On the heels of our look at the construction of the Laker roster, we’re going to play a little guessing game. Below are four Lakers with basic stats from this past season. These are stats measuring how effective each player was in the post (all stats via Synergy):
Player A: .90 points per play (67th in NBA), 46.8% shooting on 237 plays
Player B: .99 points per play (30th in NBA), 49.3% shooting on 272 plays
Player C: 1.23 points per play (3rd in NBA), 64.6% shooting on 82 plays
Player D: .90 points per play (67th in NBA), 43.1% shooting on 476 plays
To give this data further context, the Lakers – as a team – were the 3rd best post up team in the league based off points per play, tallying .93 points every time a shot went up from the post. Simply put, this is an obvious strength of the team. (It’s also one of the main reasons many of us pulled our hair out when long jumpers were fired up from the perimeter before the ball even sniffed the post, but I digress.)
That said, I wouldn’t have posed this as a guessing game if the answers to who these players are didn’t lead to further questions. You ready for the big reveal?…
Player A is Andrew Bynum, B is Kobe Bryant, C is Lamar Odom, D is Pau Gasol.
This leads me to ask, who belongs in the post?
The data tells me the most effective players in the post last season were clearly Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant. They shot the highest percentage and produced the highest points per play. Lamar Odom’s sample size is the smallest, but considering he lapped the field in efficiency, I’m not going to discount his numbers. Right behind LO is Kobe and his nearly 50% shooting from the floor and point per play production. As we’ve seen in recent seasons (and even in pick up games), Kobe’s comfort in the post is only expanding. Taking and making more shots than Bynum from the post this past season is proof positive of that.
But that last sentence is what makes me ask the aformentioned question in the first place.
Mike Brown has spoken about using his big men more, lifting X’s and O’s from his Spurs days to create a twin tower effect to maximize the skill sets of Gasol and Bynum. However, that now seems to sit in at least partial conflict with his statement that he wants to get Kobe Bryant the ball in “his spots”. Is there room enough in the low post for 3 players that all do very good work from the block?
Kobe could stand to give up some of his possessions to other players (his league high usage rate is exhibit A in this argument) and giving them to Pau and Andrew is the type of easily drawn conclusion we all come to without thinking for more than a few seconds. However, I find it most wise to ask Kobe to cut down on the low efficient shots he hoists each game, not the ones where he’s making nearly half his tosses at the hoop. Hoop Data tells us he’s least efficient in his long jumpers from two and three point range while shooting at least 48% from every angle 15 feet and in. Shouldn’t that latter level of effiency be maximized?
And what of Lamar Odom? It’s fair to say that last year was a career year for LO and that some sort of regression should be expected. But, his ability to score from the post is a valuable asset that needs to be utilizied in order to get the most out of his versatility. I, for one, don’t want to see Odom relegated to shooting outside jumpers or seeing his offensive chances restricted to shots taken off dive cuts and offensive rebounds. He mustn’t be the forgotten man in the Lakers offensive equation.
Meanwhile, Gasol and Bynum are skilled 7 footers whose height, reach, and skill have them doing their best work 15 feet and in. While many other teams employ stiffs in the pivot, the Lakers have the ability to field giants with moves that would have Pete Newell beam with pride. Shouldn’t they too get their touches down low? Any responsible coach would answer affirmatively here. Don’t get me wrong, I like that Gasol is showing off his range for the Spanish national team by making three pointers. It’s also encouraging that as last season evolved, Bynum showed a developing face up game extending out to 16 feet. That said, I like my big men shooting close to the basket for maximum return on their inherent size advantage.
So back we circle to the question at hand. Who belongs in the post for the Lakers? When looking at the numbers, the answer is probably all of the above. But making that work is just another on a long list of challenges that Mike Brown seems to have going into next season.