Archives For

General Thoughts on the Season

Chris Kaman was the fifth highest paid player on the Los Angeles Lakers this season making $3.1 million. However, he had the second fewest minutes (19 minutes per game) on the team among all the regulars. Only Robert Sacre received less playing time.

Usually, a player receives little playing time when they struggle. That wasn’t the case for Kaman, though. Like Jordan Hill, Kaman was subjected to minimal playing time by Mike D’Antoni and had a series of DNP-CD’s despite contributing to the team in a positive way.

During his exit interview, Kaman expressed his frustrations and said that he doesn’t think two bigs fits D’Antoni’s style of offense.

While he did have several injuries throughout the season that also cut his playing time, Kaman could barely find his way on the floor even when he was healthy. There’s no doubt that this became frustrating as the season dragged along.

No, Kaman isn’t a Pau Gasol. No one expects him to be. However, he certainly wasn’t deserving of having the second fewest minutes on a terrible team. This is a guy who on one of the league’s worst defensive teams, had the second best defensive rating on his team at 103.6, yet once again, he received the second least playing time. Some of the times he would get DNPs or slashed playing time were highly questionable and inexplicable.

After a 17-rebound performance in a late December loss to the Golden State Warriors, Kaman had his minutes cut to half for the next game. Then, on Christmas he received a DNP against the Miami Heat. What’s confusing is that D’Antoni played him for 30 minutes in the following game against the Utah Jazz (oh, and he had a 19-point, 10-rebound showing in a win).

It almost seems like D’Antoni had no idea what to do with Kaman. Sure, he wasn’t the most consistent player, but it seems like his punishment for one bad game was too severe at times. He would go weeks without playing, and then put up a string of games with efficient shooting and strong rebounding only to be benched again.

Kaman played in nine games where he received more than 24 minutes of playing time. In those games, he had six double-doubles and he scored in double figures every time averaging 19.2 points and 11.1 rebounds in those games. Those are Gasol numbers! Scratch what I said before. Kaman was a Gasol when he got his fair share of floor time!

Strengths/Weaknesses

When Kaman was on the floor this year, the Lakers were significantly a better defensive team. When he was off the floor, the Lakers defensive rating was 108.9, compared to 103.6 when he was on the floor. The Lakers net rating with Kaman on the court was also almost twice as good as when he was on the bench (-3.7 against -6.5).

Offensively, however, it was a different story. Kaman had an offensive rating of 99, which could have turned the offensive minded D’Antoni off. That being said, he was an efficient shooter from inside and near the paint.

Shotchart 1401858533641

It would’ve been interesting to see how Kaman’s numbers would be different if had more playing time. This season marked the least playing time he’s ever received in his career — almost ten minutes per game fewer than his career average. However, his points per game average (10.4) was only a little over one point less than his career average of 11.7. His production was still there despite the lack of playing time. Finally, his player efficiency rating of 17 was the second highest of his career.

Highlight of the Season

The moment that will live on the longest from Kaman’s season is the picture (and the resulting memes) of him sprawled out on the Lakers’ bench in a game against the Cavs. In a game the Lakers finished with only 4 available players, Kaman enjoyed the extra space on the bench and decided to take the phrase “getting some rest on the bench” very literally.

The best moment of Kaman’s season probably came towards the end, however. The Lakers were playing spoiler against the Phoenix Suns and Kaman put on a spectacular performance where he scored 28 points on 13-of-19 shooting and grabbed 17 rebounds in a 16-point victory. The Suns were riding a six-game winning streak prior to that loss. After that, they lost five of their last nine and missed the playoffs.

Going Forward

Kaman is a free agent this summer and could probably stay since D’Antoni is gone. Also, since he had some injuries, is getting older, and had limited playing time this year, the 32-year old may have lost some leverage in negotiation. If the Lakers can take him for less than the amount they were paying him, then they should keep him by all means. He’s a veteran big who isn’t afraid to shoot and could bring some pop from the bench.

Final Grade:

Incomplete.

It’s difficult to grade Kaman’s season. When he got playing time, he performed at a B caliber level (for Kaman expectations). Unfortunately, he only got playing time in a third of the games he played, which wasn’t that many because of injuries and DNPs.

General Thoughts on Player:

The buzzer sounded at the Bradley Center on a chilly spring Milwaukee night and the Los Angeles Lakers found themselves on the losing end once again in a season that just didn’t end quickly enough. The 16-time NBA champions had just been swept in a season series against the Milwaukee Bucks. This pretty much summed up the Lakers woeful season, who have lost to the bad and been crushed by the best throughout the season. It was difficult to find many positives after a season like this that was riddled with countless injuries, but walking out of the locker room in Milwaukee was Jordan Hill, one of the few silver linings in the Lakers dismal 2013-14 season.

Hill scored 28 points and grabbed 16 rebounds that night in just 31 minutes. He made 13 of his 17 field goal attempts. Nine of his 16 rebounds were of the offensive variety. These type of numbers weren’t an anomaly either. Hill continuously showed this season how efficient he can be…when he got playing time.

The big man with dreadlocks missed almost a month due to injury, but that’s not the only reason why he wasn’t on the floor throughout most of the season. Hill played in 72 games but only averaged close to 20 minutes per game despite playing very well in limited playing time. His per 36 numbers were highly efficient — 16.7 points and 12.8 rebounds. For whatever reason, Mike D’Antoni would not play him the minutes that Hill deserved despite all the injuries the team had until April – when Hill finally got playing time and delivered.

Throughout March and April, Hill averaged over 27 minutes per game – well above his season average. April was his most productive month as he averaged 29 minutes and scored 16.6 points and grabbed 10.1 rebounds per game. When Hill got his minutes, he averaged a double double, but for whatever reason, Mike D’Antoni did not start playing him much until later in the season.

That night in Milwaukee was the beginning of Hill’s rise in the end of the season. His Per 36 numbers were always solid, but we hadn’t seen if it would actually translate to real stats if he did get playing time. Hill was successful in doing so on a horrendous team and for this reason, there is no doubt his price will go up in the offseason.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Hill has limitations. He’s not the next Dwight Howard or Roy Hibbert. Defensively he’s not the greatest player in the world and this is evidenced by his defensive rating of 108.2. That said, this could have been a product of the system he played in, which didn’t stress defense at all as demonstrated by the 16 consecutive games they allowed 100 or more points from early January until February. Hill did average close to two blocks per game in April, when he got his most playing time.

Defensive deficiencies or not, Hill is a guy that the Lakers need to try to retain in the offseason. He only made $3.5 million this year and he’s a high energy player the Lakers could sign for a couple of years for a good price. His rebounding abilities and constant energy are reason enough for the team to bring him back.

Just think about it for a second. Hill was subjected to awful minutes by D’Antoni this year. Shawne Williams and Ryan Kelly averaged more minutes than Hill. If a player is producing and not getting minutes there’s no doubt that this could lead to frustration. The fact that Hill still played hard and produced despite not getting the minutes he deserved is a testament to his character and focus.

Hill’s biggest strength of course comes on the glass. He grabs a lot of rebounds but what makes him valuable is that he grabs a high percentage of available rebounds. He grabbed 13.9 percent of all available offensive rebounds which was sixth best in the league and as every NBA stat geek knows, offensive rebounds are extremely important because they give a team more possessions to score.

It’ll be interesting to see if this would keep up if Hill had a central role on a winning team. Guesses are that he can easily be a high energy guy off the bench and average 25-30 minutes per game. With D’Antoni out of the picture, perhaps Hill will be more inclined to stay in LA, but there’s no doubt that there will be teams courting him.

Most Memorable Moment:

From the aforementioned Bucks game, Jordan Hill grabs a rebound and takes three players up with him for the dunk. It’s a perfect example of his hard work, determination, physicality, and athleticism.

Overall Grade:

Hard work and determination, especially when you play for one of the worst teams in the NBA, should always be noted. When that hard work also translates to production, it turns into value.

Hill has value and he deserves to play somewhere next year where he won’t be getting the second fewest minutes on his team from guys who played at least half the season. Sure, he didn’t fit D’Antoni’s system, but he kept his mouth shut and was a good soldier. When he did play, he provided energy and a great spark.

His defense could use plenty of improvement, but perhaps a new coaching system will change that.

Grade: A-

With the trading deadline behind us, everyone on the Los Angeles Lakers from Jordan Hill to Pau Gasol can now take a deep breath and focus on basketball. The team looks to snap its eight-game home losing streak, which is the longest in franchise history, against the Boston Celtics.

After trading Steve Blake to the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers will welcome newly acquired players, Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks. Brooks and Bazemore have been rarely used this season. Brooks is only averaging 2.6 points per game in 17 games this season, while Bazemore is only averaging 2.3 points per game in 44 games.

The purpose of the trade was financial. Although the Lakers did not get under the luxury tax with the trade, they will save $3 million in taxes because of the move. It also helps that the Lakers can lock up Bazemore for a cheap price next year if he accepts the team’s qualifying offer.

While the Lakers are just now seeing that they need to rebuild (shelling out near $50 million to an aging veteran is not a sign of rebuilding), the Celtics have been on that road for awhile now. After parting ways with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in the offseason, the team also made two trades in January and stocked up on more draft picks. In those trades, the C’s acquired Joel Anthony and Jeryd Bayless, who can both potentially come off the books after this season, thus freeing up more cap room.

These two teams are headed in the same direction this year, but the Celtics have done a better job building for the future as they potentially could have five draft picks over the next two years. They also will have plenty of more cap space and play in a weaker conference and have established a coach for the future in Brad Stevens. Keeping star point guard Rajon Rondo during the trade deadline also helps them establish a young core along with Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, and Jared Sullinger going into next year.

The Lakers will have their hands full because of those four players tonight. After a slow start from his return from injury, Rondo has been more effective, averaging 15.2 points and 9.4 assists over the last five games. Green is the team’s leading scorer with 16.5 points per game and Sullinger has established himself as a solid option down low averaging 13.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

The Celtics enter the game having lost two in a row after they won four of their first five games in February. They are in the midst of a four-game west coast swing. They lost their first game of the road trip to Phoenix.

Boston has had their struggles scoring this season as they have the fifth-worst shooting percentage (43.6 percent) and the third-worst 3-point percentage (33.1 percent).

The Lakers, on the other hand, enter the showdown against the Celtics having only won five games since December 21. One of those five wins came against the Celtics in Boston in mid-January. The Lakers won a thriller led by Kendall Marshall’s clutch 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, 107-104, during their Grammy trip.

In fact, the Lakers have had their way against the Celtics as of late, winning five of their last six games against their biggest rival.

If the Lakers want to end their slump tonight, they will need to dictate the pace against a Celtics team that isn’t known for its offense, as mentioned above. They will also need to tighten up defensively and force the Celtics to take outside shots — something they haven’t been good at all year. The Lakers gave up 134 points to the Houston Rockets last time out despite shooting over 48 percent from the field in the loss.

Finally, Marshall needs to take the Blake trade as a vote of confidence. He needs to realize that he has officially earned playing time with the team. He’s not on the roster because of injuries anymore. He’s been playing extremely well (averaging 12.2 assists in the last five games) despite the team’s lack of success.

Other players who have stepped up for the Lakers recently are Chris Kaman (averaging 19.2 points in the last five games) and Jodie Meeks (averaging 19 points in the last five games).

 

 

Week At A Glance

Andre Khatchaturian —  February 10, 2014

Just when we thought the injury bug was finally terminated, Steve Nash once again limped across the court in pain in a loss at home against the Chicago Bulls. Adding to the list of injuries are Jodie Meeks, Pau Gasol, and Nick Young.

The Lakers practiced with just eight guys today. Because of the injuries, they had to bring back Shawne Williams earlier this week. To put it short, the Lakers injury situation this season has been more terrifying than an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

That being said, they were able to muster two wins this week – albeit against two of the most atrocious teams in the league in Cleveland and Philadelphia. That said, a win’s a win and the Lakers will take it.

Because of the injuries, a player who would barely step foot on the court is finally getting some playing time and he’s making the most of it – Chris Kaman.

Over the last four games, Kaman is averaging 16 points per game, along with six rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and a +7.5 in just 21 minutes per game. He’s also shooting 56 percent over that span. Prior to this, Kaman hadn’t played since January 17, where he only received six minutes of action.

Screen Shot 2014 02 10 at 9.51.59 PM

What’s interesting is that Kaman, who has put up significantly better numbers than teammate Robert Sacre, has played in fewer games than the second-year center. No, he’s not Shaquille O’Neal, but it’s good to see Kaman finally get the playing time he deserves and it’s been paying dividends.

Only five other Lakers have played in each of the last four games – Kendall Marshall, Sacre, Ryan Kelly, Wes Johnson, and Steve Blake.

Blake has received monster minutes since his return from injury and like most point guards in Mike D’Antoni’s system, he has been solid. He’s averaging 8.3 assists in 38 minutes per game. However, rust has showed in his shooting as he’s just making 32 percent of his field goals attempts.

Marshall, another point guard who has thrived in D’Antoni’s system, has seen his minutes diminish ever since Nash’s return. Kendall played at least 35 minutes in every game in the 2014 calendar year. He saw his minutes slashed to the low 20′s the night Nash returned. He played 37 minutes as a result of Nash’s injury during Sunday’s game.

Despite his diminished playing time, Marshall continues to excel. He’s averaging 9.3 points and 7.8 assists per game along with a whopping 61 percent field goal percentage. Marshall’s dominance in limited time shows just how effective he can be off the bench. It’ll be interesting to see how he fares when he’s actually on a good team.

It’s pretty impressive that the Lakers were able to pull off one of their best weeks in recent memory with such a depleted roster. Kaman and Marshall, as mentioned above, had plenty to do with the Lakers’ success. The Lakers play two more games at home against Utah and Oklahoma City before getting a well-deserved All-Star break.

 

Week At A Glance

Andre Khatchaturian —  February 2, 2014

As the Lakers continue to lose, the question shifts to Kobe Bryant and whether a return this season is even worth it. Bryant is still recovering from his injury and has repeatedly stated that he does want to play again this year.

But that’s Kobe’s opinion. Kobe is never going to back away from competition. He’s the same guy who wanted to play 48 minutes every game last season during the final stretch for the playoffs. In other words, Kobe’s decisions aren’t the most logical ones.

Resting Kobe means the Lakers could have their $50 million man return healthy next year for a new campaign. Why risk another injury during a meaningless season?

The Lakers have now lost 18 of their last 21 games and are just a half game ahead of the Sacramento Kings for dead last in the Western Conference. Though they have looked good in some of those losses offensively, their defense continues to be horrific. They have allowed triple digits in 14 consecutive games. Whether one blames the offensive-minded Mike D’Antoni or the injuries — it doesn’t matter because Kobe isn’t going to help bring that number down. Defense is a collective effort and just because Bryant will be hustling and playing defense it doesn’t mean the rest of the team will.

On this shorthanded team, there’s a good chance Kobe may try to do too much and put himself at risk for another injury. If he gets hurt once more, that’ll be three times in a 12-month span and that’s something nobody wants to see.

The Lakers have invested plenty of money in Kobe Bryant over the next two years. They saw what can happen already when they rush to bring him back. It would be wise to do what’s best for the team’s future and rest him. The positives outweigh the negatives heavily.

Regarding the players that are actually on the floor and playing for the Lakers, there are two guys who have continuously produced over the last month: Pau Gasol and Kendall Marshall.

Gasol seems to be realizing that he’s going to be looking for a new contract at the end of the year and he’s playing like a guy who’s going to be pursuing big money. In January, Gasol averaged 20.8 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.7 blocks. He’s been playing actively on both ends of the floor.

Meanwhile, Marshall looks like a player who may actually stick with the squad come next year. He recorded his eight and ninth double-doubles this week and is continuing to show that he could be an effective point guard in the NBA.

Speaking of point guards, the Lakers got good news this week as Jordan Farmar, Steve Blake, and Steve Nash all practiced. It’ll be interesting to see what Marshall’s role will be when all three of their point guards return to the court. But for now, he’s enjoying his starting minutes.

The Lakers brief home stand ended and they’ll head back on the road this week. They’ll do a back-to-back in Minnesota and Cleveland before finishing off the week in Philadelphia.