Lakers and the Numbers Game, P. I

Jeff Skibiski —  September 27, 2010

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Numbers don’t always tell the whole truth in basketball, but they can certainly offer valuable insight into player patterns, as well as some occasionally prescient nuggets about the future too. That said, we look at one or two important stats for each of the 14 expected roster players and eventually, some key numbers for the team as a whole. Part 1 of Lakers and the Numbers Game focuses on the starters (once Bynum is healthy). What stats from the starting unit pop out to you as the Lakers begin their title defense?

Derek Fisher
Key Stat: +/- 40% three-point percentage
Clutch playoff shots aside, Derek had one of the worst shooting seasons of his career in 2009-2010, connecting on only 38% of his shots from the field. More concerning than his overall field goal percentage was his sudden decline in three-point percentage last season—41% in 2007-2008, 40% in 2008-2009, 35% in 2009-2010. It’s hard to dog a guy who consistently comes through when it matters most, but his inability to knock down open shots was an impetus on the Lakers overall offensive scheme during the 2009-2010 regular season. In order to take advantage of their incredible length with Gasol, Bynum and Odom inside, they need Fisher to consistently knock down jumpers this year. On a side note, like Kobe, Derek is similarly chasing down the record books, currently sitting at sixth all-time in playoff three-point fields goals with 224. Barring injury, he’ll continue to creep up on Reggie Miller and the four others ahead of him this postseason.

Kobe Bryant
Key Stat: +/- 36 minutes per game
Kobe wound up playing three more minutes per game (39 total) than 2009-2010, while his usage rate of 29 was actually his lowest since the 2003-2004 season. In Bryant’s case, the numbers don’t lie as his productivity and decision-making has been on-point for several seasons now. As his scoring average gradually decreases, Kobes’s all-around game continues to shine—a point he emphatically hammered home with an underrated 15-rebound performance in Game 7 of the Finals. L.A. obviously doesn’t need to him to pull down 15 boards a night during the season, but they do need to keep his minutes down so he’ll be as spry as possible come April. Another number to look out for this season is Kobe’s ongoing climb up the NBA’s all-time scoring list. At 25,790 points, #24 is only 1,619 points away from passing Moses Malone for sixth all-time—a figure he should easily reach if he plays in about 60 games and maintains his 27 point-per-game average from 2009-2010.

Ron Artest
Key Stat: +/- 41% field goal percentage
Ron Ron connected on several prodigious shots during the playoffs, but struggled throughout the season with acclimating his offensive game to the ins and outs of the triangle. On a team as stacked as the Lakers, his 11-point output isn’t far off from where the team wants it, but his 41% shooting from the field leaves much room for improvement, even if his 42% shooting over the course of his career doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence for a sudden increase. More vital to the Lakers’ success than his shooting percentage, though, is Ron’s shot selection. During the Lakers’ last three-peat run, Rick Fox proved himself a strong outside shooter out of the small forward slot—and one that carefully chose his spots. Granted, the Lakers expect more offensively from Artest than they ever did Foxy, but Ron could do a lot worse than at least trying to emulate his fellow bruiser from a decision-making standpoint.

Pau Gasol
Key Stat: +/- 12 rebounds per game.
Buzz about Gasol’s quiet, but substantial improvement since linking up with Kobe and Coach Jackson seems to peak during playoff time, even if Lakers fans are privy to his continuing rise as an elite player year-round. Gasol showed up to camp in 2010 with a renewed sense of grit underneath the basket and focus on rebounding the ball. The results are hard to argue with as the Spaniard pulled down 11.3 rebounds per game last season. During the playoffs, those numbers increased to 12 against the Thunder, 15 against the Jazz and 12 against Boston. Granted, those boosted numbers came with a limited Andrew Bynum during the playoffs, but the possibility of Pau potentially leading the league in rebounding persists. With Bynum missing at least the first few weeks of the season, Gasol, along with Odom, will once again be asked to shoulder the bulk of the Lakers’ rebounding load.

Andrew Bynum:
Key Stat: +/- 60 games played.
35, 50, 65: the number of games Andrew has played over the past three seasons. With news breaking this week that the five-year veteran will be out at least two to three weeks according to Coach Jackson (possibly more if you go off of Bynum’s prognosis), there’s really no way of predicting how many games he’ll play this season. For the sake of coming up with a goal, let’s go with the assumption that Andrew misses the first 18 games of the season (includes all games up until the end of November) and doesn’t experience any lingering issues with his troublesome knee. If a similar scenario plays out, I think a solid number for Bynum to aspire to is somewhere around 60 games. In any case, it’s a figure that could very well define whether or not the Lakers are able to fend off hungry teams like Miami, Orlando and Boston for home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

Jeff Skibiski

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13 responses to Lakers and the Numbers Game, P. I

  1. over/under 50 starts for Fisher.

    over/under 4 Kobe game-winners

    over/under .500% against Charlotte

    over/under 2 dumb plays per appearance by Sasha

  2. over / under 14 healthy players all year long

  3. The last point seems nearly impossible to reach given that AB is missing a month to begin with.

    I am curious to see how Sasha’s contract year influences his behavior and performance, and wonder about Ebanks since his teammates seem to be high on him. Then again, they said Adam was great during practice too, so maybe it’s not too promising a sign.

    Also, on a totally irrelevant note, I hope Shannon redeems himself somehow in the dunk contest, even if he’s not invited. Get some highlights !

  4. I don’t think it matters how many games Bynum plays so long as he is (a) healthy for teh playoffs (b) is able to play enough games to gel with the teammates (c) is able to fulfill his role and not worry so much abut pleasing the media and fans with scoring.

  5. #3 harold

    I think impossible might be a little too strong. Even if Andrew misses all of the games in October/November, he could still hypothetically play in 64 games if he maintained a perfect bill of health from that point forward. The ballpark figure of 60 games provided about four to six games of breathing room for missed games due to normal in-season wear-and-tear. Unless Andrew misses more than the first month of the season or experiences a set-back of some sort, I think 60 games is still attainable. Maybe my glass is half full at the moment with pre-season optimism, but I’m looking at the best scenario here. Hopefully, Bynum surprises us all…

  6. I like the measures, though so long as Orlando continues to start Rashard Lewis alongside Dwight Howard, I don’t think there’s any chance that anyone else will lead the league in rebounding. Howard is essentially rebounding for two, something I dearly wish Pau won’t be having to do for us this year.

  7. Without Bynum at the beginning of the season, we very fortunate to have LO on the team, I always said it was worth keeping him, simply as insurance against injuries, and I really like him as a player, also. He is fresh off the court and ready to go, you might say.

    “It’s not the hours you put in your work that counts, it’s the work you put in the hours.” – Sam Ewing

  8. Well, Jeff, I sure hope I am wrong and you’re right, and won’t offer anything to the contrary in case I jinx things ;)

    Also, I’ve noticed that many, many blogs around the league apparently thought “hey, rebounding is like, really important” after watching the finals.

    Almost all contender-blogs seem to mention rebounding, and the C’s really have gone out of their way to assemble a ton of big men (not sure if they add up to a metric ton, but would be close with Shaq in there).

    I think we are fortunate to have Pau, and fortunate to be able to look within to get another quality big (injury-free Bynum), signed a bench guy for good money, AND have found someone with ‘upside’ in the draft to be able to match those moves a bit.

    Speaking of, another key stat for the team will be the minutes played by Caracter and Ebanks. If their usage is not due to injuries, their minutes will probably mean domination ;)

  9. Sasha +/- 2 eyebrow-grooming rituals per game. Because free throws matter.

  10. The biggest problem with Bynum being out is that there will be a ripple effect with other players having to play heavier minutes to compensate.

  11. it’s good to have goals. it’s also nice to win. i like numbers, and always check for stats, but i’d rather win.

    of course, i can only win vicariously, where the Lakers are concerned, before anyone takes issue with my vernacular, but i’d still rather win.

    generally some really great goals in those numbers, i like them.

  12. sorry, commas are an obsession right now.

  13. Looks like Theo’s gonna be earning his paycheck for at least one month.