Archives For Laker Analysis

In our latest episode of the Laker Film Room Podcast, Pete and I discuss D’Angelo Russell’s wild week which started with him playing poorly, then moved to the bench, then culminated with his return to the first five and a career high 40 point night.

We also touched on Luke Walton’s schemes, Brandon Ingram’s good month of March, and more. Click through to listen to the entire discussion.

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D’Angelo Russell returned to the starting lineup in Sunday’s matchup vs. the Cavs and he brought an offensive explosion with him. Russell shot the lights out, scoring a career high 40 points while dueling with Kyrie Irving the entire night. It was quite the sight to watch Russell score almost at will and from all three levels of the floor:

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There are usually very few positive takeaways from the type of 39 point loss the Lakers had to the Rockets on Wednesday night. After the Lakers trailed big early and found themselves down 18 points heading into the 4th quarter, the Rockets poured it on, nailing 8 of their 13 shots from behind the arc and scoring 46 points in the process. That offensive explosion led to frustration and anger from players and head coach Luke Walton following the defeat. More than one person implied the team just sort of quit.

While that macro view is more than justified, there were some positives in the micro. One, in particular, was the play of Julius Randle who scored a career high 32 points while grabbing 8 rebounds and dishing out two assists. It was a well rounded night by Randle, who was able to bully his way to the rim and finish through contact and over length — especially when playing C and in match ups against Clint Capela.

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I’ve long expressed my belief in Julius Randle as a talent. Players — especially PF’s — just don’t often combine his combination of size, strength, and quickness. He’s not a super leaper, but he’s got enough pep — especially as a one footed jumper — to finish above the rim and through contact. Add to this his ability to handle the ball (even if he can be loose with the ball) and that he can be a plus passer, and he has some unique tools with which to build a contributing player.

With that type of uniqueness, however, comes the lack of a template with which to model and offer a path to being the player he could become. I mean, I see shades of Lamar Odom, but Randle has much more of an assertive attitude than Odom and less an outward desire to simply fall into whatever role is slotted for him or to do what is needed rather than what he himself wants to do in order to be a success within the team concept. His physical profile can remind of a LeBron James type, but Randle lacks the shooting confidence, the next level feel and passing ability, and the inherent defensive IQ which LeBron harnessed very early in his career.

So what is Randle and what can he be? A real answer to that question that also I feel confident in escapes me. And maybe it always will.

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There’s not a single player on the Lakers’ roster who receives as much backlash from fans as D’Angelo Russell. Often viewed through a deficit model, there is a vocal group of detractors who like to point out all he does not do and/or all he does do, but not well enough. It’s a fascinating (and often frustrating) thing to observe, especially when most metrics (as well as my eye test) point out that Russell is one of the team’s best players and top contributors.

Thinking what I think and knowing what I know, I have taken to the internet (my site, twitter, etc) to defend Russell’s play; to highlight the things I think he’s doing well and the ways in which he’s helping the team. This is often met with some combination of thank you’s, he’s still a bust tho’s, and a few flat out I don’t care’s. I say all this just so that you know that I know what’s going to happen next. So take this with this preface: I don’t care.

D’Angelo Russell is trending up even if you don’t see it.

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I recently joined Aaron Fischman and Loren Lee Chen on their On the NBA Beat Podcast to talk Lakers. Topics covered include why I was on board not trading Brandon Ingram in a package for DeMarcus Cousins, what I see in D’Angelo Russell as a passer, the team’s defensive struggles, and why I think the player development coaches matter just as much as Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka to turning things around.

You can subscribe to the On the NBA Beat pod here and follow the rest of the work they do at their website. Click through to listen to the entire conversation. Thanks to Loren and Aaron for letting me ramble. Haha.

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With Magic and Rob Pelinka taking over the front office, fans are understandably excited about where they can take the Lakers over the next few years. One huge component of this future will be whether the Lakers can (finally) lure first rate talent to join the young core, particularly given Magic’s potential gravitas as a recruiter, and Pelinka’s deep connections throughout the league. The news that Paul George is “hell bent” on coming to the Lakers during the 2018 offseason has only fueled this hope.

As a consequence, the Lakers’ immediate and future cap situation under the new CBA becomes critical. If the Lakers are going to sign George or acquire other leading players they will need to have the cap flexibility to make it happen, even in the face of the Mozgov/Deng disastrous deals and the pricey extensions coming to the young core.

Just how much flexibility will Magic and Pelinka have to work with the next few years? Is George a realistic target in 2018? And what can they do to clear out more room? I attempt to work through those questions below, and highlight potential issues and options for building the team under the new CBA. At the outset, I will set out my high level findings, and then work through them in more detail below.

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The game was entertaining and well played for the most part. The Lakers competed well early and even held a lead late. Their defense forced turnovers early and their offense was capable throughout. In the end, though, the Lakers could not slow Kemba Walker and the team lost to the Hornets 109-104.

All in all, it was likely what most fans want out of a game as this season winds down. Julius Randle was a monster, hitting 10 of his 14 shots on his way to 23 points, 18 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. D’Angelo Russell was also very good, scoring 23 points of his own while dishing out 9 assists to only 3 turnovers. Russell was especially dynamic in the 3rd quarter where, despite only making 1 of his 3 shots, he tallied 6 assists in a fantastic display of passing and decision making when running the team’s offense.

Beyond the good play of those two, Clarkson had a nice showing as the primary ball handler for the 2nd unit, posting 16 points on 7-14 shooting while chipping in 3 assists and 3 rebounds. And while Ingram did not play well offensively, he led the team with 42 minutes played and was his normal steady self providing solid defense and intangibles (ball moving, cuts, etc).

The production from the team’s young core aside, what stood out most to me was how this game was a real signal to a new era for the Lakers. These games, since the All-Star break, represent the first time in these players’ careers that they are undoubtedly the focus of the franchise and are being put into positions most players of their draft status (save for 2nd round pick Clarkson) would expect them to be in from the start of their careers.

Let me explain further…

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