Guess Who….

Zephid —  November 8, 2010

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With the Lakers starting out 7-0, I decided to take a look at some statistics just to see what was interesting. For a little fun, let’s play a game of Guess Who…

…is leading the Lakers in PER and FGA?

Answer: Pau Gasol

We all know that Kobe was not 100% at the start of this season, so fans and experts alike were calling for more Pau. While this has been the case for some time, it hasn’t seemed to really happen until now. Pau has a team-leading PER of 28.8, ranking him 3rd in the league behind Dwight Howard (31.9) and Chris Paul (30.4). Kobe has been a none-too-shabby 25.5, but Pau’s current PER is higher than any year Kobe has played, his highest being 28.0 in 2005-2006, or as we know it around here, that year Kobe dropped 81 on the Raptors.

With Pau’s massive uptick in offensive efficiency, it’s amazing to find that he is also the team-leader is FGA per game. With 17.9 FGA per game, Pau is averaging almost 5 more shots a game compared to last year’s 13.0. He is also averaging career highs in assists (5.0) and points (24.1) per game, while having his highest usage rate (24.8) of any year that he’s been a Laker.

How has Pau been so effective? Other than the career high in assists, Pau has drastically improved his inside and mid-range games. Via HoopData, we see that Pau is taking twice as many shots at <10 ft (7.4) compared to last year (3.7), while making 51.9% of them, which is his best mark over the past 5 years. From 10-15 ft, Pau is shooting 54.2% while taking 3.4 shots (both his best marks over the past 5 years).

So while we can expect most of these numbers to decline a bit as the season wears on, it’s a good sign that the Lakers are finally using Pau to the fullest.

…is leading the Lakers in FG%, 3P%, and rebounds per game?

Answer: Lamar Odom

It’s been no secret that Lamar has taken his World Championship success and translated it into an outstanding start to the season. Lamar’s 11.1 RPG is the best of his career, while his 15.9 PPG is tied for 3rd best. Of course, a lot of Lamar’s increased production comes from his increased minutes due to Andrew Bynum being hurt, but Lamar has also been extraordinarily efficient from the field and from three.

Lamar’s 62.7% FG% ranks him 5th among all players projected to make at least 300 shots this year, and it’s been because he has stopped taking mid-range shots. Via HoopData (again), Lamar has taken zero shots from 10-15 feet, while taking 2.7 shots per game from <10 ft, more than doubling his number last season from that distance. Also, Lamar’s work playing center for Team USA seems to have paid off on his interior play, because he is shooting 68.8% at the rim, compared to 58.5% last year and 63.2% from <10 ft, compared to 47.7% last year.

Perhaps most surprising is Lamar’s absolutely confounding 69.2% from three. Not only is that leading the team (and obviously a career best for Lamar), but only 66.7% of his threes have been assisted, compared to 82.8% being assisted when he shot 31.9% from three last year. Clearly the sample size is small, but Lamar seems to have found a rhythm to his shot this year, so hopefully we won’t see a drastic return to his previous form.

…is shooting 50% or better from three?

Answer: Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown, Steve Blake

The last reason (in my opinion) for the Lakers success this early in the year has been their torrential shooting from three-point land. While Pau and Kobe have been crushing opponents with their post games, it has been Odom and Fisher who have been really spacing the floor well and giving them the room to operate (Artest also hasn’t been bad, shooting 39.3%, but just not as crazy good as the rest of the team). Then, the reserves have been coming in and picking up right where the starters left off. We all knew coming into the season that Blake was a good spot up shooter, but Shannon has been a revelation this year. The official Hot Spots stats aren’t up yet for this season, but Shannon has been shooting well from all over the court, most notably on the wings. Maybe Kobe gave Shannon the same regimen he gave to Ariza a couple years ago; His shot has looked so smooth that even Phil Jackson has been impressed. Shannon has become everything that Sasha was a couple years ago, except with less hair and more manly (even though he still has a girl’s name). Frankly, it’s great when you see a young player develop, work hard on his game, and have it show on the court.

The Lakers have been playing exceedingly well to start the season. While a number of defensive mishaps have caused mild concern among the fans, these kinks tend to work themselves out, whether it be from the team just having more practices and games together, or from Andrew Bynum’s eventual (hopeful) return. Defense really is the side of the ball where familiarity matters most, since players have to react to the offensive team. As the Lakers play more games, they should get better and become more cohesive. A Laker fan today has few legitimate complaints; we can only hope that the team continues to improve (as frightening as that could be) and stay healthy for when the real season starts.

-Zephid

Zephid

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21 responses to Guess Who….

  1. yes, that was fun. but (carried over from previous post)..

    even though the Ls are admittedly off to a very good start, they have played none of the other top eight(8) teams, by record/DIFF.

    i.e., NO, Atl, Bos, Orl, SA, Mia, Den

    (perforce, this is based on the same small sample size.)

  2. completely off-topic but doesn’t photo sum up the old Lakers (and Sasha!): http://nbahoot.tumblr.com/post/1087404454

    thank god it’s different now, on and off the court

  3. Best stat of the season so far, given the big-picture from which all Lakers fans should view the regular season: 43 percent.

    That’s the percentage of games in which Kobe Bryant has been able to sit out the fourth quarter in order to save wear and tear on his body.

    So long as he’s not sitting out minutes because the Lakers are on the wrong end of a blowout, we should all hope to see plenty more nights when Kobe and L.A.’s other starters are iced down and enjoying the Shannon Brown-Theo Ratliffe Show as this season wears on.

  4. Hopefully, when Kobe is back at 100% he will be willing to let this continue. Because of defenses being geared towards him, and the quality of his teammates, one or more of them usually has a better match-up than he has.

  5. from the LA Daily News:

    Rookies update

    Jackson said rookies Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks will stick with the Lakers for as long as Andrew Bynum is sidelined after undergoing right knee surgery. But when Bynum returns, they might be sent to their D-League affiliate in Bakersfield.

    “We’re going to move them around a lot,” Jackson said.

  6. Was last night’s game the first time Sasha was on the court this season? Sorry, I’ve been buried at work and have only caught glimpses of games and it seems to me that he’s been MIA a lot.

  7. well, I know of at least one game where he was listed for :01 in the stats. : D

  8. btw, this post was written in celebration of my epic whomping on Darius this week in our fantasy league. All I can say is: thank god for Sebastian Telfair and the 1 three he made against Houston to win me the 3PM category.

  9. Here’s a random thought:

    Having recently watched the “Once Brothers” 30 For 30 film made me think of the parallels between Drazen Petrovic/Vlade Divac and Pau Gasol/Rudy Fernandez, without the whole civil war thing.

    One guy plays for Portland, comes in as a budding superstar from his home country, yet plays limited minutes and is extremely unhappy.

    The other guy is the big man on the same national team, plays for the Lakers, and enjoys great success in the States.

    I’m praying now that they trade Fernandez to New Jersey and he has a break-out year.

  10. “I’m praying now that they trade Fernandez to New Jersey and he has a break-out year.”

    Hopefully without the same ending.

  11. “The Lakers are the third most improved team statistically from last season, which is kind of scary. Even scarier is that they have the No. 1 offense in the league with Kobe Bryant(notes) shooting worse than he did last season and Ron Artest(notes) shooting just 39 percent.”

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news?slug=nba_com-week2-20101108

  12. The Dude Abides,
    No sh**!

    That was a real loss, in both personal and basketball terms.

  13. Zephid: Actually, that comparison ain’t too shabby – especially since Spain’s also been plagued by a civil war (although way back), and since Pau is catalan (many of which don’t consider themselves Spanish).

    And yes, Rudy would most definitely kill if he was given a bigger role on another team. Everyone who saw the Olympic final between Spain and the US must know this. (Rudy was torturing the US, till Mr Bryant got him fouled out.)

  14. It’s almost as if our team is trying to peak around Christmas and send a pretty big message.

    But it’s kind of surreal how our team is playing right now. It would be truly interesting how things play out after Bynum is back and we get some protection in the paint.

    Still, this year isn’t going to be easier with CP3 playing all out and Dwight improving, although I’m kinda happy to see Dwight improve and make things a big more interesting in the east.

  15. Nice post. It’s great to see the team doing so well and to see other individual players step up in the absence of Bynum and a 100% Kobe Bryant. Obviously, the Lakers have had a pretty soft schedule so far so it will be interesting to see how these players continue to play against hostile road crowds (Utah, OKC, Denver) and stiffer competition (Boston, Miami, Orlando). I would imagine that those are the kinds of games when our leaders (Kobe and Pau) are going to have to be more assertive. But I applaud this Laker team for crushing the teams they’ve played so far and integrating all players in the success they’ve had.

  16. Nice post, Zephid. It’s great to see the team playing with such balance… regardless of titles, it’s been a while since we’ve had a bench like this.

  17. Go Mavericks!

  18. Ergh. Did somebody bring coffee?

  19. Lamar Odom has had an absolutely outstanding season, it is great to see.