The Lakers’ Many Problems Include the Pace they Play At

Darius Soriano —  January 11, 2014

Every coach has a philosophy. From that philosophy a style of play is born, a system is spawned, and a team’s identity is forged. Mike D’Antoni is no different. The Lakers’ head man wants many things out of his team — offensive spacing, ball movement, quick decisions that promote teamwork — but he also wants his teams to play with a certain tempo; a certain pace.

One only look at his history as a coach to know that this is true. In the 10 seasons he coached either the Suns, Knicks, or Lakers heading into this season, his teams only ranked outside the top 5 in pace in one campaign (the 2009-10 Knicks ranked 8th). Every other season his teams have played at one of the fastest paces in the league, regularly ranking in the top 3 and leading the league multiple times.

When D’Antoni was hired, he spoke about playing fast at his introductory press conference. His explanation waffled some — he didn’t quite own that he wants his team to play so fast, just that he wants his team to generate good shots — but he didn’t back away from the idea that playing a high number of possessions in games would be a good thing, especially for last year’s Lakers:

Books, papers and articles are funny because they have that catch line: ‘seven second or less.” I don’t even know how that came about, but that’s OK. My whole philosophy is 24 seconds or less. I don’t care if it’s seven, 10 or 20. You just have to get one good shot in those 24 seconds and that’s what we’ll do. I’ll expect us to be a little bit more up tempo – not seven seconds. There’s no reason why there’s not a great flow, whether that’s 13 seconds or 20 seconds. I was talking with Steve: ‘You have the best team, so why not play the most possessions you can play if you’re the best defensively and offensively?’ Anytime possessions are cut down, then a bad call, a missed shot then you have a chance to lose. If we keep possessions up here, then statistically, we have a lot better chance to win. That’s what we’re going to try and do.

D’Antoni’s take on playing fast is a common, data driven statistical approach in today’s NBA. More possessions favor the better team as they have more opportunities to show that they’re better. Over the course of a high possession game, the team with more talent will have more chances for that superior talent to win out. D’Antoni’s argument about playing fast, in a vacuum, made a lot of sense. When he was hired he saw a roster that had high profile names like Kobe, Howard, Gasol, and his old MVP Steve Nash. With Metta World Peace, Antawn Jamison, and Steve Blake the team had veteran players to flank that top shelf core. We all know it didn’t play out well for that group, but D’Antoni wasn’t alone at looking at that group of players and thinking the raw collection of talent could win at amazingly high levels.

This season, however, the Lakers are not nearly as talented. Even before injuries ravaged the roster, the Lakers were a fringe playoff team that was going to struggle to even make the second season much less win a round (or more) if they got there.

Yet, as of today, the Lakers play at the 3rd fastest pace in the league. If you take D’Antoni’s comments from his introductory presser, one has to wonder why exactly the team is ramping up possessions in games and, in the process, exposing their talent to the extra rigors that come with facing players better than theirs.

An argument could be made that playing fast actually made a lot sense before all the team’s injuries. With a full roster, the Lakers had a nice group of athletes who thrive in an open court environment. Add in the fact that teams aren’t used to playing at the tempo the Lakers play at every night and there is an element of surprise that forces opponents to adjust to that style during a contest. That adjustment may or may not be successful and if it’s the latter the Lakers have a distinct advantage that can help them win games.

Right now, though, this argument doesn’t hold water. The Lakers are without their top 3 point guards. Their starter at that position wasn’t even on the team a month ago. The back up is Jodie Meeks who, even though he’s having a very good season and has improved his work off the dribble, is a natural shooting guard and should not be tasked with leading an offense, much less an uptempo one where quick decisions and reading the entire floor in a split second are mandatory.

Beyond the issues at point guard, the Lakers have big men not necessarily built (or accustomed) to playing at such a fast tempo. Gasol is better suited playing at a slower pace where he can work from the post in more half-court oriented sets. Ditto for Chris Kaman. Robert Sacre is young and can get up and down the floor fine, but he’s not a great offensive player at this point and also does his best work in pick and roll sets where he screens and dives hard to the rim where he can be set up for easy shots by his teammates. The Lakers’ best big man for playing at this tempo is Jordan Hill, but his minutes have been cut in recent weeks, averaging 17 minutes a game over his last 5 (down 3 minutes from his 20 minute average over the season).

There are also defensive issues that come from playing so fast. The Lakers are bad in transition defense to begin with, but playing fast often leads to more turnovers which put even more stress on that transition D. The tempo the team plays at also seems to drive players into spots on the floor (both short corners, bigs and guards all crashing the paint via dives and penetration out of early possession drag pick and rolls) that create an unbalanced floor that make it harder to transition from offense to defense even when it is not an open court chance.

Yet, here the Lakers are averaging the third most possessions per game in the league.

Pace isn’t the team’s only problem nor its biggest. We talk about it all the time, but injuries have ravaged the roster and created a domino effect where players are forced out of position, new players have been introduced, and roles have been shuffled around just to try and stay competitive. But with all that change, their have been no adjustments in style to try and aid the remaining players to put them in better positions to succeed.

I can understand wanting to keep some semblance of a coach’s philosophy in place; to keep the identity and style consistent. But, even with that being the case, I have to wonder if maintaing the breakneck tempo with this version of the team available is really the best option.

Darius Soriano

Posts

54 responses to The Lakers’ Many Problems Include the Pace they Play At

  1. The team was over achieving and had a winning record with the fast pace….After camp and practicing all season with the fast pace.. Seems like it might be hard to change the system that quickly…Also .Why?? _The team is not going anywhere… Keep the system that you will be using when the players come back…Also this will be the system that D.A. will be using in the future…Either way this team isnt making the playoffs so keep getting used to the pace…

  2. While I don’t disagree that playing slower might lead to possibly less turnovers or perhaps a closer game or two – the Lakers as currently comprised do not have the talent to win any one on one battles that a slower half court game would devolve into. You can argue that the Lakers don’t have the talent to play this way – but they don’t have the talent to play at a consistent NBA level anyways. At the very least more possesions and passing/sharing/everyone shooting keeps the players engaged and active vs standing around watching swaggy shooting heat checks or Pau grinding things to a halt over and over in the post. Plus more shots/ playing w tempo is the only way to generate the amount of open 3′s that this team needs to take to win. If Pau was 3-4 years younger or was a dominant offensive force downlow consistently I could see going w slow it down/half court off but he’s not timduncan/hakeem etc… And can’t carry the team anymore.

    Also – don’t underestimate the fact that the style is entertaining and at least gives the team a chance to come back. A loss is a loss in the record books whether its ugly or not – but fans will still watch a team that is still exciting/gets up and down and is fun to watch and that makes a difference in the bank statments – so as long as the players don’t quit on him MDA is the perfect coach for right now.

    But then again making any argument pro/con regarding system or pace for this team is moot anyways considering the injuries/less than NBA level players that make up this current team.

  3. Darius, Thank You.
    I have read all the ‘issues’ with MDA and feel many of them boil down to 1) he isn’t Phil Jackson, 2) he replaced Phil Jackson – yea, I know – 3) he caused Dwight to leave, and 4) his teams don’t play defense. Yours is the first, detailed information about why his system might not work for this team.

    I’m not so interested in what he will do to integrate players coming back from injury as I am about how he adjusts to his team, instead of forcing his team to adjust to him. Some successful coaches force their system onto the team, but the really great coaches seem able to adapt their way of playing to the talent on their roster (see Popovich).

    Your observation that MDA better be able to make some adjustments, or he is likely to completely lose his team – that’s how I read this article – does alter my perspective of this year somewhat. Thanks again.

  4. Jerke,
    You said, “Plus more shots/ playing w tempo is the only way to generate the amount of open 3?s that this team needs to take to win.” As someone who has watched countless hours of film on this team, I can’t disagree with this statement enough. What creates open threes is execution of the team’s halfcourt sets and selective running. When the team runs P&R’s properly and gets the defense into its rotations, they generate open threes. When the team rebounds and runs selectively, they generate open threes.

    If you want to break down the tape on how tempo and quick shots create open threes, I’m more than open to it. But as someone who has watched the tape on this team — especially during the losing streak — I don’t see it.

    I should add, too, that I’m not knocking D’Antoni’s system overall. The Heat and the Spurs use parts of what he did in Phoenix and have incorporated that into what they run. I’m talking about making adjustments to the roster he has on hand right now and trying to put them in better positions to win by tweaking things. You say that no judgements can be made on his system because of the injuries, but I’m not speaking to the validity of his system. I’m speaking to the tempo this team plays at *with the roster he has at his disposal*. This speaks to a flexibility he’s not really shown this year. A flexibility I applauded him for last year.

    Lastly, of course talent trumps all. I said as much in my post when talking about all the injuries and how those are the biggest issue right now.

  5. Rubenowski,
    As I said a few weeks into the season… The pipe dream is over because Melo has lot a step and isn’t the same player as he was his entire career before this year. As soon as that happened LBJ didn’t have a side kick to join in LA. It’s actually very said for James… He is stuck. He has little help in Miami and doesn’t have a team he can join in free agency. The Warriors might have been stupid to sign Iggy. If they didn’t I would say they would be the front runners to sign LeBron this offseason.

  6. Yours is the first, detailed information about why his system might not work for this team.

    Sorry, but no. Many people here, including me, have talked about this–I talked about it, in fact, before D’Antoni had coached a game here.

    The other issue, as I have noted many times, is the 3s. Last year’s team was 5th in Pace and 3rd in 3PA, but 19th in 3p%. I have posted these numbers probably 10-15 times since MDA was hired. And it was clear when he was hired that the team’s personnel was in some respects an awkward fit with SSOL, due to its age, size, lack of 3P shooters, and lack of speed. I backed the hire, but noted before he had coached a game that MDA would have to adjust. Others did as well.

    In addition, I–and others–have noted multiple times that Kobe’s style of play does not really match what MDA likes to do, and this was explained, in detail, before the Toronto game.

    While I give credit to Darius for his insight, your statement is false, and demonstrably so.

  7. Darius: Great write up
    Craig W.: rr talked about MD hopefully adjusting his style from day 1 and stated that he thought the style would need to be modified for our roster. I have said this coach does not match the roster from day 1. And he does not. It was as true a year ago as it is now. The talent level just makes the record worse.
    Talent: Indeed it trumps all. No coach could win with this roster However that is just a simple fact. It is neither a reason to change coaches nor is it a reason to keep the coach.
    All: Like Darius – I do not like watching huge loss after huge loss so an adjustment would be warranted. That said – in the longer run – the question is – what is the future roster going to look like? Is MD going to be here? And will he adjust then? We know we have Kobe. We will probably have Nash and we might even have Pau Doesn’t sound like this issue I going away. Or perhaps it will : )

  8. There are actually some guys who do work well with MDA ball on this team. IMO, they are:

    Farmar
    Henry
    Johnson (as a 3, not a 4, IMO).
    Kelly (slow but has the range)
    Meeks

    Blake–to an extent, although he is a little slow.

    Kobe and Hill, though, don’t fit that well.

    The bigs–there are definitely numbers that show that MDA’s way has been working (dives) better than post-ups. But true bigs tend to like to post-up.

  9. agree with the post on MD but even more so with Rr. System only works with the right players. He hasen’t had that since the Suns. Kobe , Hill and Pau do not fit as was case with Dwight .

    So it’s not Mike fault but the people who hired him that clearly did not fully understand the players needed to fit the only system MD knows.

    Wrong coach or wrong players. Either way it’s wrong.

  10. Ko,

    As many noted at the time, given Howard’s PnR conversion rate numbers, he and Nash should have been awesome together, in theory. That was one main reason I backed the hire.

    For a variety of reasons, it obviously did not happen.

    And this year, some numbers show that Pau is much more effective rolling than posting up or in pick-n-pop. But…IMO there is a human thing here, in that I think most big guys tend to like to post up and go to work.

  11. Great breakdown Darius, i think it boils down to talent, the NBA is a talent oriented league and right now we dont have it. Slow pace/ fast pace it dont matter we would still be losing games just the same we still going to be lit up inside or outside on D.

  12. I like the idea of changing things up: slowing down the pace a bit, taking fewer 3s (the misses lead to run outs which the Lakers can’t–or won’t–cover), becoming more of a post up team, especially with Pau (and Chris Kaman if he returns to the rotation), etc.

    My big concern, as I stated in a prior post, is whether the team will even listen to MDA or not. Has he lost, or is he in the process of losing, their trust? Does he have any credibility left in the eyes of his players? There’s plenty of evidence, as I see it, that they’re already not listening to him.

    Maybe a change of tactics will re-establish D’Antoni’s leadership credentials with the players. Then again, maybe it won’t. But it’s probably worth a shot.

  13. Fantastic read Darius! We all knew that the Lakers roster wasn’t really suited to MDAs style at all last year. This year was a little bit better, but not much. I’m not an MDA fan at all really, but he was doing fairly well with half a deck until injuries took the other half. I don’t believe that he should be fired, fairly anyway, until he has an injury free squad for more than 2 weeks of a season.

    I think that I agree with most here that claim we need to see him adjust his style of play a bit more. The fact that he coached this D-League roster to 14 wins is actually pretty amazing in and of itself, although I personally believe that he left wins on the table here and there with his refusal to change the pace and play to his best players strengths.

    As an aside…FB&G is always a great site, but lately you guys have been on fire! Great job FB&G!

  14. KenOak: “We all knew that the Lakers roster wasn’t really suited to MDAs style at all last year.” Well – some of us knew this, but according to the Laker FO, he was selected, exactly because he was a “better fit for our roster”.
    Ko: “Wrong coach or wrong players” So why would we want to make MD or the players change and force a style to which they are not accustomed? Does not either the roster or the coach need to change? Of course we already signed Kobe so how is this ever going to work?
    Mid-Wilshire: I agree and I think MD needs to do it just for his own good. However from the Laker standpoint, why would we base our future on that? We are going to base our plans off of how a bunch of guys (most of whom won’t be here next year), react to MD’s hypothetical style change? Then again – since we can’t judge our coach off anything objective, like results, perhaps you are on to something.

  15. I think back to the general gist of what Phil Jackson used to want his teams to do, ala slow the game down and play to the strengths of being longer, bigger and more skilled around the basket. This was true of the ’00-’04 Lakers as well as the Lakers once Bynum developed and we got Pau. We should also remember that LO was great at getting a rebound and running with the ball. We didn’t always get a fast break out of it but we often got mismatches and scrambling defenses to toy with. You get way more Kobe Assists off of shots closer to the rim than on missed threes, as well. Point being, even with the talent we had under PJ, the team tended to slow it down and play to it’s strengths. So, I’ll take MDA’s initial responses to questions about his style fitting the Lakers as nonsense that makes sense until you analyze it. You don’t want more possessions, you want more good shots. Darius already spoke to this in his response above.

    MDA needs to adapt to the team he has and so do we. We don’t have a point-guard that should be starting in this league. Frankly, I don’t think we have a second string NBA point guard. It should not come as a surprise to anyone that our loses began to pile up once this became the case. Blake was playing phenomenal ball when he got injured. Farmar was up and down but mostly effective. I don’t expect that Steve Nash will ever have an impact again. Our best players need someone to get them the ball in position to do something. This is where the team is at. I don’t think this team is as lacking in talent as it has recently looked, rather we don’t have the right combinations of skills because of injury. I can see the bottom from here. We seem to be headed right to it. The Lakers, like a baby, are built to bounce.

  16. While I think the injury thing has been overstated a bit at times, in terms of the big picture, the losses of Blake and Farmar have clearly really hurt the team short-term, and I think the Lakers will obviously be more competitive with them and Kobe, playing his natural position, back on the floor.

    However, long-term, that may be very bad for the franchise, in that I could see the team playing well enough so that the Lakers get the 9th-10th pick, rather than the 5th/6th, while simultaneously substantially reducing their chances of ping-ponging into the top 3.

  17. This system was working…over 500 without Kobe…You had success …the players you had success with are coming back…You dont go back and forth… Amazing how lots of fans loved how we beat the Clips,Houston and others with this system and want to get rid of it cause of injuries…

  18. Very insightful analysis! Thank you Darius!

    I don’t think MDA is a hard-working coach who prepares his team well. He maybe a offense genius, but he might also be too stubborn to alter his system to accommodate the players. In short, he does not maximize the hand that he is dealt with.

    We all understand the misfortune that the laker are suffering from all these injuries to our players. But at same time, MA is not doing a good job in: A. develop these young kids (he is more into head-butting with Hills) and B. Fostering an environment that this team is great place for coming free agents. (His run-in with Pau, jabs at DH, calling Kobe a fan…..)

    There are rational reasons to keep him. But it is getting very difficult to watch his try-be-smart humor. A head-coach should also be responsible for team’s public relations.

  19. I don’t necessarily disagree w/ points to MDA’s flexibility – that lead to his leaving Phx in the first place. I just think bringing up questions regarding his system/pace at this juncture given the injury situation is sorta a red herring. You could bring in the gundy’s, pop, pj, etc… and nobody regardless of style/system/slow it down etc.. is going to win with this roster. Personally I’m along rr’s lines, they’ve gotten so bad thru no fault of their own that to win now only ruins chances to get a high pick vs getting stuck w a 8th to mid first rounder because they finished just out of the playoffs.

  20. The Clips and Houston were emotional victories, but you can’t say that we would be beating those teams with both of us playing peak ball.

  21. At this juncture, I think Gene´s got it right,
    but the great post Mid alluded to, his own from the last thread at 7:29 am, was dead on:
    the coaches may have already lost the player´s trust. Ouch.

  22. Hi Darius,

    Your analysis reminds us that the quagmire we are in will not disappear well into the foreseeable future: D’Antoni’s chosen tempo appears to wear down the current available players, and will have to be substantially modified if Kobe, Nash, and Blake return this year. It would further continue to be a problem with Kobe and Nash returning for sure next year, expecting to play a major role. It will also be a factor that limits the effectiveness of both free agent signings and trades–or even the resigning of Gasol, Kamen, or Hill.

    The problem does not go away with the firing of D’Antoni at the end of the season. It’s not clear who would come in with a roster headed by Bryant and Nash, mesh them with free agents and a perfect draft, and go after a championship. It’s not clear that free agents or top coaches would want to be led by the current FO. The Lakers could easily find themselves out of the playoffs for another year–or many years.

    The most optimistic sign I see is that more and more bloggers are looking thoughtfully beyond the remaining Kobe years into a cloudy crystal ball.

  23. If the rumors of Kobe & Nash returning before the month is out are true…the pace will slow down, regardless of how the coach wants to play it.

  24. Interesting angle re: pace of play. D’Antoni’s consistently proven unable to adapt his system to the players he has. Without the players he wishes he had, he’s part of the problem. From more of a management/personnel perspective of how the Lakers can get back into contention (Lance Stephenson & Reggie Jackson headline potential additions), give this article a read:

    http://leaguebeats.com/2014/01/10/a-winning-strategy-to-overcome-indecision-solving-what-ails-the-lakers/

  25. drrayeye: Exactly – nice post. And therein lie the issue. How are we going to attract FA? How are we going to develop a system that intrigues FA, works with our veterans, and somehow blends in the ping pong ball draft pick? With regard to the problem not going away if we change coaches – that is 100% correct. Much more than that needs to happen and yes – years is unfortunately – correct. The question at year end is one of direction. The presence of Kobe, Nash, MD, and at this point – little else, make that direction a little less than clear. If we hope for good heath, and “adjustments” – that would improve things, but it would be like novocaine on a rotten tooth. It will only make us feel better in the short run. The underlying sources of the problem will remain.
    And for those in the “tank” camp. Doing that for 1 year does not work unless you draft Shaq/Magic/Ewing. So should we have a 2 year Kobe retirement tour and not try to contend/make the playoffs? I can live with that – can all of you? Or should we try to contend with all of this mismatch. inevitably finishing middle of the pack at best, which we all know is where you do not want to be?

  26. @Robert: Can’t agree that getting a great lottery pick one year doesn’t work if it’s not a Shaq/Magic/Ewing caliber player. I don’t think anyone on this draft is on that level. That doesn’t mean that getting a guy a notch or even several notches below that sort of championship cornerstone player won’t move the needle. The current CBA makes high-level contributors on rookie deals the most valuable commodity in the league short of once in a generation types like Lebron.

    So let’s say LA continues in its downward spiral, gets a pick in the 3-6 range, and walks away with Joel Emblid, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, or Dante Exum. Each of those guys has legit all-star potential, and is equipped to contribute right away (even if not at an all-star level). Add to that the 3-5 talented holdovers – e.g., Wes, Young, Henry, Farmar – and suddenly you have a nice supporting cast around Kobe and free agents X, Y, and or Z (think Lance, Spencer Hawes, Kyle Lowry, Reggie Jackson or maybe even Gordon Hayward). That’s a team good enough to compete next year, and is well suited to develop going forward.

  27. Ineffectiveness of Nash & Kobe back court may surpass Meeks and Marshall.

    Nash playing is a joke.

    A healthy Jordan Farmar is what the Lakers need to regain their stride.

  28. Doing that for 1 year does not work unless you draft Shaq/Magic/Ewing.

    Whatever people think of Buss and D’Antoni, everyone can probably agree that if the Lakers are going to get off the deck before 2017-18 or so, or even later, they are probably going to need to make at least two, probably three, major talent acquisitions. Looking at two of the three ways to get talent (leaving out the third due to the site policy and for other reasons):

    DRAFT

    The indicators are that there are probably three big difference-makers in this draft: Embiid, Wiggins, and Parker. The worse the Lakers’ record is, the greater their chances of getting one. None of these guys is a sure thing like Shaq or LeBron, but that is kind of like the argument that people made about why it was OK if Howard left–”He’s not a true franchise player.” You have to try to get the best talent available.

    FA

    Same thing here: Kevin Love has his faults, but he is the best player who seems like he might change teams over the next three years–plus he has ties to LA and currently plays in a cold-weather, small-market city on a team that has never made the playoffs since they got him. So he is the best bet. But the Lakers have a chessboard problem, due to the decision to give Kobe the deal that they did, in that Kobe will be taking up 35% of the cap when Love hits FA, and Love, if he leaves Minnesota, will probably want to join a team that can contend immediately, or at the very least, within a year. This probably means that the guy whom the Lakers draft will need to show enough in a hurry that Love can see that guy as being part of a championship-caliber team, with him, (Love) in a hurry. That is going to be a tall order for any 20-year-old, but it will be almost impossible for a guy they get at 9 or 10. For a variety of reasons, Embiid is the best bet, IMO.

    Like I said in the earlier post, I think there is a good chance that Kobe, Blake and Farmar will come back and play the Lakers into the 8th-10th pick. If the Lakers played the rest of the year with who they have now, they would probably get to the 2nd or 3rd-worst record on their own–maybe even the worst.

    But having the worst record only guarantees the 4th pick, and the FO is not going to tell Kobe et al to sit out so they can maybe possibly draft a 20-year-old who might be great, so those whose sensibilities are offended by “tanking” don’t have to worry, IMO. But we may look back in a couple of years at a 32-50 season and wonder if it might have been better to go 25-57.

    That said, the Lakers can always get lucky–Chicago had less than a 2% shot at the #1 when Rose came out, and maybe Love will come anyway. We will have to hope.

  29. That’s a team good enough to compete next year, and is well suited to develop going forward.

    I read the link. That team would be a second-tier playoff team, maybe–but I think that would be its ceiling, unless it drafted an all-star. Jackson and Stephenson would certainly upgrade the perimeter D, but the guy who wrote the piece underestimates how much playing in front of Hibbert and Ibaka helps those guys, IMO. And how Stephenson would do off the court in LA would also be a possible problem.

    I also think he badly overestimates Pau’s trade value and over-projects Kobe’s value going forward. We still don’t know if Kobe will be able to stay on the floor and how well he will play if he can.

    I do agree with the general idea that the organization seems to be lurching/edging in different directions simultaneously.

  30. i think D’Antoni’s game needs people who nail open shots more than anything. looking back at the Clippers game(and every blow out), what put the nail in the Lakers coffin was bricked open shots, not contested shots, open shots. that’s the difference with the Clippers, they hit everything that was unguarded.

    normally, someone on the team will get hot. this current squad with all the injuries is out of shooters. the ones that are playing are nicked up, so it makes the Lakers an easy cover defensively. in this offense, wide open shots MUST be hit, or it’s mayhem, especially with no guards left on the team. Jodie Meeks has been really good this year, but he and Swaggy P can’t handle that entire load. PJ’s teams were more about offensive balance which kills fast breaks by having more rebounders in position when a shot is taken, but it wouldn’t make much difference in this or last season.

    and fwiw, i can see why Kaman is out of the rotation. he’s a good player, but he’s such a ball stopper…if he was Kobe, that’d be fine, but he’s not even close to being the dynamic scorer that would make his insistance on looking for a shot every time he touches the ball ok. he’s a much betyter shooter than Sacre, and more talented, but Sacre is less likely to kill the offensive and defensive schemes, such as they are…

    again, it may stink, but there’s nothing to get worked up about this season. if they get healthy and get it going, great! if not, whatever. just get a new hobby for a year or three. this will turn around eventually, because i think the ownership really wants it to improve. even Donald Sterling’s team got better when he really wanted them to win. there’s no way that you can really call the Clipper ownership superior(basketball-wise), even if the Clippers are great right now and the Lakers aren’t, even with Jimmy Buss.

  31. @rr: Some reasonable points made. But we part company on three principal issues:

    (1) That hypothetical team’s ceiling. (For those who haven’t read the article from my first comment, we’re speculating about a lineup featuring 1. Reggie Jackson; 2. Lance Stephenson; 3. Kobe; 4. Julius Randle; and 5. Spencer Hawes, with guys like Farmar, Young, Henry, Johnson, and Sacre filling out the bench.)

    Of course, the team’s potential to contend depends upon Kobe regaining his spring 2013 form (or perhaps 90% of it). And I’ll concede that Lance is a loose cannon — thing is, LA needs stellar talents, and those guys usually aren’t available if they don’t have question marks. While both Indiana’s and OKC’s D benefit from rim protection (especially Indy), that does nothing to diminish the individual defensive ability of Jackson and Stephenson. Those guys are top tier defenders. But more importantly, they’re both damn good already and stand poised to improve. Lance is already warranting all-star consideration. Pair those two and Kobe with a vastly improved frontcourt, and it’s hard to see how that team’s ceiling is fixed as low as you suggest. (I’m not saying it’s a sure fire Finals team, but it’s capable of tossing its hat in the ring.)

    2. Pau’s Value. The article suggests LA might be able to get a contender’s 1st round pick, i.e., somewhere between 25-30. It hardly inflates his value to suggest LA could get a late pick for a guy who makes those teams the favorite to win the title.

    3. No indicators suggest Embiid, Wiggins, and Parker are the draft’s only difference makers. You haven’t been watching games or reading if you don’t think Marcus Smart, Julius Randle, Dante Exum, and Aaron Gordon, for starters, project as immediate impact players.

  32. Bryan: ” won’t move the needle” Never said that. However – moving the needle is different than “filler up” : )
    rr: Draft: Of course the lower we finish, the better off our odds are. And we are not accomplishing anything of note this year, so why not – in other words the tanking argument, which has some decent merit – see I can see merit in “some” things I don’t like : )

    My point is not that we should not bother with the draft – obviously it is one of our paths to getting better. My point is that the arguments to “tank” this year, could easily be made again next year. To think we are going to tank for one year, get the good pick, it works out, we strike gold in FA, Kobe returns 100% healthy, and we are contenders again right away. Well sounds a bit optimistic (and of course rr – your posts are saying this as well). So we need to decide if we are going to make such a run next year (I think the tank no tank decision may very well come up again next year).
    mud: “if not, whatever. just get a new hobby for a year or three. this will turn around eventually” At least in my case, I am not predicting that the Lakers will stay down for 100 years. However, being out of the Finals for a longer period than we ever have been in history, is a big deal to me. If it is not to you – that is fine. Yes – yes – I know the sun will come up, I know basketball does not solve world hunger, and I know there is better stuff we should all be doing with our time. That said – it is still a big deal to me, if I have to watch this for a year or three. Not saying you are wrong about the probability of us having to do it, because you are probably correct.

  33. And for the record – I already have way too many hobbies (some might call them vices). The Lakers are not one that I can just drop. We were married long ago. Till death do us part.

  34. MDA might ask himself what it means to be the “best defensively and offensively”.

    Next:

    112.8, 107 (5.8)
    117.8, 108.5 (9.3)
    118.2, 110.9 (7.3)

    101.3, 94.1 (6.2)
    100.6, 97.2 (3.4)
    100.8, 92.3 (8.5)

    110.4, 103.3 (7.1)
    108.4, 102.8 (5.6)
    110.2, 102.9 (7.3)
    110.1, 105.1 (5.0)

    The one team, Showtime, well, those are 3 of the 80s titles (’84-’85 and after). Then is the 3-peat Lakers, and then MDA’s Suns. And since I spoke of MDA’s Suns :

    San Antonio Spurs L 106 111
    San Antonio Spurs W 101 81
    San Antonio Spurs L 101 108
    San Antonio Spurs W 104 98
    San Antonio Spurs L 85 88
    San Antonio Spurs L 106 114

    That was their 110.2 year. Didn’t sniff that come that series with the Spurs. And since I mentioned the 06-07 Spurs:

    98.5, 90.1 (8.4)

    Which is a higher point differential than the high scoring Suns had that year. So in at least one season, comparing two teams, who played each other in the playoffs….

    So might I dispute the notion that playing fast and having more possessions a game necessarily means a large output separation?

    Sticking with the 06-07 Spurs, they won it all by being 27th in the entire NBA in FGA and 24th in the entire NBA in FTA. So, apparently, you do not need to shoot all that much to win. As I asked, what does it mean to be the better team defensively and offensively? The Spurs were the best team in the league, yet 27th and 24th. Their opponents were a combined 13th in FGA and last in FTA.

    And so no one gets me wrong, if the team had the 5 best 3 PT shooters in the league, then MDA’s style would be ideal, since while I wouldn’t dare dream of speaking to best team defensively and offensively, I would say that the team was trying to maximize its marginal advantage when it comes to 3 PT shooting (and in every sense and respect, i.e., the best 5, plus, while shooting at a lower FG% from 3 than 2, still, given the 3PTA% of the 5 best, the added 1 point makes all the difference in the world). And so I would phrase the objection here as failing to maximize whatever marginal advantage the talents of the players on this team afford.

    And I forgot to mention that the 06-07 Spurs were 27th out of 30 in the NBA in pace. The first 2 years of the 3-peat era, well, a remarkably consistent 14th (of 29), then last title year the team shot up to 6th. And for perception, and how wrong it can be, Showtime was slower than most imagine, at least in relative terms, their competitors, since those 3 title years, starting with ’84-’85: 9 of 23, 10 of 23, and 11 of 23. They were simply efficient: 1, 1, and 2 of 23 (offensive ratings). And back to the 06-07 Spurs, sure, 27th in FGA, but 3 and 3 in FG% and 3PT%, to with their 24th in FTA, at 17th in the league at FT%, all good for 5th of 30 in offensive rating. So they were relatively efficient as well.

    So for the incongruous in what MDA said, he said the right thing, best shot, but that could mean any style of play. Even clodhopper bigs dominating the offensive scheme. And might also mean less possessions, since it might be the less possessions that maximizes the efficiency, i.e., a well-crafted and executed 20 sec play versus the 8 seconds run on down and chuck up a 3. And what bothers me is, after the noted beat down by the Spurs, he doesn’t appear to have grasped these points.

    Oh, and Darius, we can use but the three numbers to make your point here:

    Pace: 3rd
    Off.Rating: 22
    Def.Rating: 25

    So the pace isn’t leading to the best team defensively and offensively, that much is certain. Whether it would be better with a slower pace, well, the team would have to try that out, and then we can compare. And it’s not that I don’t get what you say about Pau and some others not exactly fitting a fast paced scheme, but the talent is so marginal here that it simply might not make a difference what style and pace they play. And to round it out, to be fair to MDA, I don’t know what the FO is telling him, so, well, what did some say, players don’t tank? Indeed, they don’t. So perhaps tanking here is running a scheme that ill suits your trying their best players. In which case, since I’m the founder of the 20-62 bus, rock on MDA, rock on…

    For one more, so the rest of you are fair to me and Tank4Picks, it wasn’t our fault that the team actually improved the bench. I was hoping, and presumably Tank4Picks was hoping as well, that they’d have an even worse bench and our consolation would be a healthy Kobe scoring 40 to 50 a night on the road to 20-62.

  35. My point is that the arguments to “tank” this year, could easily be made again next year.

    Maybe, but IMO only if next year has a particular kind of disaster–that is, if Kobe goes down with another serious injury. Failing that, I think his presence almost guarantees that they will try to make the playoffs in 2015. So, I guess that don’t really get what your point is, other than that you are unhappy with the organization and its situation. And, again: there is widespread consensus that this is an unusually good draft. The fact that there is not a certain pay off doesn’t mean that there is going to be no payoff.

    Short-term (over the next 8-9 months) the decisions are:

    1. What to do with Hill and Kaman. They are the easiest guys to move, and MDA doesn’t really seem to want them.
    2. Whether to keep D’Antoni.
    3. Who to draft.
    4. How much of the cap space to spend and how much to keep available for a possible run at Love in July of 2015, should he hit the market.

    It may be that one reason for giving Kobe two years was to tell him that they will try to make another run in his final season, so they will save some money this off-season.

    But, again, I don’t think they are going to tank, in the sense of holding Kobe, Farmar, Blake and (ostensibly) Nash out to try to lose more. I think those guys will play when they are cleared and the org will let the draft chips fall where they may. I think the moves pointing to the draft/next year that are likely to be made will involve Hill and/or Kaman.

  36. Poker
    Old rock and role
    Fine wine
    Fine articulation
    Lakers

    Naming Roberts Vices ? Also mine!

  37. Bryan,

    I have seen all those college guys play, and I think all of them except the first three have major question marks and/or lengthy development curves. There is a lot of talent in this draft, but it is very young talent. Only time will tell, but I think the first three guys are on a different level, and that is why pretty much every draft board has Wiggins, Parker, and Embiid at the top. And none of them, as noted, is a Shaq-type talent, either.

    That said, I am neither a scout nor a draftnik, so I may be wrong.

    Jackson and Stephenson are both pretty good players, they would upgrade the defense, and they are young enough to get a bit better. Neither of them projects as a perennial All-Star type IMO. If you put a team like that together, you are basically trying to be the Atlanta Hawks. I don’t mean that as a put-down–there are never enough franchise players to go around. But projecting that team into a discussion with the Western top-tier is a long reach, ISTM.

    As to Pau, the guy who wrote the article is making assertions about Pau’s value based on his opinions, but I don’t see much evidence that such perceptions are shared by other FOs or analysts. The teams mentioned in the hypothetical deals, Indiana and Oklahoma City, are already in the title discussion as constructed, and would, I think, be reluctant to make major personnel changes to bring in Pau as a rental.

    Zach Lowe wrote a long piece on Stephenson earlier this year:

    “Stephenson just turned 23, and he looks to be making huge strides as a player. But he’s never going to be a superstar. He’s not going to be a no. 1 option on a good team, or a defensive wing stopper on the level of George, LeBron, Andre Iguodala, or Kawhi Leonard. He looks very much like a nice, above-average starting NBA wing.”

    http://www.grantland.com/blog/the-triangle/post/_/id/82471/the-growing-legend-of-lance-stephenson

  38. This is pretty good read and I think Mitch responds petty well.
    rr: My point is related to your #4 and things like that. The players and the coaches should always try 100%, but as Mitch states – “rebuilding” is anther matter. I like Mitch’s “ratio” convo. So my point is – what that ratio will be next year. If the “ratio” suggests you start playing for future years, that is not necessarily “tanking”, but it is holding back. I think that type of convo will apply to next year.
    http://www.nba.com/lakers/news/140111mitchkupchak_qa

  39. Robert,
    That’s exactly right. The Lakers should be tanking for the next few years. This is how the Thunder drafted Durant, Weatbrook, Ibaka, and Harden. I put awful players around my top picks. Even if you draft a superstar it take him a few years to grow as a player anyways. Even if the Lakers don’t draft a future superstar the young peices could be used to trade for a superstar or attract a superstar(s) via free agency. This is a simple plan for me. The next few years you tank. I don’t see a better option. I really don’t are another option.

  40. The Lakers are now tied for 14th in the West, % points ahead of Sacto. Only 7 teams, counting Sacto, have worse records.

  41. Mid-Wiltshire

    I just read your excellent post from yesterday on the question of coaches losing the team. While I agree, there are other thoughts. By having so many one year or obtain players you often find guys single minded looking for points.

    Boxing out or playing tough D is hard to measure. It’s like many baseball players on final year of a contract who puts up career hit or home runs numbers. Defense not so much.

    Conclusion without a strong coach or a Fisher type on the court this team may have become self centered knowing the future is on the line.

  42. On a slightly different (but not unrelated topic), the #1 ranked University of Arizona Wildcats just defeated USC by 20 pts., 73-53, at USC. Arizona held USC to 22 points in the second half. The Wildcats defense is superb. (In case you’re wondering, I’m not from Arizona. I went to Michigan.) They rotate beautifully, they pressure the ball, they leave no shot uncontested, they box out. On offense, they always make the smart pass.

    So…if a college team can adhere consistently to the fundamentals, why can’t the Lakers? Is it because they can’t? Or because they won’t?

  43. @RR: Sounds like we’ll mostly have to agree to disagree, which is all good. More than one way to skin a cat, right?

    I’ll point out a couple of flaws in your analysis, and leave you the last word if you want it. First, of the consensus top 7ish draft prospects, only Aaron Gordon’s development curve is steeper than Wiggins and especially Emblid. With those guys, you’re betting on huge upside. Now contrast that with, say, Julius Randle (who routinely puts up 25 and 15 and already has an NBA body), Marcus Smart (who stayed an extra year when me projected him to go #1 last year) and Jabari Parker (who boasts the most refined offensive game in college hoops). I’ll agree with you on this: you’re no draft-nick.

    Second, you linked to an article from Lowe, whose analysis I respect, but don’t consider to be gospel, from NOVEMBER 14th! Dude, seriously? Pretty sure we could find an article that didn’t fully capture Paul George’s potential 2 months prior to his playoff performance. Lance isn’t George, but the same logic applies. Perhaps more to the point, even Lowe would admit that he underrated Lance. He’s a frequent guest on the BS Report, and has said as much while projecting Lance to receive upwards of $9 million a year. He doesn’t have to be Magic to combine with Kobe, a top tier draft pick, two more upper-midlevel free agents, and a supporting cast that went .500 before being ravaged by injuries to make LA’s ceiling higher than one-and-done playoff contestant.

    Third, look, there’s no way to discern who’s right about Pau’s value. I’d just say that we’re not talking about upending successful rosters. We’re talking about sending undesirable contracts and useless players to significantly upgrade a contender’s title odds. In a group of contenders (Miami, Indy, SA, OKC & perhaps one or two more) from which no single team has distanced itself, even marginal upgrades matter, and this is far from that.

  44. This site pretty much reveals that there’s just very little talent among these Lakers: http://www.clublakers.com/lakers-discussion/laker-scouting-reports-t115206.html

  45. Robert, after some 30 years of marriage, i gotta say, sometimes you have to deal with things you don’t want to deal with. often there is nothing to do but accept those things and move forward. personally, i don’t think the Lakers will be down much longer, but it’s pretty bad right now.

    my comment about finding another hobby wasn’t one that meant if you don’t like losing quit, but i am telling those who can’t accept reality that it’s just too bad.

    there are only two things a fan can do right now to improve the team, either directly or indirectly.
    1. refuse to stand for it and leave the team in protest. if fans do this in droves, the team will either panic and fix it any way possible or just collapse and disappear.
    2. understand that this is the situation, accept it and support the team. go ahead and be critical, but temper the critique with the compassion given to the very ill. be nice.

    which of these two is more likely to lead to a satisfying, long term relatonship?

    it’s easy to pick a high spot or a high horse. that’s not always productive. obviously, my horse is as high as any, so i should know…

  46. With those guys, you’re betting on huge upside

    That’s exactly right.

    Randle has 3 steals and 9 blocks in 431 minutes. Embiid is at 13 and 36 in 321 minutes. Those are pretty good, and very important, indicators of athleticism and long-term defensive value. Randle almost certainly will be a good NBA player; I think his upside is Zach Randolph, which is plenty good. IMO, Embiid’s upside is 90-95% of Hakeem Olajuwon.

    Smart’s career 3P% is .305, and in games I have seen, his heavy body has sometimes made it hard for him to get lift and finish. He has improved on that this year, as his 2P% has gone up to .558. But there are holes in his game, and he will not have the size advantage in the NBA all the time that he has now. This is not to say that he will be a bust, but I would much rather have Parker, Wiggins, or Embiid than either Smart or Randle. Like I said, Wiggins, Parker and Embiid are 1-3 on most draft boards for good reasons.

    As to Stephenson, I am not sure what you are getting at. Stephenson is a nice player who has made incremental improvements on his game across the board. The metrics probably don’t capture some of his value, since a lot of his value is on defense. But he is not great at any one thing, and whether he would be able to handle a higher USG in a situation with less talent around him is unknown. As to how good this hypothetical team that this guy whose article you linked constructed would be, I am not sure that it is worth arguing about. But unless you put Kobe in a time machine, that team would almost certainly not have a Top 20 player on it, which would make it hard to compete at the top of the West.

    WRT Pau, Pau is still a pretty good offensive player, but as we have seen, he has lost a lot on defense and I am skeptical that any of those teams would be an instant title favorite if they got him. Of the deals the guy outlined, I think the OKC one is the only one that the other team might consider. The Indiana one is not awful for Indiana, but I don’t see Vogel and Bird wanting to break up what they have going to add Pau.

  47. Add to previous post: don’t think the OKC deal would be a go, either.

  48. This article about pace reminds me of how conferences in the NBA used to have different styles. The East was about slowing it down and grinding it out and the West was about run and gun. Since we do have big interior players (and I’m not saying they’re playing up to par on defense nor rebounding properly, but some blame is to be shared by the team) the best that MDA could do was to slow down the game and wear the opponents down on defense.

    We understand that we don’t have enough talent on offense to win games just by putting the ball in the bucket. We need to make sure that every game is close in order to have a chance to win. So, why not force the other teams to go small against us in order to increase their winning chance and just pound the ball inside? Who wants to drive against a 7 footer over and over again, specially if he’s down low just waiting to challenge you? And I’m not saying this is the absolute truth, but the fact is that in a roster with Pau, Hill, Kaman and Sacre we still haven’t tried this out for the course of 3 or 4 games. It has been tried in spurts through the course of a game, but I think the sample size is just too small to say that we wouldn’t increase our chance of winning by doing it…

    Again, MDA’s main mistakes are related to the use of our bigs. I really hope he’s gone by the end of this season.

  49. Bryan, nice post you got there. Here are my thoughts:

    First of all, we are not blowing 20 million dollars on Reggie Jackson and Lance Stephenson. These are very good players you refer to but no way are they all-stars. 13 million on Lance… more like twice his market value. And if people talk about not accepting bad contracts for Pau, what a way to sign yourself into one. I will, however, sign both for 6 million apiece. Its their opportunity to be a Laker. Their call.

    In the same light, you are very much underestimating the lure of Los Angeles that you have to overpay someone from small-market teams so they won’t overpay? Is that how its come to, now? I doubt it. Economics never change, its not about to. You might be basing it off on the Lakers losing Dwight Howard, I understand that, but I tell ya its not like that for majority of the world.

    The Lakers can go 2-ways to it, either sign your superstar now aka Carmelo Anthony if he expresses interest, or fill your team with great support cast and wait for Kevin Love in 2015. On 2016, get Russell Westbrook. This is the only permutation.

    I have started to explore the draft as its become a real possibility that we’re picking in the top 10. I have to agree with your assessment on the top 3, and that the next 5 after that are also very good players. How they transition into the NBA is another story and just a simple crapshoot. Remember, if you want them to be stars, you’d have to play them. So they also factor in who we get in free agency. Or the other way around, if we’re certain to land Melo, we’re drafting the best big man. If we pass up on Melo or he gets traded elsewhere he likes, then we draft the best wing possible.

    All in all, I too have made my own permutations. Assuming, and educatedly guessing. But all I know is that assuming things at this time, with the trade deadline still looming is just blowing bubbles.

  50. But all I know is that assuming things at this time, with the trade deadline still looming is just blowing bubbles.
    ___
    Very well put WWL;
    in a sense what Mitch stated about this summer and next in the interview with Trudell was just that: We´re not blowing any bubbles around this office, we´re day to day, week to week. Then when the time comes and the chips have fallen where they have, we move forward.

  51. @Warren: I can see where you’re coming from re: bad contracts.

    If we were drawing on a blank canvas, obviously we’d rather give $20 million to Westbrook than $13 million to Lance. But that’s not the decision we face. Maybe Westbrook comes home to LA in two years, but a lot of contingencies have to play out in LA in order for that happen. And again, that’s 2 years from now. As for Lance, clearly I’m higher on him than most, having watched a lot of Pacers games over the last year or two. Given the small sample of his stellar play, I’d much rather pay him $7 million/yr. And while he’s unrestricted, he needs a good reason to leave the situation where he’s thrived, and is widely known to be “one of Larry’s guys” who feels a sense of loyalty to Indy for taking a chance on him. So it’d take a premium to get him. Is that $13 million? Maybe not. Maybe it’s $10 million. But remember, you’re not paying for a 30 year old with this production, you’re paying a 23 year old for production that you expect to improve markedly as he enters his prime.

    @RR, just to clarify, I wan’t saying that Randle will definitely be better than Emblid. Who knows, right? But I’ll take a Zach Randolph ceiling any day. Might be cherry picking stats on Randle + Smart too (if he gets 25 and 15, who gives a #%#! if he has a steal too?)…But I’ve already technically violated my last word commitment. Mea Culpa.

    Oh, and if you’re wondering why I’m so attached to the ideas from that leaguebeats article, it’s because I wrote it. Always nice to get feedback on my Lakers articles from the experts here!

  52. mcten Dave McMenamin
    Pau Gasol hurt his L foot against the Clippers. He is not practicing today.
    13 minutes ago

    mcten Dave McMenamin
    Lakers medical update: Pau Gasol (L foot) will receive an MRI today. Xavier Henry’s examination (R knee) will be tomorrow

  53. darius: beginning to get this feeling? fast pace contributes to injuries; injuries from fast pace?
    without a young and healthy steve nash, who use to control the pace of mike d’antoni’s phoenix suns from yesteryear; we now have a mike d’antoni coached team hell bent on running a fast paced offense into the ground; sans steve nash; not healthy and not young; not ever.

    one could scream defense until one’s blue in the face, but when asked to run a fast paced offense, where’s the energy coming from to muster up the defense? therein lies the dilemma.

    and to think, we need the horses to run the offense and the defense. carts not doing so well.

    Go lakers

  54. Just heard the news on Pau Gasol’s MRI on his left foot. Lakers injury woes now extend to players with P & G in their name and not just the point guard position. Hope it is not serious and hope Xavier Henry is back soon as the Lakers need some healthy players.