monta. I wanted the Lakers to draft him when he came out of H.S. and fell as far as he did (why not gamble on a super talented guard prospect that may have been green but that we could develop?). But, he’s pretty much the opposite type of guard that is a prototype for our system. He’s not an outside shooter (he’s good from mid range, but not from 3pt range). He’s a player that depends on dribble penetration to get a lot of his buckets. He isn’t a strong defender. We want a spot up shooting, ball moving, defensive minded player that doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective. Like I said, I love Monta but he’s not *that* guy.

    RE the Lakers’ expiring contracts – Doesn’t it make much more sense, considering the salary structure of our team, to let those deals come off our cap? I mean, sure, we have $10 mil in salary coming off the books. But when you add what Kobe’s increase will be in salary next season (especially if he doesn’t do an extension before this season ends) + what Pau’s increase will be + what Bynum’s increase will be + what Lamar’s increase will be + what Ron’s increase will be + what the remaining players we have under contract raises will be, that comes awfully close to that expiring $10 mil. And you best believe that Mitch and the Buss family are taking that into account. Then consider that we’re over the tax even after that $10 mil comes off the cap. So, does it really make sense that we’d go and commit to more salary by exchanging expiring deals for a contract that runs for multiple seasons? I don’t think that’s likely at all. If anything, I think we’ll look to keep Brown, Farmar, and then maybe even retain Fish on the cheap going into next season rather than look to add a high(ish) priced PG that can solidify that position. In the end, I think we all need to understand that we can’t have an All-Star at every position and that you actually do need role players to win in this league.

  40. Mark Overt Skilbred November 27, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    Great post, Bill! Here are some stats I dug out of the NBA file as we wait for the game at Golden State:

    BASKETBALL—WHO IS USING THEIR BENCH TO FULLEST ADVANTAGE?

    With nearly 20 % of the season over, the Lakers are in a 4-way tie for 1st place with Atlanta, Orlando and Phoenix, followed by a 4-way tie for 2nd place between Boston, Cleveland, Dallas and Denver. It looks like the season is off to a great start with lots of competition to keep our skills honed. The Lakers are scheduled to play at Golden State Saturday night. Currently, the Lakers regulars are averaging 29.33 mpg, and the subs are averaging 9.72 mpg, compared with an NBA regulars average of 28.37 mpg and NBA subs average of 9.21 mpg. Golden State is averaging 26.16 mpg for regulars and 14.65 mpg for their subs. Since the Lakers regulars average playing over 3 times as many minutes as Lakers subs do, there is plenty of game time to be shared. Now would be a great time to increase playing time for our substitutes, so they have a chance to develop their game early in the season. The playoffs will be here before we know it, and we’ll need all the help we can get.

    Mark Overt Skilbred

    (Source: NBA team stats from 11-22-09 and available standings from 11-24-09)

  41. 39, the one thing I would not underestimate is Fisher’s willingness to take a buyout after a trade. It would not surprise if a team desperate to cut salary, say a struggling team over the luxury tax wanting to cut salary now, or a team that wants more space in 2010, is willing to trade the Lakers an asset, in exchange for the right to buy Fisher out of his contract.

  42. Zephid,
    Given that we don’t have a ready replacement for Fish – and any new player would have to learn the offense – I doubt the option of trading Fish is on any member of management’s mind.

    No would be the answer I would expect to any such question.

  43. The Lakers have been using Farmar AND Brown this year side by side… an interesting move considering these 2 are the “heirs” to our PG starting job next season.

    The more I see both of them play, the more I’m convinced that Shannon Brown will be taking the place of Sasha Vujacic and not Derek Fisher… Shannon is eating the minutes that used to be Sasha’s… that said, I think the position might still be Jordan’s to take, but so far he has not convinced me he can handle it. Still, having his RFA rights next season is still an ace.

    Fish will probably re-up under the veteran’s minimum… the most I see it is slightly above it at 2.5M for 2 years but definitely not more.

  44. I keep starting at LA’s payroll and can’t help but notice several things:

    1. Next season, LA has a commitment of almost 84M for 7 players… this without the player option of 2.2M for Shannon Brown, Farmar’s new salary and Fisher’s probable re-up. If we end up signing all 3 of them back, we will have approximately 90M of payroll with 10 players.

    2. Assuming we keep DJ Mbenga and Josh Powell, that’s another 2M added and giving us 12 players.

    3. Adam Morrison walks and signs/auditions for other teams.

    4. We have the exact same lineup as this year with the payroll very close to being identical.

    5. We will have 2 PGs, 3 SGs, 2 SFs, 3 PFs and 2 Cs.

    6. Possible additions may come from the MEM 2nd rounder we control, our own 2nd rounder and Elonu which we picked last June.

  45. Our model of acquiring vets and denying entry to rookies might be costing us… remember that roster spaces are set at a minimum of 12 and the cheapest way to get a player is via the draft.

    For the last 2 seasons, we have forfeited our ability to acquire cheap players to work with by either trading them (Gasol trade) or selling them (27th overall to NY). The closest 1st rounder we have is in the June 2011 draft.

    Thing that worries me is, how will we recover from this ballooning payroll we are currently at esp with the CBA soon to be reneogiated?

  46. Bill Bridges, when I started reading this post, I thought it was you who wrote it, as I was going through it, this was just your kind of stuff. I have missed your comments this season, and this was just a great article by you, for me to soak in tonight. Wow, 3rd in defense, that is just what we need, the offense will come, especially with Gasol back, and we are winning games this way anyway. Yeah, if the bench would play at the mean, it would be all we need. I think the Lakers will just let the expiring contracts go, we probably will not take on a multi year one with our current salary commitments.

  47. 46. Thanks sT. I’ll try to post more but this year has been hectic.

    But more importantly, the fact that International League Pass Broadband now has replays on-demand means I can actually wait for the next day to watch the game instead at 4 in the morning. Hence, I try to avoid knowing the score prior to watching – the unfortunate by-product being less presence on FB&G… But a 3 day layoff means plenty of scope to spout!

  48. 40, The Warrior’s bench leads the league in minutes? I find that surprising. Then again, in the recent surprising win against Dallas, the bench averaged 30 minutes.

    Of course the only bench player to play was Anthony Randolph with three starters playing 48 minutes. Crazy.

  49. I find all sorts of fault with the premise of the Lakers being a mediocre offensive team. How many games have they lit the opposition up in the first three quarters only to have the bench score less than a handfull of field goals in the fourth. If anything it is a problem with depth. A lot of those games are on pace to score a lot higher than they do and I expect to see that shorn up to some extent. As far as defensive rebounding I would say that most teams take long jumpers therefore creating longer more erratic bounces leading to more offensive rebounds for the opposition. And they are just outworked some times.

  50. One of the big differences between the Lakers and every other team is that the Lakers (minus Ron Artest) are the identical team to last year–and very similar to the year before. This is almost unheard of in the current NBA, where players transistion at the speed of light.

    Such continuity breeds a type of chemistry that allows the team to blend and compensate over time more effectively.

    Meanwhile, the Celtics are seemingly contemplating signing veteran Allen Iverson much like their signing of Starbury last year; the Bulls contemplate a complete team overhaul; the Timberwolves, who’ve turned over most of their team and coach, struggle to win their second game this season.

    It’s the story of the league.

    The player on the Lakers who best represents the benefits of this Lakers legacy approach is Derek Fisher. Since coming into the league, Derek transformed himself as a player to meet the unique Laker requirements of the triangle offense for a PG–and he does it about as well as it can be done.

    It is very unlikely that Derek will either be traded this year or not signed beyond this year. It is very likely that his role will change and his minutes this season will be reduced.

    It’s great to have a team with players that we know and appreciate for years when fans of other teams are trying to get rid of theirs.

  51. In concurrence with the previous comments, this was a really good post. The defense has seemed to flip flop a bit from last season. Last year the Lakers defense was mediocre for a lot of the game, then they would have two or three stretches throughout the game where they would lock down.

    This year they’re playing really solid defense for most of the game then they’ll have a bad stretch or two(also all teams go on runs and thats just the nature of basketball).

    Maybe I’m nitpicking too much, but LO’s overall defense has been pretty bad to me. He’s been a step slow on help defense almost every time and when he defending someone in the post after a second or two he concedes the shot by throwing both hands up. I’ve noticed he doesn’t react after he throws both hands straight up in the air and the guy he’s guarding makes another move elevates (or not if your scola), and gets an uncontested shot over odom. He needs to watch some tape of Garnett(2008 Garnett, not this year).

    Is it just me overreacting to whenever someone scores on odom or does odom really need to improve?

  52. And regarding the lakers mediocre offense thus far and the bench taking most of the blame, maybe phil should tweak the rotation a bit.

    I think most of us can agree that bynum thrives more with kobe in the game and odom plays better along side pau. Instead of Odom substituting for Bynum in the first quarter, he should come in for Pau. If that happen,s Pau and Odom would start the second quarter. I think the reserves could benefit from Pau’s passing and scoring abilities, where as if Bynum gets the ball he’s more than likely to shoot it. I think it can increase the effectiveness of the bench, odom, and bynum. Bynum can concentrate on finishing instead of passing, odom will be able to go to the post with pau and the second unit, and the reserves can feed off the inside-out game with odom and pau and get wide open threes they love to take.

    Just a thought and probably won’t happen.

  53. GSW preview up.

  54. Zephid (5:39 a.m.): Missed my point, which was not about root cause, but about statistical analysis. Unless Bill thinks that any improvement would help the defense overwhelmingly more than it would help the offense (and I don’t get that from his write-up), then if the defense goes from 3rd to 1st, the offense should go from 19th to something like 10th–whether the root cause is the bench play, the Lakers rolling up big leads and subsequently hoisting up a bucket of treys, or the phases of the Moon.

    In short, the move from 3rd to 1st is usually quite large–certainly larger than moving from 19th to 17th.