Looking At Lineups: Which Lakers Bigs Should Be Playing

Darius Soriano —  April 25, 2011

It’s a common held belief that the Lakers biggest strength is that they have three top level big men that they can deploy in any combination that opponents struggle to match up with. I’ve long been a member of that school of thought and still hold the belief that if the Lakers are to claim their third championship in as many years it’s their big men that will do a lot of the heavy lifting. That said, this is also a problem of sorts for the Lakers. You see, only two of these three bigs can play at any given time and that means that one of the Lakers best players will always be on the bench watching instead of helping the team win. Granted this is a great problem and one that every team in the league would love to have, but it’s a problem nonetheless. In any given game the coaches have to make hard choices as to who plays and who sits; choices that can affect the outcome in any given game.

Looking at the Lakers/Hornets series, we’re now at the point where questioning those choices is fair game.

First, let me say that there isn’t a coach I respect more than Phil Jackson. He’s a championship coach 11 times over and his ability to coax the best out of the great players he’s had at his disposal is second to none. The old phrase “he’s forgotten more basketball than I’ll ever know” certainly applies here and I’d be foolish to suggest that I have some sort of magic elixir that he’s not thought of. That said, the Lakers are tied 2-2 in a series in which they have more talent – especially in the front court – and some of that is related to the fact the Lakers big men have under-performed. With that being the case, it’s certainly fair to ask whether or not the Lakers are playing the right combination of big men and if there should be a shift in who plays, how much they play, and when they play.

Using NBA.com’s Stat’s Cube, there are some interesting numbers that need to be explored further. Consider the following defensive statistics:

  • When Andrew Bynum is on the court, the Hornets post an offensive efficiency of 97.86. When he is off the court, that number jumps to 116.24. That’s a net difference of 18.38 less points scored per 100 possessions when Bynum is on the court vs. when he sits.
  • For Gasol, those same numbers are 104.87 (on) and 101.37 (off). Odom’s numbers are 108.06 (on) and 98.76 (off).

What these numbers tell us is that Andrew Bynum is the Lakers best defensive big and it isn’t even close. His numbers are so great that he positively affects the other Laker big men just by sharing the court with them. Now consider the following offensive numbers:

  • When Bynum is on the court, the Lakers post an offensive efficiency of 105.59. When he’s off the court, that number goes up to 110.88.
  • For Gasol those numbers are 108.01 (on) and 105.69 (off). Odom’s numbers are 106.84 (on) and 108.27 (off).

Based off these numbers, it’s also fair to say that the Laker lineups that don’t include Bynum perform better offensively. They score over 5 points more per 100 possessions and both Odom and Gasol have better on court numbers than Bynum does.

Essentially, this is the trade off that the Lakers face every single game. Bynum is a key defensive performer but Gasol and Lamar are part of line ups that score better. Intrinsically, this makes sense. Sure Bynum has been the Lakers’ best post up threat and has been beastly when isolated on the low block. That said, both Odom and Gasol offer more diverse offensive games, showing a greater ability to run the Laker offense and set up teammates within the flow of the Triangle.

All that said, when you look at the statistics and the line ups a bit closer, it’s easier to identify who the weak link in the front court has been so far this series. The answer to that question is….Lamar Odom.

Lamar Odom is the only member of the big man trio to boast a negative efficiency differential when he’s on the court - the Hornets score 1.22 points more per 100 possessions when Odom is playing. Said another way, when Odom is on the court, the Lakers are a worse team so far this series. In converse, Bynum has the best efficiency differential (+7.73) and Gasol is no slouch either (+3.14). Over at Basketball Value, this is spelled out even clearer. The Lakers top two line ups in terms of minutes played are their starting line up (73.4 minutes) and the line up where Odom replaces Bynum (33.23 minutes). The Lakers starting line up has an efficiency differential of +11.52 while the lineup that swaps Bynum for Odom has a differential of -15.19.

It’s this last stat that is most damning as this is the lineup that Phil Jackson uses to close out games. Granted, these are small sample sizes, but the swing in differential is so big it can’t be ignored. Sure, both line ups score about the same (about 110 points/100 possessions) but the difference in defensive effectiveness is off the charts as the unit with Bynum has a defensive efficiency of 98.5 while the line up that swaps ‘Drew for LO has a rating of 124.6.

In the end, the solution here is pretty clear. Lamar Odom – as much as I love him – needs to either play drastically better or needs to be substituted in favor of Andrew Bynum much less. This isn’t to say that Odom shouldn’t play at all, but it does mean that he shouldn’t be paired with Gasol nearly as much and definitely shouldn’t be closing out games next to him. The other side to that coin is that Bynum definitely should be closing against this Hornets team. Sure, the Lakers perform slightly worse on offense with Bynum in the game but the improvement on defense is too large to be pushed to the side. And to be honest, it doesn’t matter if Bynum closes next to Gasol (though that is preferred) or Odom, as long as he closes. This may all change if the Lakers advance and face a different team but against the Hornets, it’s what the numbers (and my eyes) are telling me.

Darius Soriano

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48 responses to Looking At Lineups: Which Lakers Bigs Should Be Playing

  1. Completely agree. And although I know we have tried it, it would be magnificent if we could close out with Kobe-Artest-Odom-Bynum-Gasol, if Kobes foot allows it. Kobe can take Paul, Artest can take Jack, Odom can take Ariza, and Gasol and Bynum go down low. We just need to feed the ball down their throats down low. Why we don’t go down low every single play is beyond me. Having Kobe go one-on-3 in the final minutes doesn’t seem to cut it anymore either.

  2. Great post..

    I do believe the best lineup is with Bynum in it and the starters should be closing out games but I don’t think these numbers should reflect negatively on odom. It isn’t a secret that our offense struggles toward the end of games. It’s not because Kobe isn’t clutch it’s because the ball stops moving and that’s what the triangle offense is all about. Movement. The teams numers are lower when odom is in because our defense isn’t at it’s best and our offense slows down.

    Does the offense slow down because we are trying to save/waste time on the clock?

    That’s the problem with the end of games. Our offense is generated off passing and creating open looks but at the end of games there isn’t time for that. It makes me wonder if thats why we go to isos and pick and rolls?

  3. I completely agree as well…. but it wont happen. And I think the primary reason why PJ wont put in Bynum for Odom in the last 5 minutes is the 3rd section of the game that Bynum is becoming Shaq’esque at – free throws. It feels like every time that guy goes to the line he is bound to miss 1 or both, regardless on when he is in on the game. I don’t know if the stats say the same thing, but with 4 minutes to go in a close game free throws matter even more, because one point can change the number of possesions you are up or down in the game.

    That said, Gasol has been inconsistent at the line lately, and real slow footed in his defensive recovery, but the issue becomes with 5 minutes to go (and you are down), whats more important… to be able to score efficiently, or be able to make stops efficiently. If your down you need to score. As mu ch as stops are important, if the ball doesnt go into the hoop, the other team wins. If you are up, you need the defense (without the fouling). The same logic applies in the reverse.

    Could it be, numbers aside, that the Lakers won’t play Bynum more minutes because they are afraid his body can’t take more minutes? If that is in the back of Phils head, where Bynum on the court is an indefinite injury liability for every minute over the 30th, then it certainly will factor in to how the Lakers play.

    Also at the end of games, NO has been going SUPER small, which all season long is a Laker weakness. They will run out Paul/Jack/Ariza/Landry/Okafor, be undersized at every position, but be more agile in the process. This may factor in to the lineup as I think Phil envisions Lamar doing a pretty good job on Landry, where as Pau is getting just outworked by the guy when he is defending him.

    But still, its not the defense of the Lakers that have been the problem, we scored 88 points against the Hornets last night. While I appreciate the grind it out game, our offense just hasn’t been very smooth so far in the post season. There is to much consciousness of passing when there is an open shot. Too much ball stopping and stutter stepping in the post, and too many fade away two pointers with none of our bigs in rebounding position.
    It used to be that Pau would almost get 1 or 2 tip in’s a game by just being in rebounding position and using his length, but now the bigs are not attacking the offensive glass efficiently (and when missing the rebound going for the swipe as opposed to sprinting back).

  4. Great writeup Darius, you answered many questions using the stats. It just seems at the end of games that Bynum is slow running up and down the court, maybe this is a reason PJ likes the more mobile and agile LO out there, along with Gasol. With all of Bynum’s knee injuries, I am sure it as taken a toll on his running ability, heck, he has a brace on one knee. Maybe he can be ‘saved’ for the closing minutes and fresh, somehow.

  5. @3, Not sure what game you were watching but it seemed to me like Bynum hit the majority of his free throws.

  6. Is there a reason why the Lakers have to play the same guys in the same rotation, game after game, regardless of opponent? Is there a reason why the Lakers can’t close out games with all three bigs playing zone defense against a bad shooting team?

    Instead of having each player guard a man, if each player is guarding a space, you can mitigate the problem of a big guy guarding a small guy off the dribble. A zone defense, anchored by Bynum, Gasol & Odom would virtually eliminate any points in the paint or offensive rebounds. This might not be the way to start games, but why not finish them that way?

  7. I think a limited Kobe (this series) will help the Lakers because I don’t think he’s doing the team any favor switching from faciliator to aggressor based on how he feels coming out of the tunnel (before the game or at halftime)

    Kobe hasn’t really figured out how to switch roles within the flow of the game (like CP3) so I’d much prefer him being limited to the point of him focusing on being a faciliator and getting the bigs involved. When he’s healthy he should be in attack/aggression mode at all times because frankly that’s who he is.

  8. SS&R had a post a couple weeks ago that compiled the season’s crunch-time defensive efficiency, which was defined as five minutes left in the game and a point differential range of -5 to +5. The Lakers had the worst defensive efficiency in the entire NBA in this situation, and it wasn’t even close. The point about Andrew sitting on the bench during crunch time was only implied in the article, which made it even more damning, IMO.

    Our crunch-time offensive efficiency was decent, but it was also Kobe iso-centric. So the fact of the matter is, although PJ wants the Gasol-Odom combo on the court because it facilitates ball movement and spacing on offense and better coverage of screen rolls on defense, it’s not happening on either end of the floor.

    If our crunch-time offense is just going to consist of Kobe isolations, then why not have someone out there who can (1) set more effective screens for Kobe and (2) grab a higher percentage of offensive rebounds?

    Conversely, why not have someone out there on defense who can (1) protect the rim more effectively, and (2) grab more defensive rebounds? IMO, our second half big rotation should go something along the lines of this:

    1st 8 minutes of Q3: Drew + Pau
    Last 4 minutes of Q3: Lamar + Pau
    1st 4 minutes of Q4: Lamar + Drew
    Next 4 minutes Q4: Lamar + Pau
    Last 4 minutes Q4: Drew + Pau

    Obviously, this should be more of a guideline rather than a hard and fast rule. But our crunch-time defense is killing us, so something different needs to be done.

  9. The reason Bynum did not play in the closing minutes, because of Phil. All they have to do is passing the ball to Kobe and let’s Kobe shoot the last ball. Another thing, in Phil’s eyes there are two kind of players:super-star player and role players, Odom is super-star player( left-hand, he can play 5,6 positions on the floor, but at which level ? i wonder ).If you are role players you have no chance with Phil. John Ireland of ESPN 710AM, said that Phil loved Odom. How may times we saw Bynum was open under baskett and players did not pass him the ball in regular season and playoff games ? Imagine Bynum playing with Rondo or Steve Nash.

  10. Is it funny that I’m furious about the loss but not at all worried about the outcome of the series? Could it be that this Laker team has the same attitude? Isn’t that a dangerous proposition given that if Kobe is hobbled up for the next game, we could be looking at a home loss?

  11. Darius,
    This post came right out of the blue. I haven’t even been begging you for it or anything. Id like to see the actual relevant offensive efficiency numbers. Apples to apples so to speak. Bynum spends so much of his time with Lamar, Barnes, Brown and Blake. What are the offensive efficiency numbers with Bynum, Gasol, Artest, Kobe, and Fisher on the floor compared to Gasol, Odom, Artest, Kobe, and Fisher????

  12. The crunchtime lineups, when matched up with New Orleans, just don’t bode well. You have Pau trying to play center against a legit center in Okafor, and Lamar going against Landry, who is exactly the type of PF that gives Lamar heaps of trouble. The result is a little more agility at center, but generally a lack of rebounding and strength.

  13. #11. Aaron,
    You asked “What are the offensive efficiency numbers with Bynum, Gasol, Artest, Kobe, and Fisher on the floor compared to Gasol, Odom, Artest, Kobe, and Fisher????” But I answered that in the post:

    “both line ups score about the same (about 110 points/100 possessions)”.

    When I say that near the end, that’s the Starting Line up vs. the Starters w/ Odom subbed for Bynum. The exact numbers are:

    Starters: 110.0
    Starters w/ LO for Bynum: 109.4

    Essentially, the offense is nearly the same.

    One unit that I did not mention is the Fish/Kobe/Ron/LO/Bynum unit. They’ve only played 12.27 minutes together, but there numbers are:

    Off Eff: 121.74
    Def Eff: 113.04

    So, this is a very good scoring unit, but they still struggle to get stops.

  14. i always find stats like these terribly misleading. Bynum has been focused on defense more than offense since the all start break. I also notice that when bynum is in the post, they don’t always feed him the ball. Brown just goes through the motions – Blake is a lot better and letting him set up. Bynum doesn’t always have great post position either. When I see Gasol’s efficiency numbers, the guy can score, but not always at the crucial time. When he opts for a soft bank shot and gets the ball swatted back to Texas as he did just before the half, or bumbles a pass from kobe at the end of the game, those inefficiencies mean a lot more to me.

  15. Oh whoops. My mistake. I thought you were only comparing Bynum, Gasol, Odom front courts regardless of who the other three players were. I guess I guess I was paying about as much attention to your article as Kobe was to Trevor Ariza in the first half. Was that defense or defensive indifference? And someone tell Kobe not to pass the ball to Gasol so hard. He is delicate.

  16. flip’s point was my reaction to this as well — the numbers are telling, but what’s missing is the number of times the ball actually goes into the post when Bynum’s on the floor.

    This series — hell, season — has been very frustrating because too often the Lakers resort to forced outside shots or rushed entries into the post, rather than working inside out as the base set early in the shot clock. They have to fix that, whether that means feeding Pau or Drew or Kobe or Ron on the box.

    The size advantage is just too much, yet the Lakers seemingly play away from that, taking bad outside shots or lazy entry passes that lead to run outs and dunks the other way. Phil drilled that fact into the before Game 3, but yesterday it flew out the window yet again.

  17. God damn it Derrik Character.

    The one thing I still have supreme confidence in is that unless Chris Paul has a tremendous game the Hornets can’t beat this Lakers team. I know one sure never assume anything when it comes to these Lakers but I’m confident that their coaching staff and players will be able to put together good enough game plans to limit him in two out of three games. Even with a ankle-burgered Kobe Bryant.

  18. There was a rumor earlier today started by Chris Brussard (sp?), that Kobe would be out for the rest of the playoffs due to a severe sprained ankle. I hope to goodness this was just a rumor.

  19. “it would be magnificent if we could close out with Kobe-Artest-Odom-Bynum-Gasol, if Kobes foot allows it.”

    It would be even better if we used that lineup for even more of the game. I have been calling for that for the last three years. Stick Kobe on their PG, Ron on their SG, etc. Against teams like OKC when Ron needs to well and truly shut down their SF, then Lamar can pick up their SG, as he can afford to play a step farther back than most SG, as his height and length of arms means that he can close out better than your more normal SG.

    The offensive end would be even more fun, since it leaves the other team in the position of having to figure out which of their SF, SG, and PG defend Kobe, Ron and Lamar. Also helps Pau avoid contact, as we’d need clear space down low to have Ron or Lamar post up their opposing defender, freeing Pau to play a bit away from the basket and sink the jumper when he feels the need (or when his man leaves him to go help with Lamar or Ron).

    By the way, that’s my one critique of Phil, as the other team has no answer for that lineup.

    Next, for those wishing for less Fish minutes, sub in Lamar in lieu of Blake. Would give Lamar closer to starter’s minutes and he does not seem to be adverse to feeding the post aka Bynum and he has the height and speed to take whoever is on him to the hole on the cut to the basket following the entry pass to Bynum down low (which would be the solution to the Blake nonaggression conundrum).

    Lastly, for Darius and those tired of seeing the free throw line not closed down, well, you can leave that to Ron in this scheme. He’ll cherish and relish the role.

  20. I love to see Bynum Finish the game, however, in this series our problem is not on the defensive end but solely on the offensive end. This problem has been our Achiles Heels even during the regular season.

    On a different note, Memphis is now up by 16 points in the 4th quarter and is poised to take a 3-1 lead over San Antonio.

  21. Darius, Thanks!

    The statistics make my eyes tired, but – watching the games – it does seem Phil is refusing to use his best defensive player in crunch time. That is exactly the time we need someone down low to slow down the drive and kick players.

  22. #20. I thought the point was to win the game regardless of how it happens, right? LA’s defense has been very good – just as you’ve stated. But, with certain player combinations it has not been. That’s the point I’m getting at. Bynum’s been part of very good offensive units but has been the dominant force for the Lakers on D. The fact that he’s not playing more nor at the end of games is something that does need to be looked at more closely. Either that or Odom needs to play better. Either one will do, really.

  23. Very interesting. I would have thought Lamar’s had a more positive impact than Pau so far, but I was wrong.

    In the last game it actually made sense to have Lamar on the floor for the last couple minutes. With Kobe hobbled, we needed LO’s ball-handling badly. But aside from that outlier, I think most everyone agrees that Bynum should be closing games right now if we’re to maximize our talent.

    If the Spurs can’t pull a 2006-Suns, this is a very nasty end. Wow. I thought they’d at least get to the second round.

  24. We Laker fans should boycott LO’s reality show whenever he throws up a stinker like he did last night. Also, Lakers’ FO might want to call their old friend Jerry West and see if a refund can be made to get Marc Gasol in exchange for Pau.

  25. @Darius, I agree with your point but the problem is that when crunch time comes the Laker offense stops and the players are left on depending on their one on one plays and if Andrew would be left out during the closing minutes he would not get the ball because our guards would rather have the ball in their hands rather than posting our bigs. This I think is why Lamar closes out games because he can create his own shots. The problem is he has been Missing In Action in late games of this series.

    I do not know what is happening to the Lakers but it seems that they have not yet flipped the proverbial “switch’. The way they are playing is far from those laker teams the past three seasons. Maybe this Game 4 loss would wake them up and make them play the way that they are supposed to play.

  26. I firmly believe the Lakers can play better without a injured Kobe! Sound stupid? Kobe was playing zero defense against Ariza before tbe injury. Ariza took him to the hole 5 times for layups . You don’t think a good coach will pound Kobe with the bad ankle?

    Don’t expect adjustments from Phil. The fact he left his two best defenders on the bench at the end of the game says Phil has already checked out or just remains too arrogant to change.

  27. I said this last night on Twitter, but I think it bears mentioning again. It’s best to look on the bright side, because things could always be worse; we could be Orlando or San Antonio.

  28. Darius,
    Lamar playig better would help of course. But that doesn’t solve the problem. The main problem with having Lamar and Gasol on the floor together and the reason they struggle so on defense is because they are both PFs. It’s hard to play defense without a Center on the court. Again… The best thing about having an old coach is his stubbornness. The worst thing of course though is his stubbornness. Phil Jackson like most old men has a tough time adjusting to changes in player development.

  29. LO is our second best ball handler, in my opinion. I would not want Fisher or Artest bringing the ball up in a close game. I don’t understand why Phil didn’t at least try out the Bynum lineup during the regular season. Now is obviously not the time go experiment.

    I’m confident the Lakers will win this series, but they sure are making it harder on themselves. I hope Kobe does not try to be a hero tomorrow, because I’m pretty sure he’d like to completely destroy Paul right now for his antics last game. I’m liking CP3 less as I watch this series. Flop much? He falls down more than Ginobli and Varejao combined.

    We just need Caracter to rough Paul up like he did the IHOP cashier.

  30. LO’s late game heroics that I remember the most are the missed box-outs against SA and Denver.

  31. The reason Phil puts LO at the end of games is because LO has range and he can defend the inbound play.

    Gasol is decent enough to deter most people in the paint, LO usually ends up defending the inbounds which disrupts the other team’s setup, and the rest are all mobile and have 3 point range (Odom, Kobe, Fisher, Artest).

    Now that didn’t work so great for us, but if you put Bynum in, who will you put to defend the inbound? Bynum can’t, Gasol is ill-suited, putting Kobe or Artest who are our best wingers are a waste, so it’s going to be short Fisher who defends the inbounds with nearly 0 chance of disrupting the other team.

    So that’s why we have Odom out there during crunch time. Yes we could just disregard their play out of a time out and see where things fall, but PJ obviously wants it disrupted from the get-go.

    I don’t fault him for that.

  32. harold, I seriously question whether LO’s defense of the inbound has any serious impact. More than Bynum’s defensive presence and awareness at the end of the game? The numbers don’t lie. Bynum being in there will definitely decrease the opponent’s offensive efficiency in the closing minutes. LO hasn’t been playing the end of games at the elite level a championship team expects him to. These facts should really be present in Phil’s mind when a game is on the line.

  33. TNT just stated that Kobe refused x-rays and an MRI on his ankle. He says he plans to play, and Phil Jackson re-affirmed that statement. So we will just have to see how he will be on a gimpy wheel.

  34. Ken,
    He knows Bynum and Artest are his two best defensive players. He left them on the bench so the Lakerd go through a tough series and are tested before playing OKC and Miami. Duh…

  35. 31 – I doubt LO is out there for his inbounding defense, although that is somewhat close to the truth – Phil likes the defensive quickness of that lineup, Lamar’s ability to switch and blitz screens and recover, etc, etc. Defending the inbounds play is a small part of that versatility, but it isn’t the primary reason LO gets playing time.

    The problem is Gasol is not nearly a good enough interior deterrent. Not even close. At least to my eyes, the difference when Bynum is manning the paint is staggering. I’m not faulting Gasol, but Drew plays like a natural defensive anchor.

    The problem is Drew is our best interior defensive presence. Lamar is our best perimeter defender (among the bigs) and the most versatile. Pau is the weakest defensively of the three (though solid) but a prime offensive option, normally.

    You have to give up something. Like most here, I’m willing to give up Lamar’s excellent PnR defense, because I believe Drew’s interior presence makes up for it.

  36. My sense is that LO plays late over AB because of his ability to survive a switch. If AB finds himself on a guard, he is on an island, whereas LO has a shot of staying with the play. I certainly don’t ascribe to Aaron’s view that Phil is willing to lose now as some kind of coaching exercise…

  37. The way Pau Gasol is playing in this series I think we can have Bynum and Odom play at the same time while sending Pau to the bench.

  38. I agree with most of what was said in this article and in the comments above. However, I think that some of you are not considering the following:

    As much as we like our players, we can all agree that in crunch time Kobe turns into a ballhog and he’s not as effective as we could hope. That means that our effectiveness drops without giving our bigs a chance to miss. That being said, do you really believe that Odom positively affects our offense in crunch time? I would argue that Bynum has a better chance of that due to his length and superior rebounding potential (note the use of word potential and not ability).

    But let’s ignore the reasons for our stagnant offense and lack of offensive rebounds… If our offense becomes less effective regardless of the bigs on the floor and Kobe will keep Hero mode on all games, what’s the best chance of winning the game? Decreasing our opponent’s offensive efficiency! If our offense is stagnant I want a defensive lineup on the floor and the players with the best possibility to: a) knock down an open jumper because they found themselves with the ball b) get a defensive stop and/or force a turnover or a contested jumper. Kobe isn’t going to change, Derek Fisher’s PUJIT is here to stay and PJ isn’t benching any of them in crunch time, so we better get a suitable lineup around them.

    Kobe can knock open shots (as well as contested ones). If anyone has proven capable of knocking down jumpers in big games is Fish, so he isn’t going to be benched. Pau is just too good and long not to be on the floor. Who can bring us defensive presence, hard fouls and be a physical presence? Ron and Drew… This is the lineup that strikes fear in our opponents and why we go away from that is really beyond me. But then again, we also don’t execute our offense, so what do I know…

  39. At least we’re not the Spurs right now. The 2nd half of that game last night was a joke. San Antonio looks like they expected the refs to carry them through this series.

    All I want is two wins for the Lakers and I can give two shits how they come. This series is already ugly and I just want out of it. Not to look ahead or anything but after the Lakers close the Hornets out in these next two games Lamar Odom needs to refocus because he will be a very important factor in the next round; especially if the Mavs get past Portland.

  40. I think lil’ Pau has it right in regards to Phil’s rationale for endgame lineups. This was the nagging question I’ve had in my head since before the playoffs started: If Andrew Bynum is as vital and dynamic as everyone says he is, why is he not closing games? Here is my best attempt to defend Phil’s choice (not necessarily one I agree with).

    Ending games with LO (Overall)

    Structure is routinely compromised on both sides of the ball at the end of games. Quite often teams relinquish offensive and defensive integrity as a result of the pressure and chaos of the endgame. Given these conditions, the number one factor you need is versatility, and this is what Lamar gives the Lakers on both ends of the floor.

    Ending games with LO on Offense

    Our endgame Kobe-centric tendencies are well documented. Given those tendencies, having Lamar on the floor makes a lot of sense, because it gives the Lakers a player who can be a threat from more places on the floor, is more mobile (for cutting and offensive rebounding) and can make a play off the bounce for himself and for his teammates. Also, LO gives Kobe more room/options to operate at the end of games. He can take players off the bounce or from the post. I think it’s harder for him to post up and react properly to doubles when LO is off the floor. Finally, I think Darius noted a week or so ago how the Laker offense is more effective for whatever reason when LO initiates it. These are the best reasons I can come up with offensively.

    LO on defense.

    This comes down to the fact that as fatigue sets in and virtually every team goes with screen/rolls to end the game, the Lakers like most defenses adopt Stu’s off-referred to “Switch EVERYTHING” defense. Clearly, LO is better suited for such a tactic.

    At the end of the day, you have to consider intangibles. His meltdowns against SA and Denver notwithstanding, Phil trusts LO. This trust is not unfounded. I seem to recall it working out on numerous occasions, including a certain Game 7 from last year……

    With all that, I STILL feel that the defensive numbers Darius posted are too compelling to ignore. As I said, this was my attempt to make Phil’s case without necessarily advocating it. I think the correct approach is a game by game one. These 3 guys have 3.5 quarters to help Phil determine who should be on the floor for the end. On any given night it could be any 2 of the 3 (though I also pine for Phil to go “jumbo” to close out a game) but the point is, Phil should be willing to consider both the evidence and the options.

    Ughhh. I am dismayed that it is the Laker fans who are frantically trying to react to the other team’s mechanations, and not vice versa. It sure feels like New Orleans has a 2-2 LEAD in this series.

    But I’ve got my FB&G shirt making its debut tonight, so I’m not worried.

  41. Great article. I love the statistical comparison. I couldn’t figure out the line ups in the 4th quarter of the last game. I am pretty sure that the bench stayed in the game till around the 6 or 5 minute mark and it was mind baffling because that was when they could have won the game if there were defensive stops (which there occasionally were) and conversions on the other end of the court rather than just trading misses and baskets. Odom can definitely ball, but I think this is a case of letting the younger Bynum definitively establish himself as a force to be reckoned with. Who Bynum is paired with certainly is what I wonder about because at times it seems as though when Lamar is playing well, they work well together but also just having two 7 footers out there changes shots. The only issue is the fact that Pau has just refused to sack up and really play ball in the dominant outside shot, off the dribble fashion we saw him put on exhibition so often during the season. Looking forward to the game tonight and curious to see what the line ups are and if Phil will give Trey Johnson a shot out there to hopefully force Shannon to step his game up and play within the offense.

  42. The other benefit to Lamar is his ball-handling. Kobe (after the finger injuries)and Fisher are not great ball handlers (relatively speaking), where Lamar is the league’s best big in that respect.

  43. I actually fear Lamar’s ball handling at the end of the game.
    1) He tends to use a fairly high dribble, even in traffic, resulting in more susceptibility to steals.
    2) Lamar loves to pass into traffic. NOH loves to block passing lanes in the middle and they are athletic enough to do that.

  44. @Darius, how much of the Laker’s struggles can be attributed to clueless Mitch K? Picture this: If Mitch K didn’t sign Puke Walton to the ridiculous contract, the Lakers could’ve kept Ariza. Clueless Mitch K also re-signed low basketball IQ Brown, agression averse Blake and Fish who can’t stand in front of any NBA point guards. Even Paul Gasol coming to the Lakers was orchestrated by J West.
    Come on, get rid of Mitch K who has no clues about talent, act as a spineless yes man to Buss’, and continues to bring in mediocre talents. Few parting thoughts – Phil has to get on the face of Gasol, Lamar and Blake to play with more aggression and effort or there won’t be any three-peat this time. Furthermore, waive Puke Walton and use the luxury tax savings to sign a decent point gurard during the off season, lose Brown to the free agency, and trade away Blake. Whatever the Lakers do, fire the clueless Mitch K and bring back J West.

  45. Ace,
    You sound like someone who is upset, but has absolutely no ability to remember history. Knowing history and how things were viewed over the last 10+ years, I really have nothing else to say.

  46. Why can’t any Laker set a true pick? Did the Bigs forget how to box out? Why do we keep seeing Bynum trying to guard Paul? Phil you are allowed to coach between timeouts!