Archives For Laker Analysis

Where are we? How did we get here? And where are going?

The fundamental questions of theology hang over this Lakers season, particularly as the losses mount. The team is in the midst of perhaps their most interesting rebuild, at least that most of us have experienced. Through a perfect storm of disasters, lottery luck, and drafting prowess, the team has gathered a deep and diverse collection of young players, who we now watch find their way through fascinating and usually frustrating games.

This season feels like the critical moment in the rebuild, when we mostly transition from asset gathering to asset evaluation and development. In other words, we likely either have the primary pieces of the next contending era already in place, or we are halfway (gulp) through a vicious cycle back to the beginning.

This year will tell us much about which direction we are heading, which makes the answers to the posed questions all the more important. Those answers will also, I believe, reveal something about whether the front office is capable of leading the team into the future, which is a question that Jeannie apparently isn’t going to let die.

Let’s start at the beginning.

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“Not much to say… can’t be mad. The other team is just that much better.”

That was from commenter LKK during/after the Lakers’ loss in San Antonio to the Spurs on Thursday night. While I do think there were some things to get somewhat upset about, I think LKK captures about how I was feeling while I was watching San Antonio build their lead, then extend it, then maintain it until the final buzzer.

In fact, right around the end of the 1st quarter, I actually said out loud (to myself, since no one was in the room) that “both teams are showing their quality, the Spurs are just showing they have more of it.” Beyond that, they were also showing that they know how to exhibit that quality for longer stretches within a game.

So, no, I’m not that mad about the game. I’m not happy either, of course. The team played poorly for the 2nd straight game and lost. Does the fact that they lost to a very good team on the road soften that blow a bit? I guess, but when you see the final margin, whatever softening occurred goes away. Losing by 40 is bad times regardless. There’s not much spin to be able to put on that type of game.

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Which team would you rather be?

Team A

Offensive Rating: 104.3, 13th in the NBA
Defensive Rating: 107.4, 27th in the NBA
Net Rating: -3.1, 21st in the NBA
Winning Percentage: .500

Team B

Offensive Rating: 108.9, 12th in the NBA
Defensive Rating: 108.5, 19th in the NBA
Net Rating: +0.4, 13th in the NBA
Winning Percentage: .400

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It was the Lakers’ first game after a nice Christmas win and D’Angelo Russell really wasn’t shooting the ball that great. The opponent was the Jazz and Russell closed the game with only 4 points on 2-11 shooting. Fans were in my twitter mentions telling me I was being overly praiseful of the Lakers’ 2nd year point guard because I had the audacity to tweet this.

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When watching games, one of the most oft-cited stats when it comes to the Lakers is points in the paint allowed. The Lakers are league’s worst team of points allowed in the paint, surrendering 47.9 points a game. In case you were wondering, this ranking is not a product of pace as the Lakers are also worst in the league per 100 possessions at 47.6.

This fact leads most analysis to tilt towards the Lakers needing to do a better job protecting the rim. This is, to a certain extent, true. For example, here is the Lakers’ shot chart for the season to this point:

lakers-overall-shot-chart

In case you were wondering that green circle near the basket is bad.

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I know, I know. You just read that title and wanted to close your web browser. What the hell do I mean the Lakers aren’t as bad as they seem?! They’ve lost an ungodly number of games recently, going 2-14 in the month of December. They’ve found ways to blow games late, blow them early, and play poorly enough to not really be in games at all. That there, my friends, is some trifecta.

Here’s the thing, though, despite all those losses, they are still mostly competitive in every single game. Beyond that, in some contests they’ve led by large margins and played strongly for most of the game only have a bad quarter (or a terrible stretch within one) to find a way to lose.

Come from ahead losses have to be the most frustrating for players and coaches, but fans might take them even worse. There’s nothing like sitting their watching the team play well only to see them inexplicably start to play terribly and give it all back. In a post earlier this year I likened it to a gambler stacking up huge winnings at the craps table only to decide he needed to test his luck at roulette instead of just cashing in.

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I’d be lying if I said I felt no disappointment or frustration after Tuesday’s loss to the Hornets. After controlling the game for the 1st half, the Lakers struggled mightily during the 3rd quarter to let the Hornets back in. The 4th quarter became a test of execution and timely plays, with Charlotte doing a bit more of the former and on the receiving end of a few more of the latter. A loss ensued and, as per the usual, when a loss like that occurs the torches were lit and the pitchforks were sharpened.

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I really like Jordan Clarkson. He cares about getting better. He works hard. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He is self aware enough to see some of the weaknesses in his game and then takes measures to try to eliminate them. Any player who has these traits will endear themselves to me because not all players are like this. A lot of them are the opposite.

Jordan Clarkson also frustrates me at times. He has become increasingly one dimensional as an offensive player. When watching him play live, especially recently, I’ve wondered if he realized he had teammates on the floor. During the recent game against the 76ers, his general approach led me to actually tweet this:

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