Andrew Bynum’s Offense: A Welcomed Sight

Darius Soriano —  December 30, 2010
AP Photo/Sean Gardner

AP Photo/Sean Gardner

When anticipating Andrew Bynum’s return I often focused on the impact he would have defensively.  While Bynum was out of the lineup, the Lakers missed his phenomenal size and length and his ability to block and contest shots both in the paint and when closing out on mid range shooting big men.  Since his return, Bynum’s impact on that side of the ball has been about as good as we could have hoped as he’s stepped right into the game as a paint protector and shot blocker/alterer that the Lakers have sorely lacked with only Gasol and Odom as the backline defenders.

However, last night against the Hornets, Bynum’s contributions to the win weren’t limited to his defense and rebounding.  Where he really helped the Lakers was on the offensive side of the  ball.  By establishing deep post position and displaying his great touch (and power) around the hoop, Bynum scored 18 points by making 8 of his 12 field goals.  Through the power of Synergy, I went back and reviewed all 12 of his shot attempts and have made notes on each one.  Below is what I saw:

Shot #1: Kobe brings the ball up the left sideline and passes to Gasol on the wing and proceeds to cut to the sideline as Bynum sets up in the hub to form the sideline Triangle.  Rather than pass to Kobe in the short corner or Bynum in the hub, Pau reverses the ball to Fisher at the top of the key.  With Artest at the elbow, Fisher dribbles right to use Ron as a screener and then passes to Ron who popped to the top of the key to maintain spacing.  Right when Ron makes his catch, Bynum (who was still on the left block) muscles his way into the middle of the paint and Ron hits him with a direct post entry 5 feet in front of the hoop.  Bynum turns over his right shoulder and shoots a simple jumpshot that hits the heel of the rim but drops in because of the soft touch he had on the shot.

Shot #2:  As Kobe brings the ball up the left sideline, Bynum trails the play but runs up the right wing ultimately setting up on the weak side along the right lane line at the lower block.  Kobe, rather than passing to the sideline as is the norm, reverses the ball to Fisher who is the top guard in the two man front of the Triangle.  Right when Fisher receives the pass, Bynum again uses his superior size and strength to duck into the paint right in front of the rim and gets a direct line post entry from Fish.  This time turning over his left shoulder, Bynum shoots a jump hook from 4 feet out that hits the heel and bounces out long.  A great look that just didn’t fall.

Shot #3:  The Lakers are in semi-transition and Kobe is jogging the ball up court.  Bynum is running to Kobe’s left and sets up at the top of the key to set a screen for Kobe to drive to that side.  Instead, Kobe goes away from the screen, jumpstops at the FT line, and then steps through to his left to shoot a jumper.  While this is going on, Bynum rolled to the hoop, bringing Okafor with him down the lane.  When Kobe elevates, Okafor leaves Bynum to contest the shot and Kobe executes a nice drop pass to Drew who then elevates at the charge circle and throws down a dunk.  Semi-transition plays like this have been a staple of how Bynum has gotten his baskets over the years as his size and ability to dive, make the catch, and finish blend naturally with the gifted passers the Lakers possess.

Shot #4: The Lakers are again in semi-transition and Kobe has the ball coming up the middle of the  floor with Artest on the left wing and Bynum trailing slightly on the right side.  Kobe quickly looks to attack by driving hard and spinning into a back down move at the FT line.  As he elevates to shoot his jumper, Bynum inches closer to the right lane line for rebounding position, but Kobe instead passes to Artest in the left corner because his man dug down to contest Kobe’s shot.  After receiving the pass, Ron drives hard baseline and forces Okafor to leave Drew to help.  Artest flips up a lob that Bynum snares easily and after coming down quickly elevates again for a simple lay in.  This was a relatively easy play but my one take away was how big a target Bynum is when making this type of pass.  Ron literally just had to throw the ball any where above Okafor’s hands and Andrew would have made the catch and finish.

Shot #5 & #6: Lakers run their classic sideline Triangle initiation with Fisher bringing the ball up the right side.  He passes to Artest at the right wing and then proceeds to cut to the strong side corner.  Bynum fills the post on that side to form the Triangle.  Bynum works his way up the lane line to make himself available for a pass from Ron, but the defender stays on his top shoulder to deny entry.  Ron then passes to Fisher in the corner who then makes  a quick pass into Bynum who has Mbenga sealed due to the fact that DJ is trying to recover from playing on the top side when Ron just had the ball. Bynum makes the catch and quickly shoots a righty jump hook that misses to the left.  However, Bynum immediately recognizes that his shot is off, quickly moves to the ball to recover the offensive rebound, and then shoots a quick fading shot from a few feet away right in front of the basket.  The Hornets announcer says “He’s just too big.”

Shot #7:  Kobe again brings the ball up on the left side and Bynum is running ahead down the middle of the court.  ‘Drew decides to stop and set up shop at the elbow looking to set up the hand off sequence of the Triangle.  Recognizing that his defender is playing him top side, Bynum spins away looking for the lob but Kobe doesn’t hit him right away.  Instead Kobe looks to drive, but notices that Bynum’s man never rolled to the hoop to recover but rather stayed near the elbow to help on penetration.  Kobe then passes to a wide open Drew for an easy dunk.  It really doesn’t get much easier than that.  (On a side note and in full disclosure, this was one of the first possessions of the 3rd quarter and David West was guarding ‘Drew.  West was testing his sore ankle and his lack of recovery could have easily been because he couldn’t move as well on his bum wheel.)

Shot #8: Kobe brings the ball up the middle of the floor with Fisher to his left and Bynum alone the baseline at the left block.  Kobe calls for Pau (who is at the right elbow) to set a screen for him to go to his right hand.  Kobe uses the screen, drives hard to his right hand, elevates and passes to Fisher who is still cross court on the left wing.  After making the catch, Fisher immediately touch passes to Bynum who had his defender on his back due to the fact that Kobe was attacking on the opposite side of the floor just a second before.  Bynum makes the catch, turns over his right shoulder to the baseline, and sinks a left handed jump hook.  “Wow he can even use the left hand…” says the Hornets announcer, who at this point sounds a bit discouraged by the combination of size and skill that ‘Drew is flashing.

Shot #9:  The Lakers run a classic Triangle set.  Fisher brings the ball up the left side, bypasses Shannon who’s in the two guard front to hit Artest who’s on the right wing and then proceeds to cut to the ball side corner.  Because the ball is essentially skipped from strong to weak side, the post is empty and creates what’s called “Center opposite” as the post needs to be filled by one of the players that was on the original strong side.  Pau fills the post to create the Triangle with Ron and Fisher.  Ron passes to the corner to Fish and then cuts top side through the lane.  Gasol then steps out to set a screen for Fish who uses it to go to the middle.  Off the screen Fisher hits Shannon Brown who is still at the top of the key in his original position in the two guard front.  Right when Shannon make his catch, Bynum (who is still on the left low block from the original set up as Pau filled the post) posts up.  With Ron finishing his cut on the left sideline and Brown bringing the ball over to that side, the Lakers have now formed the Triangle again after the ball has reversed.  Brown hits Bynum in the post and Drew turns over his right shoulder to attempt a baby lefty hook off the glass.  The shot misses long, but to this point this was one of the more drawn out sets that the Lakers ran and it was executed wonderfully.  By utilizing both sides of the floor and using both Pau and Bynum as post threats in the possession, the Lakers showed how easily they can involve their bigs without ever having to force the action in either one’s direction.

Shot #10: Lakers again run a Center opposite action this time with Odom (who had subbed in for Pau) filling the post.  As Odom flashes to the strong side he receives the pass and proceeds to make his move to score.  However, Bynum’s man (who was on the opposite block guarding Drew) came over to help and it’s created a passing angle for LO to drop the ball off to Bynum.  He does just that and after finally gathering the ball in traffic, Bynum makes a little righty hook form inside 4 feet.  There’s few things I love more than big to big passing for easy buckets.

Shot #11: Steve Blake brings the ball up the left side of the court ahead of the rest of the team.  As he’s known to do, he slows up and lets the rest of his guys get set.  Rather than a wing coming to fill the ball side corner, everyone stays to the right side as Bynum runs down the left lane line to set up at the mid post.  Blake hits ‘Drew with a pass and cuts through to clear the side and create an isolation for Bynum against former teammate DJ Mbenga.  After taking a couple of dribbles and not gaining any ground, Bynum passes out to the perimeter and reposts to try and get better position.  The pass goes back inside for ‘Drew to go at DJ again.  This time after taking a couple of dribbles, Bynum dips his left shoulder like a pass rusher turning the corner, takes two big steps, and tries to ram the ball on a contesting Mbenga’s head.  DJ bothers the dunk attempt enough that it hits back iron and bounces away.  This may have been a miss, but man was it nice to see ‘Drew attack the hoop like that.

Shot #12: After some passing around the perimeter, the Lakers finally get set up in the Triangle on the right side with Kobe in the corner, Blake on the wing, and Bynum in the hub.  After Kobe passes to Blake and clears the side (creating a two man side with Blake and Bynum), Blake calls Drew over to set a high screen.  Bynum sets the pick to for Blake to drive left and then rolls to the short wing on the right.  Blake drives to his left, passes to Shannon who’s the other top side guard in the two man front, who then whips a quick pass into Gasol who ducked into the mid post on that side of the floor.  Gasol turns and faces, drives to his right hand and then spots ‘Drew who is still on the short right wing after his P&R action with Blake.  Gasol delivers a pass to Bynum who then sinks a 12 foot jumper on the angle.  Again, great offense from the Lakers as the ball switched sides and then great big to big teamwork as Pau played set up man for Bynum’s easy face up jumpshot.

After reviewing the tape, it’s obvious that New Orleans didn’t have the size to combat ‘Drew.  Several of his baskets came on simple duck ins where his defender didn’t have the strength or length to bother entry passes.  However, the Lakers also did a lot of good things on offense to get Bynum the ball in position to score and he capitalized on his chances by making two-thirds of his attempts.  Obviously Bynum isn’t going to be that efficient every night, but his ability to score the ball and be a threat on offense is going to help the Lakers tremendously.  Maybe not as much as his defensive presence in the paint, but as a counter to the finesse games of Pau and Lamar, Bynum’s offense is going to be a welcomed sight in the Lakers’ triple post sets.

Darius Soriano

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22 responses to Andrew Bynum’s Offense: A Welcomed Sight

  1. Great read. I think a lot of people forgot that when 100% (something Bynum still isn’t even close to) Drew is by far the Lakers best option in the low post.

    Remember those defensive and rebounding problems the Lakers have had with a thin frontcourt of Gasol and Odom? With Bynum starting his first game things looked different. The Lakers avoided their second four-game losing streak in a month by towering over the Hornets, crushing a good rebounding team on the boards, 44-24, and in the paint, 46-30. The seven rebounds the Lakers allowed in the first half tied a franchise record for an opponent low in a half (Dallas in 1986). The Lakers held the Hornets to 41.8% shooting.

    Oh… and remember that Trevor Ariza guy? Complain about Artest shooting 34 % from three if you would like but…. Trevor entered the game averaging 10.5 points per game. He’s making 36.8% of his shots and 25.4% of his three-point attempts. Ouch!

  2. Great post, Darius.

    On a somewhat related note, when injured out-for-the-season Yao receives the most votes for starting center in this year’s All-Star game, does 2nd place Drew take his spot on the starting lineup?

    Or does Yao get voted in, then replaced with a player of David Stern’s choice? And then the Western Conference coach picks a starter from the team that is provided?

  3. Easy baskets – great for the team, bad for the opponent’s morale when there are a lot of them.

    And when Bynum provides this level of offense, it also opens things up for everybody else. The other four defenders will be shading slightly towards him, or checking his position periodically, which gives the other Lakers that extra split second before the defender gets back to them.

  4. Darius, thanks a lot for the insight into Kobe’s defensive numbers. It seemed so odd to me that he just leaned into the pick several times without fighting over or quickly sliding under and around. Especially in contrast to Fisher, who has to be one of the worst guys to set a pick on – he bulls through opposing bigs pretty well (while still getting burned on a lot of pick-and-rolls).

    Those numbers paint a very different picture though, so I’ll try to see whether my observations were that far off.

    As for Bynum, there were a few additional possessions where he was about to seal quite well, just to have the ball swing around the perimeter and putting his defender back in front of him. This is a result of an offense that stresses ball movement over isolations, so quite a percentage of him fighting for position will be for naught. But he also reacted well to that, not getting frustrated.

    Andrew’s eyeing a return to his pre-surgery athleticism as well, let’s hope he can get somewhere close:

    http://blog.lakers.com/lakers/2010/12/29/andrew-bynum-post-new-orleans-quotes/

  5. Another great article Darius, I do not think I have ever seen a shot-by-shot breakdown quite like this. The details about what was happening, use of the triangle at the time and even the Hornet’s announcers comments here are laid out. I mean, this must have taken time to write. I hope this (Drew starting) is what the Lakers needed to get back on track, and it looks good so far.

  6. Great breakdown Darius.

    Got to love AB’s post game. The guy is just a beast. Looking back to the miami game, having Andrew at full strength would have really helped us. It would have given pau more opportunities to match up against bosh, who he would have abused. Instead he was defended by big Z, and the results were predictably underwhelming. Having Andrew in the starting lineup gives us at least one mismatch (pau vs. almost any other starting pf) and often two (only a handful of centers can match up with bynum).

  7. I also hope the effort by the TEAM is what it needs to put itself in the W column in the future. But I also know that NO is not an elite team in the league(may face in the western playoffs) so its only so much you can take from a beat down of an inferior opponent. Upcoming schedule doesnt have too many tough matchups:

    Memphis- Sunday
    Knicks- Jan. 9
    OKC- Jan. 17

    Plenty of road kill in between for LA to get their swagger back and Bynum in shape as the season rolls along. If the team continues playing inside/out, it makes them such a dynamic team with LO as the change of pace coming off the bench.

    You can call it Kobe bashing or whatever, but since game 7 of the Finals up until now he has gotten a F when it comes to controlling his trigger finger against elite teams. Love his selfishness, made him the dynamic player he is today with 5 rings, but his stubbornness is threatning the growth of the team.

  8. I missed a majority of last night’s game due to advertisements that my local LA station had to play.
    I find your description of AB’s shots interesting, but is there any video link that can supplement your narrative?

  9. #8. Unfortunately I’m unable to embed or link to the video that I view through Synergy. But I can say that if you’re unfamiliar with their service I was able to view each play that led to Bynum’s shot attempts and that’s how I was able to describe the action that led to each FGA.

  10. I’m glad to see Drew playing so welll. Now people will see that although Bynum has suffered through injuries he still manages to improve because he continues to work on his game during his rehabilitation.

  11. Beautiful breakdown. The kid is back and (IMO) so is the season.

  12. To claim that Kobe has an F controlling his trigger finger for the entire season is really a joke. Of course there have been some games where I would agree with you, but the entire season? I don’t think so.

    Kobe is still the main focal point of this team. WIthout Kobe, this team would probably be first round fodder, not just this year but for the last 3 years. He is the playmaker on the court, and definitely the heart and soul.

  13. Great analysis on Bynum. Time for the team to build chemistry at putting a beat down on the league. With all the old pieces back in place, the new ones can cement their spots.

    As for Kobe, gotta take the bad with the good. There has been much more good. The team should know by now that Kobe has no problem taking 30 shots, even if he is not hitting. Especially if he is not seeing effort from his teammates.

  14. kaveh,
    The offense needs to focus on where the most favorable matchups will be. Considering the capabilities of Bynum, Gasol, and Odom relative to who will guard them,and the number of good SGs and SFs on the other teams, and Kobe’s physical limitations (which appear to be permanent), Kobe will usually not have the most favorable matchup. So no, he should not be the focal point.

  15. exhelodrvr,
    I’m not sure you give enough credit to team dynamics and system play.

    Kobe is the focal point of our team precisely because he has the mindset and skillset that he does.

    You have to be an alpha dog to make it in the NBA (or the movies, for that matter). If you aren’t you will get crushed by those that are. In that environment, you have to be a junkyard dog to be able to lead an NBA pack of alpha dogs.

    I personally think that was the early problem with Miami. They had to find out who the true alpha junkyard dog is. My guess is that it is Dwayne Wade, but Lebron is up there. Lebron will get the stats, but Dwayne will rule the roost.

    Anyway, the Lakers have an undisputed junkyard dog. Everyone else fits in. Thankfully our alpha knows the game better than most any other player in the league – he doesn’t always play like it, but he knows it.

    So stop trying to neuter our junkyard dog!

  16. Can someone answer the questions regarding Bynum and the All Star game?

    Would he start because of Yao being out?

  17. Craig W,
    Inside – out. It’s very simple. Basketball is all about matchups. And if the Lakers are going to win a title, Kobe needs to accept the fact that there are usually better matchups than his. You seem to be confusing “leading a team” with being the “offensive focal point.” Those do not have to be the same player.

    So stop trying to neutralize our best weapons!

  18. #16. I’m going to ask around to get clarification on what exactly happens if Yao gets the most votes but isn’t able to play. In the past, I could have sworn that either the coaches or the league get to choose a replacement player for the roster and then the coach gets to decide who starts. But, I don’t want to state that as fact without getting confirmation from some people that would know for sure.

  19. #14

    Um, yes he should be the focal point regardless of matchups. You take advantage of matchups, that still doesn’t mean your focus changes. There is more to basketball than the black and white paradigm you put north.

  20. kaveh,
    The offense should be focused on getting the ball inside. It’s very simple. If defenses start adjusting to that, then it will end up resulting in easier shots for Kobe. It’s a lose-lose proposition for the opponents. Defenses actually WANT Kobe to be the focal point, and to try and do a lot on his own. Because when he does that, it makes their job much easier.

  21. Good post. Solid play-by-play read, showing good grasp of the triangle offense. Reading it, I can see the play unfolding, just as if I was watching it on youtube.