In this episode of the Laker Film Room Podcast, Pete, Cranjis, and I offer up our season preview for the 2017-18 Lakers. We touch on every single player on the roster, offering up thoughts on what would make a successful season for each, look at key stats from the preseason, and get into the general strengths and weaknesses of each guy.

Our key focus is the major rotation players, with prominent discussions about Lonzo Ball (and why our early season expectations are a bit measured), Brandon Ingram (and what we can take away from his solid play towards the end of the preseason), the starting PF battle between Larry Nance and Julius Randle, Brook Lopez’s impact, and reiterating that Kyle Kuzma is legit.

Lastly, we get into Luke Walton and whether, a little over a year into his coaching tenure with the team, if our perception of him has shifted, whether we’ve seen growth in his coaching, and what we’d like to see from him in year two.

We covered a lot of ground in this one, so we hope you enjoy it. Click through to listen to the entire episode.

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The Lakers season begins tomorrow, but their overall health and player availability has been a key storyline over the last couple of days. While Lonzo Ball made it known he would he would play, Julius Randle’s intercostal strain and Andrew Bogut’s groin issues have made their status unknown.

That, though, is no longer true.

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The reigning G League MVP, Vander Blue, is returning to the Lakers. Again. According to Yahoo! Sports’ Shams Charania the young guard has signed a two way contract to rejoin the team. Part of the final round of training camp cuts, Vander stayed in Los Angeles because it was inevitable that he would once again be signed by one of the Laker franchises training in El Segundo.

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Preseason is behind us. We’ve counted the stats and learned a few things in the process. But, come Thursday, the real games start. The question is, what will be the Lakers starting lineup? We still don’t know.

The question of who will start at power forward is still unknown. We have our opinions, but Luke Walton is still mum on who it will be. If I were a betting man, I’d lean towards Larry Nance who has been getting run with the first five and because Julius Randle still isn’t practicing fully (he did not scrimmage in Tuesday’s session).

The other question, though, has nothing to do with injury or a positional battle, but with a suspension. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will miss the first two games of the regular season after pleading guilty to DUI charges while still a member of the Detroit Pistons. KCP’s suspension opens the door for another Lakers wing to join the starting group. Only, we don’t know who it will be.

And neither does Walton. Or at least he’s not saying even if he does.

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Lonzo Ball practiced fully, without limitations, on Monday and it was a welcomed sight to all. After missing the final four games of the preseason, he was back on the court with his teammates for all activities — including the team’s scrimmage which concluded the team’s work. After finally getting through an entire session, Ball cleared himself for Thursday’s season opener pretty definitively:

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Six games up and six games down, and Lakers preseason is over. We had a pinch of excitement, some great surprises, a tad of disappointment, a pretty boring final game, and were left with a lot of questions. Why didn’t Kyle Kuzma score 50 points a game? How come someone scored on defensive player of the century Kentavious Caldwell-Pope? Will Lonzo ever make a shot? Difficult, probing questions.

6 games of basketball has also left us with some data. Here are 25 stats from preseason that highlight some good (and bad) performances:

Offense

  1. Despite Lonzo Ball only playing in 2 of 6 preseason games, the Lakers had 23.2% of their offensive possessions be generated in transition. That’s higher than any team this preseason and higher than any regular season team on record.
  2. The team’s half court efficiency checks in at 20th and their transition efficiency a measly 26th.
  3. LA’s efficiency in special situations regressed from where it was the first few games, but they finished preseason 11th in BLOB (baseline out of bounds) efficiency, 6th in SLOB (sideline out of bounds) efficiency, and 4th in ATO (after timeout) efficiency.
  4. Accounting for both scoring and passing leading to shots, the Lakers ranked 8th in isolation efficiency, 16th in pick and roll efficiency, and 20th in post up efficiency.
  5. The Lakers were the 27th most efficient team in catch and shoot efficiency and 20th in pull up efficiency. This is not a good shooting team.
  6. Larry Nance Jr had 7 transition possessions in 6 games. Julius Randle and Kyle Kuzma each had 24, Jordan Clarkson had 19, Brandon Ingram had 17, and KCP had 16.
  7. Ingram shot 3 for 11 on those transition shots, which is very very bad. KCP shot 5 for 14 on his transition looks, which is also terrible.
  8. Julius Randle’s efficiencies in his play types are almost identical to what they were last season, but his overall efficiency has spiked. Why? Because instead of isolation being his most frequent half court play type it’s fallen to just 4.5% of his offense.
  9. The Lakers had zero (0) players above the 50th percentile in spot up shooting efficiency. Kuz lead the team & was exactly the 50th percentile.
  10. Jordan Clarkson was 9 for 14 scoring from the pick and roll (89th percentile PPP) and guys shot 7 for 12 after his PnR kickouts.
  11. Brook Lopez was a perfect 6 for 6 shooting as a pick and roll roller. He had 3 pops, 2 rolls, and 1 slip.
  12. Kuzma led the team in isolation possessions with 11, and scored 15 points on those chances. He shot 4 for 6 and drew 4 shooting fouls. His 1.364 points per possession was the second best of any preseason NBA player.
  13. Julius Randle shot 3 for 10 in the post, Lopez shot 4 for 9, Kuzma was 1 for 2, and Ingram was 0 for 3.
  14. KCP had 13 off screen possessions and scored 1.000 PPP on those chances (50th percentile). No other laker had more than 3 off screen possessions.
  15. Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. led the team with 2 putback makes each.

Defense

  1. The Lakers finished preseason with the 20th best defense overall, 20th in transition, and 15th in the half court.
  2. No team defended the pick and roll better than the Lakers… Well, sort of. The team held opponents to 0.505 points per possession from pick and roll ball handler shots, an absolutely elite number.
  3. However, the Lakers ranked 29th in defense of roll men, and when accounting for both spot up and roll man shots from the pick and roll along with ball handler shots, LA’s defense ranks only 16th. This is likely a sign that the team is committing too early on ball handlers in the pick and roll, and it’s costing them positioning to defend kick outs.
  4. The Lakers have contested 55.3% of the catch and shoot jump shots they’ve faced. That number has increased from 51.1% during the regular season last year.
  5. Larry Nance Jr. leads the team in fouls committed with 16. Randle and Ingram each have 13, tied for second.
  6. LA’s pull up defense ranks 3rd, but their catch and shoot defense ranks 32nd of the 36 teams that played during preseason (which include several international club teams). This could be a symptom of a team over helping and leaving shooters open on kick outs.
  7. Opponents shot 15 for 50 when Kyle Kuzma was their primary defender, and his defensive PPP of 0.645 put him in the 81st percentile among preseason players. That’s really good.
  8. Julius Randle’s defense was even stouter, conceding just 0.625 points per possession, placing him in the 84th percentile. He notably only had 1 shooting foul in 56 possessions, an incredibly low 1.8% rate that was lower than any player with as many defensive possessions.
  9. The Laker giving up the lowest FG% against is Josh Hart at 27.3% (6/22).
  10. Alex Caruso, who in 50 D-League games last year was in the 81st percentile defensively, finished this preseason with a PPP in the 82nd percentile. He also leads the team in steals with 10.

Strong Hart has Weak Leg

Sten Ensberg —  October 16, 2017 — 

A tough string of Lakers injury news continued for Josh Hart Monday when he left practice with an Achilles strain. An MRI has been scheduled to determine the extent of the injury. This most recent injury comes on the heels of ankle and hamstring injuries that have followed him from Las Vegas Summer League to Los Angeles preseason action.

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lakers-power-forward-position-battle

If you ask Luke Walton he’ll tell you that the starter for the Lakers power forward position is yet to be determined. There are three candidates – Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr., and Kyle Kuzma. Each offers specific skill sets that are varied and useful enough to be considered legitimate answers.

Walton, does seem to be leaning towards Randle or Nance, however:

Are either Randle or Nance the best answer? Is it actually Kuzma? While Walton and his staff will have the final say, we commissioned our writers to weigh in on the topic too. So, without further ado, here’s what the folks at FB&G think about it all…

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