Week At A Glance

Andre Khatchaturian —  November 9, 2013

The Lakers had their ups and downs this week, showing signs of promise but then following it up with several reality checks that tell us that this team still has a long way to go to even be considered a contender.

The Lakers are 3-4 – the same mark as last year after seven games – and two of those three wins have come against championship contenders. One of those was against Houston on the road in what will probably be remembered as one of the most dramatic victories of the season. Steve Blake’s game winning three pointer showed that the Lakers can still have a clutch factor without the Mamba.

One can even make an argument that had Kobe Bryant been healthy, they could’ve possibly beaten San Antonio at home.

Also, Jordan Farmar and Chris Kaman have proven to be solid acquisitions for the Lakers. Farmar’s On/Off Efficiency numbers are ridiculous.

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The Lakers are better both offensively and defensively when Jordan’s on the court.

Meanwhile, Kaman is showing that he can be a defensive stalwart.

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The Lakers offense doesn’t change much when Kaman leaves the floor, but their defensive efficiency rating balloons skyward when he sits. Kaman plays almost a dozen minutes less than Pau Gasol per game but he’s averaging 1.1 blocks per game and has the best defensive efficiency rating on the team. Who knew?

That’s the good news…here’s the bad news:

Pau Gasol might be the worst player on the Lakers right now.

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The Lakers are better both offensively and defensively when Gasol is not on the court. Their offensive efficiency rating is almost 13 points higher and their defensive efficiency rating is 14 points fewer when he’s not playing. Combine those two figures and Gasol adversely impacts the Lakers by over 27 points per 48 minutes.

Even if this total is inflated by the two blowouts the Lakers have suffered, one can’t deny the fact that Gasol has been off his game this year. Sure, he’s getting rebounds. But he also plays a lot of minutes. Jordan Hill has a higher Per 48 minute rebound average than Gasol. Also, Pau’s 35.2% shooting percentage doesn’t do him any favors. (Ahem…please stop shooting threes when your team is down by 16.)

Steve Blake has been atrocious offensively, too.

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This may be because he’s not playing his true position of point guard especially when Steve Nash is on, but the Lakers are 20 points better with him off the court offensively per 48 minutes. That’s pretty hideous. That said, Blake has been impactful on defense and making a game winning three pointer at Houston gives him a pass.

With all of that said, the Lakers are still finding ways to be in games and they’re making Laker fans say, “Well, if Kobe were playing we would’ve won.” The truth is, the team can’t be truly evaluated until the Mamba returns. They’re fighting hard, though, and that’s all they are asked to do. Their hard work even led to them being ahead of the Clippers in the standings for a night. Hey, can’t complain.

The Lakers will play four games again this week. Unlike last week, though, three of them will be at Staples Center. They won’t be easy games, though, as the Wolves are 4-2 and the Pelicans showed on Friday that they’re not an easy out. That said, they’re not against championship contenders.

The Lakers will then fly to Denver to take on the Nuggets, who are struggling. However, the Pepsi Center has always been a house of horrors for the Lakers. The Purple and Gold will wrap up the week with a home affair against the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Lakers have the potential to head into that game with a 6-4 record, but it starts with Gasol. Will he continue to be a shell of himself this week, or will he finally rise up and take over the team like he’s supposed to do with Kobe out?

Andre Khatchaturian

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21 responses to Week At A Glance

  1. It appears like the coaching staff is still sorting through the minutes and rotations, which is to be expected this early in the season. I believe Pau will settle in and be more like himself once D’Antoni & Co. have a better feel for when to play Pau alongside Kaman, where Hill fits into play, etc.

    Let’s not get carried away with the argument that had Kobe Bryant been healthy, the Lakers might have beaten San Antonio. Simple counterpoint to that: Had Tim Duncan been able to play…

  2. Gasol did make a great screen on the play that led to Steve Blake’s game winner. Unfortunately he looks Jurassic with his post moves and can’t beat anyone off the dribble. Combine that with the fact that he is not hitting a high percentage on his open shots, and you have a very disappointing start to his season.

  3. The team needs to give more emphasis on energy simply because we are underdogs everywhere we go that has a superstar player. And thats everywhere.

  4. Also, people should not ubderestimate the impact of losing a “star” like Gasol simply cos it gives other players a chance to shine.

    Jordan Hill needs to play more if only for he never lacks energy. Never. Pau looks so tired, exhausted and lazy.

  5. It’s always nice when the numbers support what you’re seeing on the court.
    Kaman has been playing well – doing many more things than I thought he was capable of including some very nice passing and a few well timed blocks.
    Gasol – Yikes! I’m hoping this upper respiratory infection is the cause of his poor play because he really has been dreadful. Missing shots is one thing but the poor shot selection is puzzling. He doesn’t seem to want to go inside & when he does (against the Pelicans), there were no or too slow offensive moves. He doesn’t set a proper pick in the P&R and won’t roll hard to the hoop (see Amare S + Nash) to create space. His body language has looked bad out there – certainly nothing to settle down a young team.
    I’m a huge Gasol fan and was hoping for a very good season from him and that he would re-sign with LA (less $, of course). I know it’s very early in the season but this doesn’t bode well.

  6. “It appears like the coaching staff is still sorting through the minutes and rotations”
    Did I fall asleep and wake up a year later?

  7. I think what we saw vs the Rockets game becomes our starting 5 before Kobe makes it to court.

    Nash Blake Young Kaman Gasol
    Farmar Meeks Henry Johnson Hill

  8. Andre,

    Could you please post the efficiency numbers for the rest of the Lakers roster? I’m especially curious about the stats for Jordan Hill and Jodie Meeks.

  9. Agree with Arliepro.

  10. I’m also interested in seeing Xavier Henry’s efficiency numbers.

  11. @ Robert — I wouldn’t compare last year’s craziness in terms of minutes and rotations to this season’s, at least not yet. With as many new players as the Lakers have this year, it’s reasonable to expect the staff to be doing some tinkering, especially in the first three weeks of the season.

    If this is still going on come February, however, look out.

  12. Coaches mess with rotations when they are losing and/or players are performing in unexpected ways. It is not a necessary condition of having new guys or being early in the season. PER is a good thumbnail stat of what a guy is bringing offensively and on the glass. It has noise in it and doesn’t say much at all about D, but it tells you things. 10 is considered replacement level–DLeague and waiver guys.

    HILL 22.1
    KAMAN 19.3
    PAU 12.6
    WILLIAMS 5.9

    FARMAR 14.2
    BLAKE 9.8
    NASH 8.2

    MEEKS 15.8
    YOUNG 14.1
    JOHNSON 11.9
    HENRY 9.5

    Hill, Meeks and Kaman are shooting far higher percentages than their career norms and so have better overall numbers than they have had. Johnson has done better than he has in the areas of assists, rebounding and defense, according both to DRTG and IMO the eye test. He is actually shooting worse than his career norms, which are bad.

    So…the issues for D’Antoni in terms of minutes are actually simple until Kobe comes back: how long does MDA stay with Pau and Nash, and why does Steve Blake lead the team in minutes played? I said before the Houston game that I don’t see the point of Blake’s getting minutes on this team. Yes, he hit the 3 in Houston, but Farmar needs to be playing 25 minutes or so and MDA probably will not pull the plug on Nash until Nash comes to him. Even without Kobe, MDA has four guys in their 20s who can play the 2, the 3, or both in the cases of Young and Henry.

    So, my view on the rotation hasn’t changed since preseason, other than that now Meeks should get to play some. Nash and Farmar should split time at the 1, Meeks/Henry/Johnson/Young should divide up the minutes at the wings, and Hill/Pau/Kaman should split up the 96 minutes up front. I think Hill and Kaman will get exposed playing 30-34 minutes, but the Lakers don’t have better options, and both of them, especially Hill, have earned it. Blake can back up Farmar if Nash goes on the injured list.

    As to who plays with who…I would start Hill, Henry, and Johnson with Nash and Pau. That gives the most athleticism with the two old HOFers. If that group was getting too exposed in terms of floor spacing in a particular matchup, I would insert Meeks and/or Kaman quickly. I would use Farmar with Young/Kaman more. I wouldn’t play Blake or Williams, and I am not into the Wes Johnson as a Stretch 4 thing. Johnson can’t shoot 3s anyway. Johnson’s best shot to be a rotation player, as I said in preseason, is to be a low-usage D guy. If MDA just has to have a Stretch 4 out there, he should start playing Ryan Kelly 10 minutes a game with Jordan Hill.

  13. Chris J, its possible we may never have a set rotation even in February. The reason is that this is a transition year… lest we forget our real situation. The Lakers need to audition Farmar, Henry, Johnson and Hill for their future contracts. We’d also like to know if Blake would come on board us for a contract that doesn’t bind the team with an aging guard. At the same time, we’re trying to find out if Pau Gasol will be a Laker past December… that would be our best gift for him considering.

    Kobe will not be back till January most-likely. Who knows. Until then, we need to play as if Kobe is not coming back for the year.

    So far, I like the contributions of Farmar, Meeks, Henry, Wes and Hill. Unsurprisingly, these 5 are actually our entire bench. I’d like to negotiate their agents this early to have commitments for our team. If we secured these 5 at the 1st hour of Free Agency, we’d have more of an identity for our future Laker ‘stars’ to identify with.

  14. Hope you read the above Robert as I made they claim on Pau yesterday. Not good.

  15. I don’t wanna come off as the Gasol hater or anything but its nice to see other people realize what is painfully obvious: Gasol is struggling (to put it mildly).

    People will say “Oh he’s just taking more shots from outside.”…. well his shot selection and what he is settling for has been dreadful but even games and possessions when he goes in the post he still isn’t producing.

    At what point do you say this guy is playing poorly and someone else needs to get his minutes or he needs to adjust his shot selection? I saw on Laker Nation that Chris Webber stated he was not elite and Laker fans everywhere blasted him mostly talking about his lack of NBA championships or the infamous timeout debacle. But it is true….we have to accept that hey an aging center that is not aggressive and has had nagging injuries will not suddenly go back to career averages and hitting the same numbers during our “championship” contention.

    Even though I don’t think there is a fountain of youth that Gasol can take and become a great player again I would really like to see someone interview Phil Jackson (I know someone is wincing right now as I said that) and ask him why he is struggling so much and not let him off the hook with answers simply like Kobe is out or shot selection.

  16. rr, re: Steve Blake

    Lets not forget that he should be our starting PG at this point. With Nash’s nagging injuries and age, he’s been playing alot of SG and his man is abusing him on the defensive end. And when that’s not happening, he’s expending all his energy guarding guys that are at least 4″ taller than him. However, when he starts, we’re still getting killed out there. So your ‘hate’ for his performance might be warranted.

    I always look at the bigger picture. People nitpick our team as if we are actually contending. No, we’re transitioning. We’re actually playing until Kobe comes back and until next season and 50 million of cap space comes along. By that time, you’d wanna know who on your team stays and gets his next contract. While playing on a 1-yr deal has its advantages, it also brings about uncertainty as to what sort of continuity we’re going to have moving forward.

    I have cemented the 2 Jordans (Farmar and Hill) as being part of our team next year. Henry is also someone that’s been catching everyone’s eye. I’m guessing he’s on the wait-and-see team if we can land a bigger fish. He’s someone who’s game and aggressiveness is much-needed. He is not only playing for his next contract but playing with poise and character for someone that wasn’t expected to.

    Wesley Johnson is our team’s leading shotblocker. His offense is still a work in progress and it seems to me that if he starts of missing his 1st 3 jumpers he’s not shooting anymore. This is a good chance for him to earn a spot on next year’s team.

    We’re trying to look for guys we have a future with. The more I think about this the more I affirm my feeling that Nash is gone next year via stretch or we keep his 9.7M expiring deal to make another splash in 2015.

    PG: Jordan Farmar
    SG: Kobe Bryant
    SF: Wesley Johnson / Elias Harris
    PF:
    CE: Jordan Hill / Robert Sacre

    The Lakers would not think twice landing another 18-24ppg guy. That tells me it isn’t Luol Deng. One name that hasn’t surfaced so far has been Chris Bosh. He would thrive on this lineup and playing under MDA beside Hill who would cover his deficiencies on defense and rebounding.

  17. Here are interesting names of players that are candidates of our cap space next season:

    Avery Bradley
    Cole Aldrich
    Craig Brackins
    Damion James
    Daniel Orton
    Dominique Jones
    Ed Davis
    Ekpe Udoh
    Elliott Williams
    Eric Bledsoe
    Evan Turner
    Gordon Hayward
    Greg Monroe
    Greivis Vasquez
    James Anderson
    Jordan Crawford
    Kevin Seraphin
    Lazar Hayward
    Luke Babbitt
    Patrick Patterson
    Quincy Pondexter
    Trevor Booker
    Wesley Johnson
    Xavier Henry

    All these guys have been drafted in 2010 and have not signed extensions from their respective teams, or, in the case of Wes and Xavier, have been released earlier than usual.

  18. @Warren Greg Monroe, Gordon Hayward, Evan Turner are restricted free agents who’s current team will match any offer. Lakers would have to over pay to get them.

    Efficiency statistics support my contention Jordan Farmar is the key to the Lakers season much more than Steve Nash. Lakers should start Farmar. Rotate Nash in from bench when he is available.

    Repeat, best thing Nash can do is retire allowing Lakers to spread his salary out over the next 3 years to provide more salary cap room. Nash is a shot HoF player.

    Speaking of shot? What about Gasol?

    He is almost garbage.

  19. Turner and Monroe would probably have to be obtained via trade. I think we would have need of Monroe more-so than Turner, but both could be used. Their current teams may well want to move them this year, while there is value to be returned without locking up monies next year.

  20. @Warren:

    Only player I would somewhat covet on that list is Hayward and I get this feeling someone is going to overpay for him…he seems like a Mike Miller…a guy who isn’t quite a star but you would definitely need on your team to really be a contender…

    The free agency list is not impressive outside of the 2 big names Lebron and Carmelo and it is interesting because Lebron is not predictable so you don’t know what is happening there. But Carmelo….I wanted him to come to LA..I’m thinking Carmelo and Kobe would make a nice combo for 2 years before Carmelo took over…then I thought about it…NO…wouldn’t really want Carmelo on this team…to me his game is basically the same as when he entered…good post player…good perimeter player…never evolved and became a defensive force…never really did anything physically to his body as far as losing weight to become faster or getting sculpted … I’m not a Lebron fan but at least Lebron is always searching to become better…

    If the Lakers want to improve they will likely have to do so at the expense of some draft picks and make some trades….

  21. I always look at the bigger picture. People nitpick our team as if we are actually contending. No, we’re transitioning
    _
    I agree with you about transitioning, which is why I don’t see the point of Steve Blake. Blake’s role in the league at this point is as a 3rd-string PG on a contender, a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency guy. He is 33 years old, in the last year of his deal, and maybe in his last year in the NBA. I have nothing against him; he tries hard and does what he can. But the Lakers should be playing Farmar most of the time at the 1 IMO, and benching a guy like Steve Nash is one of those things that has to happen organically. This isn’t NBA2K14.