Week At A Glance

Andre Khatchaturian —  December 22, 2013

Kobe Bryant is out again and the Lakers will be missing him for the next six weeks. With him in the lineup, the Lakers were just 2-4. Without him, they’re 11-10. Because of this, the following question has emerged: Are the Lakers better without Kobe?

The answer to this is no. Let’s not overreact. The Lakers struggled with Kobe mostly because there was no chemistry and he was rusty. In his last game, he played a pivotal role in the Lakers road win over Memphis. He took a season high 18 shots and scored 21 points. He also had a season low four turnovers. The rust was coming off and he was taking more control of the offense, but then he got injured once more.

The Lakers went on to dominate the Timberwolves on Friday night at home mostly because of Nick Young’s three-point barrage and a vintage performance by Pau Gasol who scored 21 and grabbed 13 rebounds. They played energized without Kobe and it had many feeling that the team just flowed better without the Mamba.

However, in less than 24 hours reality hit the Lakers as they got blown out of the water by the Warriors. They shot 14 percent in the 3rd quarter. Granted, they were missing Pau, who was out with an upper respiratory infection, but having Kobe could’ve helped.

The fact of the matter is, although the Lakers have gelled to a certain extent without Kobe, they’re nothing more than a .500 team without him in the lineup. They did a great job in the first 19 games of the season keeping their heads above water and they’ll need to do it again for the next six weeks – a stretch that includes a grueling seven-game road trip in the east coast.

It will be possible. The people who say that the Lakers are better off without Kobe have all the statistics in the world to back up their claim.

The Lakers had a better Offensive Rating without Kobe in their first 19 games of the season (101.9) than with him in the lineup (100.1). Their Defensive Rating was also remarkably better without Kobe (102.8 vs. 108.6 with him). Finally, his On/Off numbers were atrocious in his brief comeback, too.

Screen Shot 2013 12 22 at 6.12.11 PM

There’s no doubt about it that the Lakers can win without Kobe. It also helps that 12 of their next 20 games are against Eastern Conference opponents. The Lakers are 5-3 against the East this season and their paltry 13-14 record would give them the top spot in the Atlantic Division and the fourth seed in the weak conference.

The Lakers could win games if they continue to receive consistently efficient output from Pau and Nick Young.

In his three games this week, Gasol shot 72 percent from the field, and averaged 19.3 points and 10.7 rebounds. Those are vintage Pau numbers. He’s shown moments of productivity throughout the season but he needs to be more consistent. The same goes for Young. He has emerged as the team’s leading scorer and he’s shooting over 40 percent from three point land in December.

It would be nice to see Jordan Hill get more playing time, too. He’s averaging under 20 minutes per game in December but he’s shooting 69 percent from the field and averaging 6.6 rebounds. He could get more playing time in favor of Wesley Johnson, who is averaging over 30 minutes per game in December, but has the lowest field goal percentage among Laker regulars this month (38.2 percent). His three-point percentage is even more atrocious at 25 percent.

Finally, let’s give a warm welcome back to the rotation to Chris Kaman. With Gasol out last game, he grabbed 17 rebounds. He also had a defensive rating of 86.9 in the blowout loss. He didn’t shoot well (5-of-17) but nobody did last night. Kaman has been healthy for awhile now and there’s no reason why he should be getting a “DNP – Coach’s Decision” next to his name every game. He deserves a chance to show the coaching staff what he could do.

The Lakers have a tough week ahead of them on Christmas week. They play the surprising Suns on the road tomorrow before the much anticipated home tilt against LeBron and the Heat on Christmas Day. Then, on Friday they’ll play the Jazz in Salt Lake, a place where the Lakers are 19-34 since 1986-87.

 

Andre Khatchaturian

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10 responses to Week At A Glance

  1. If/when we get some point guards back, we’ll be better.

    The team is not a secret, we rely on attacking the basket and driving out. MDA has been maligned much over his career for his “style of play” but most people overlook the value of dribble-penetration being integral in this offense.

    Jodie couldn’t get free with Kobe because Kobe posted up. He was limited to a standstill shooter instead of running to spots where he’d get the ball off a kick out.

    Hoping to see Gasol get better with Kaman already in. He was looking more like the old guy last night with Warriors splashing all around. He had good number of rebounds partly because there wasn’t much to go around with.

    Jordan Farmar, please come back soon.

    We’ll just have to withstand Phoenix 1 more time with their killer back court without a backcourt.

  2. - No, the Lakers are NOT a better team without Kobe, however this Laker team FUNCTIONS better with him out of the line up.
    – The Franchise would be able to rebuild quicker if Kobe’s salary extension didn’t negatively affect the salary cap as much as it does, however the Franchise wouldn’t be in the fantastic long term financial position it’s in (thanks to their new TV contract) if it wasn’t for Kobe.
    – With Kobe out for an extended period, I believe it will increase the chances of Gasol being moved, especially If they have a similar rate of success with Kaman in the rotation.
    – I enjoyed watching D-12’s 35 pt/ 19 reb game vs the Pistons young, big, & talented front line.
    – In terms of season ending injuries, the umpire has just called “strike 2″ on Kobe.
    – Lakers have never gone more than eight (8) years w/o a Finals appearance in their entire 60+ year history…the clock is ticking.

  3. - I enjoyed watching D-12?s 35 pt/ 19 reb game vs the Pistons young, big, & talented front line.

    I enjoyed the fact that you posted this without mentioning that Harden didn’t play.

  4. ditching class in high school may have seemed cool way back when, but honestly, it’s true, you missed out on a lot of stuff you would have never used in your life. ask any perfect attendance classmate. oops, wrong blog.

    which brings us to pau (cough, cough) gasol. perfect attendance is certainly not something pau aspires to. how’s that saying go? two steps forward, one step back in a back to back series no less. these things have to be said just to get it out of one’s sytem. now that i’m feeling a lot better, hoping pau does also. need him healthy versus phoenix on monday.

    Go lakers

  5. Andre,
    Statistics simply don’t tell Jordan Hill’s story. He is a 20-25min player. When he gets more than that his energy flags and he ceases to move as much on either offense or defense, plus he gets hurt – in other words he flatlines. At his draft position his previous teams wanted him to be a starter and play starters minutes, but he isn’t that kind of player. The Lakers are playing him properly.

    Wes Johnson also doesn’t lend himself to statistics. He also was a high draft pick and previous teams expected him to be a scorer/rebounder. He can do both things, but what he is is a defender – and he glues the team together with his defense. Because of this he gets more minutes than his stats would predict. The fact that he can guard 1-4 is a godsend on a team like this.

  6. @ rr: “I enjoyed the fact that you posted this without mentioning that Harden didn’t play.” That’ s exactly my point. Didn’t think I had to mention that. Dwight is capable of doing what needs to be done if he gets enough touches in the low post. And yes, his team won.

  7. His team also lost a couple of games earlier, with Harden. Dwight is dominant enough that his teams will win in the regular season. It is in the post-season, with 7 game series, that adjustments are made and strategies set. It is at this time that a ball dominant center who has limited post moves and can’t reliably shoot freethrows can bring his team’s offense to a screeching halt.

  8. Dwight is capable of doing what needs to be done if he gets enough touches in the low post.

    Sometimes. But his low-post numbers are not that great; that is well-documented. I am very much opposed to the Howard-bashing, since I think most of it is very unsound analytically. But I am also opposed to endless veiled shots at Kobe that omit key facts.

  9. He can do both things, but what he is is a defender – and he glues the team together with his defense.

    Yes and no. As I said when they got Johnson, he is trying to be the player Ebanks was supposed to be: a low-usage D-oriented 3 who can play in transition, and he is mostly succeeding at it. But Johnson is a very, very limited offensive player, and it is highly unlikely that he will ever be anything else. He has gotten his 3P% up some–as of today, he is 34/92
    –37%–on the year. Between that and the fact that his USG is low, and his skills on D, he has gone from waiver fodder to functional.

    As to Hill, I have not seen data on the issue. The energy/minutes thing is D’Antoni’s story, but I have not seen stats to back it up–numbers that show that Hill suffers big drop-offs if he plays more than 25 minutes. The numbers mostly did back MDA’s story on Pau, as the article I linked from SSR showed. So that may be the case on Hill as well, but Hill is obviously better than Shawne Williams, no matter what MDA may think of the two guys.

  10. Week At A Glance

    Unfortunately ‘Dre, all it took was the 1st sentence within your thread to sum up this entire past week for me.