Lakers and the Numbers Game, Part II

Jeff Skibiski —  September 30, 2010

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Part deuce of our look at key stats for the upcoming season focuses on the bench corps. In case you missed it, check out our post on the starters too.

Lamar Odom: O/U 30 games as a starter
Fisher and Bryant are used to receiving props for their durability, but Odom proved that he belongs in the Lakers iron man conversation too after playing in all 82 games in 2009-2010. As the starting center on Team U.S.A. this summer, Lamar entered training camp this week with only a few weeks of rest. His load figures to be even heavier to start the season now that Bynum is out for at least the first few weeks, leaving Odom as the go-to starter. The Lakers have been able to weather his inconsistency as a sixth man the past two seasons, but will especially need Lamar to elevate his game while Andrew heals. Going off of Bynum’s own timeline, Odom is a virtual lock to start the first 15-20 games of the season. The Lakers can only hope it stays around that number and far away from the 38 games he started last season.

Sasha Vujacic: O/U 37% three-point shooting percentage
Sasha fell out of favor with Lakers coaches and unfortunately, back into the “practice player” label too as he only connected on 31% of his three-pointers during the regular season–down from his career average of 37%. Here’s hoping his much-improved performance in the final two rounds of the playoffs is more indicative of his play this season.

Luke Walton: O/U 70 games played
Luke was largely a forgotten man in last season’s championship run after appearing in only 29 games due to a pinched nerve in his back. Heading into 2009-2010, Walton’s troublesome back remains a bit of a ticking time bomb for the Lakers. Though they’ve proved that they can win without him, Luke’s expert knowledge of the offense is an undervalued commodity on a second unit that will be lacking triangle wherewithal. If his back holds up, it’d sure be nice to see him play close to a full season.

Matt Barnes: O/U 38% three-point shooting
The Lakers expect stellar defensive tenacity and intagibles out of Barnes, but they also need him to spread the floor from the three spot, similar to the player he’ll likely be subbing for the most—Artest. Matt shot 32% from beyond the arc during the regular season in 2009-2010, but improved to almost 38% during the playoffs—a trend that L.A. is hoping continues this season. Barnes proved himself a capable, if unspectacular offensive player during recent playoff runs with the Warriors and Magic, but finding consistency in his outside shooting will go a long way toward shoring up L.A.’s second unit this season.

Steve Blake: O/U 3.0 assist-to-turnover ratio
Blake has been quietly dropping bombs from three point land for years now, hitting 40% of his treys last season (23rd in the league). However, equally important to the Lakers’ success this season will be his ability to lead the offense in a way that his predecessor Jordan Farmar never quite mastered. Blake ranked 13th in the league last season with a 2.97 assist-to-turnover ratio and could do a lot worse than replicating that number this season. Early reports out of training camp from Coach Jackson and Kobe indicate that Steve is already taking control of the team, which bodes well for next season.

Shannon Brown: O/U 2.5 assists
After a sub par regular season and playoff run for Shannon, his second full season with the Lakers is all about the other tricks in his bag. For starters, he can improve his nearly 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio—an ugly stat that is unfortunately mostly consistent with his inconsistent decision-making. When Brown first joined the forum blue and gold, there was preliminary talk about his ability to potentially supplant Fisher as the team’s starting point guard, thanks to his ball-handling and the strong potential he showed as a man-to-man defender. He obviously isn’t the answer the team is looking at the one spot anymore, but he remains a vital spark plug in the 20 minutes or so he plays off of the bench.

Theo Ratliff: O/U 1.5 blocks
Ratliff was a shot-blocking fiend during his prime and will be asked to recapture some of that magic as the Lakers’ third-string big man. With Andrew missing the first month of the season, Theo moves one rung up the ladder. At this stage of his career, Ratliff is a bit of a one trick pony, but his specialty—blocking shots—is something that L.A. despertaely needs from its second unit.

Derrick Caracter: O/U 275 lbs
So far, so good on the Derrick Caracter weight watch as the the versatile forward entered training camp in compliance with the team-mandated weight clause. The Lakers will certainly keep a close watch on his conditioning throughout the season, and if he sustains his motivation, he could get some quality burn even in Coach Jackson’s notoriously anti-rookie regime. The odds of this happening, of course, also depend on the collective health of Walton and Bynum.

Devin Ebanks: O/U 1.5 steals per 40 minutes
It’s difficult to pinpoint a stat for a player who isn’t expected to see much time on the floor this season, but I, along with the Lakers, view Ebanks as a potentially very strong defender in the same vein as Trevor Ariza. For that reason, it would be great to see him channel the former Lakers forward as a go-to defender on the wing, agile enough to guard some of the league’s larger point guards, but still sturdy enough to do battle with the NBA’s elite small forwards.

Jeff Skibiski

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11 responses to Lakers and the Numbers Game, Part II

  1. Is this in any particular order? with odom first and the rookies last it seems you tried to put it in the order of rotation but steve blake is near the end, he should be second right after odom.

  2. Luke and Barnes minor hammy strains in today’s practice. Lots of dings already this early in the season. Hopefully this isn’t a sign of things to come.

    Seems like the team is due for a run of good health after all the injuries the last few years.

  3. No particular order, Jordan. With Phil and his often crazy rotations, I’m not sure there is such a thing outside of the fact that Odom is the go-to sixth man on a healthy Lakers team.

  4. OT

    we’ve got 8 spots left for an espn roto league.

    Link: http://games.espn.go.com/fba/tools/join?leagueId=51625
    Password: queensbridge

  5. Excellent article Jeff. Keep ‘em coming.

  6. Fresh meat on the bench this year, hopefully they will help LA 3peat. A mixture of old and young players should make for a nice solid foundation for the second team to thrive. Maybe a little uptempo squad with LO at the 5 and Caracter at 4, when Bynum gets healthy, would be a nice change of pace from the starting five. It would be reminiscent of that 07/08 bench squad that pushed the ball at every opportunity, and I had a lot easier time relaxing during the game not having to worry about blowing double digit leads.

  7. The thing that’s nice about Blake is he doesn’t need any set plays or particular spots to shoot from. He’s a pass-first guard and there should be a lot of situations where he’s without the ball and relatively open somewhere.

  8. It’s too bad the Lakers and Heat will be meeting only twice this regular season. One of those is Christmas, a traditionally painful game to watch.

    I’d love to see how the Lakers operate against the Heat more than a couple times. Let’s hope they meet in the Finals. Who knows, by then maybe LBJ will finally stop trying to talk his way out of his mess and actually play some.

  9. I would actually go with FG% for Shannon Brown, mostly because it is indicative of his decision making. If he gets better than the 43%-33% from last year, it will most likely be a result of better decisions.

    Sasha continues to be an enigma. I haven’t seen any implication that his poor shooting has been the result of injury (such as with Kobe and Artest), so the first thought would be that it’s mental, but if it’s mental, then how was he able to step up and drain those free throws in game seven?

  10. I don’t care to even ponder Sasha’s role this season because I know it’s at the end of the bench. I will be happy as a clam if Steve Blake can step in and be the solid backup pg that Farmar wasn’t and the knockdown three point shooter that Sasha isn’t.

  11. It seems that, if Blake and Artest can nail their 3s, that the Lakers will be extremely difficult to guard. They will have Bynun & Gasol standing tall, with tremendous offensive flexibilty. Of course, Kobe is a major threat from anywhere at any time.

    With two wing players that can hit 3s, can any defense afford to double any one of these players? And if they can’t double, how do they stop Bynum, Gasol, or Kobe?

    I would love to see a discussion of this at some length.