Despite missing a chunk of the lineup and traveling across the entire Eastern seaboard in a week, the Los Angeles Lakers have to be extremely happy with how their Grammy road trip ended no matter what happens tomorrow afternoon in New York.
Think about it. At one point this week, the Lakers couldn’t do five-on-five drills during practice because only nine guys were healthy enough to practice. They had two sets of road back-to-backs. They’re giving regular minutes to two D-league players (Manny Harris and Kendall Marshall) and head coach Mike D’Antoni still refuses to give big boy minutes to his most efficient player, Jordan Hill.
After beating the Toronto Raptors, the Lakers lost a heartbreaker in overtime against the Chicago Bulls and went toe-to-toe against back-to-back champion Miami before running out of gas in Orlando. The Lakers have to be tired.
Of course, just saying giving the team an A for effort isn’t going to cut it. There are still several legitimate issues that could be taken care of — even with the depleted roster.
Let’s start with Jordan Hill’s playing time. The power forward has the third highest offensive rebound rate in the entire league yet he’s still only averaging 19.8 minutes per game. Heck, Shawne Williams who is no longer on the team still has a higher MPG than Hill.
Hill also has the highest PER on the Lakers – hovering over the 19 mark. This essentially means he’s the most efficient player on the Lakers, but he receives laughable playing time.
The reason why this is frustrating to see from afar is because the Lakers are the worst rebounding team in the league. When one looks at the basic stats, they see the Lakers rank 20th in rebounding – averaging 42.6 boards per game. However, the advanced stats tell the real story. The Lakers are dead last in rebounding percentage and grab only 46.9 percent of all rebounding opportunities.
This is how Tobias Harris gets 20 rebounds in a game and the Miami Heat, who are also an awful team on the glass, out-rebound the Lakers, 48-35.
When a team doesn’t get defensive rebounds, they give their opponent more chances to score. On the flip side, if they do get offensive rebounds, they get more opportunities to score. It’s a simple concept that shows how valuable rebounding is and one would think that if a team had the third best offensive rebounder in the game, he’d get more action.
Hill, however, got fewer minutes than Manny Harris last night.
The numbers show that Hill doesn’t get tired when he plays a lot. He’s played four games where he’s logged over 30 minutes and he averaged 12 rebounds. Also, in back-to-back situations he averages two more rebounds per game than he does after a day of rest. This isn’t to say that he should average 40 minutes per night, but perhaps a little bit more than the peanut minutes he’s getting right now would help the Lakers on the glass.
Other than this, every excuse regarding injuries is valid for the Lakers. They have been ravaged by the injury bug all season long and as a result, have been forced to play inexperienced players. Because of this, they have struggled mightily on defense. The Lakers haven’t held an opponent to fewer than 100 points in 11 games.
That said, they have to be happy with the effort and the surprising play of Kendall Marshall. Last night against Orlando, he dished out 14 assists and only had one turnover. He also added 19 points. Those are numbers elite point guards like Chris Paul or Rajon Rondo put up on a regular basis. Marshall still has a lot to learn — his defense is suspect and he turns the ball over too much — but if this continues, then Marshall may have locked up a spot for himself on the roster for the foreseeable future.
The Lakers finish up their Grammy trip against the Knicks tomorrow afternoon on ABC. They won’t have a welcome return home, though, as they take on one of the league’s best teams in the Indiana Pacers. The Lakers will close out the week at home against the Bobcats.