Archives For Laker Analysis

Coming into this season, his 3rd with the Lakers, Nick Young was put on notice. He ended his second season with the team firmly in Byron Scott’s doghouse and the only way out of it was to no longer play like Nick Young. Scott said he wanted Young to play better defense, to exercise more discretion offensively, and to be a more serious player. If he did these things, he might see more playing time. If he didn’t, well, the wood has a way of speaking to a player, as this coach is fond of saying.

So, what did young do? He tried to improve in the areas the coach asked him to. At the start of the year was often seen trying on defense and taking less crazy shots in isolation. While he wasn’t a playmaker, he was more willing to move the ball and resembled more of the player he was under Mike D’Antoni; more of the player who the Lakers thought they were keeping on when he resigned after his first with team.

It turns out, though, that really didn’t last. Since the first 10-15 games of the season, Young’s shooting has fallen off, his effort on defense has been spotty, and he has fallen into the trap of looking for his own shot — especially when working in isolation. A tiger doesn’t change its stripes, after all.

Continue Reading…

On D’Angelo Russell…

Darius Soriano —  January 29, 2016 — 21 Comments

I have many thoughts about D’Angelo Russell. Most of them good, some of them concerning, all of them pitted against the backdrop of his age, the direction the league is headed, and his current position on this specific version of the Lakers.

That’s a mouthful, I know.

In a shade under 4 weeks, Russell will turn 20 years old. In NBA years, he is a baby. And while he possesses a polished game, it sometimes only takes a light wipe to pull away some of that veneer and see all that he currently is not. And when playing for an organization that is not used to the types of lows currently experienced and in an era of instant gratification/reward seeking, the breaking down of what Russell isn’t has become a favorite pastime for some.

I am not completely exempt from this. I look at Russell and have concerns. He has a laid back demeanor that can, visually, influence how hard I think he’s playing — especially defensively. There are some bad habits I see nightly. Not running back hard on defense. Not defending with assertiveness. Relaxed hands when guarding on the ball. Lack of effort to fight on the glass when switching in the P&R. Not enough…well, effort. I see it.

Then I reflect. These are flaws, but they seem to be habits that can be broken. I watch guards who came into the league young and see where they are now and understand that the things I don’t like now are things which can be learned and executed as a career advances. I remember that he’s not yet even 20 and I know through good teaching and a want to be better, improvement comes over time. That doesn’t just apply to basketball.

I also see all the good in this kid’s game. All that skill. The ball handling — which could be tighter, but is still excellent. The shot making and pure stroke. The feel for passing and how defenses move. The ability to not only see the pass, but execute it on time and on target. The desire to lead. The recognition of the moment and the visual uptick in wanting to do more in games that are tight, late. And then I remember that he’s not yet even 20 and that through good teaching and a want to be better, improvement comes over time. And that, in this case, it does apply to basketball.

Continue Reading…

The Lakers lost their 6th straight game and second in two nights on Saturday, falling to the Blazers 121-103 in Portland. While there were couple of good individual performances on offense, the team, as a whole, played poorly on both sides of the floor. This isn’t new for a team which ranked 29th and 30th (last) in the league in offensive and defensive efficiency, respectively, heading into the contest.

What was new, however, was that Kobe Bryant took a break from the feel-good vibes of his retirement farewell tour to reportedly voice his displeasure about the loss and the team’s poor defense to his teammates during and after the game. Mark Medina of the LA Daily News has the report:

Continue Reading…

Anthony Brown is a rookie who was drafted in the 2nd round with the 34th overall pick. He has spent a lot of time in the D-League, trying to get better but also simply getting minutes he has not been able to earn with the Lakers. He has played a total of 318 minutes and only appeared in 18 of the Lakers’ 43 games. He averages 3.4 points, 2.2 rebounds, shoots 31% from the field, and has a PER of 5.0.

The Lakers need more players like Anthony Brown. Wait, what?

Continue Reading…

Heading into the season, there was a hope that Roy Hibbert would be a viable — even if only short term — solution to the Lakers’ problems at the Center position. After losing Ed Davis to FA and allowing the Jordan Hill era to expire, the Lakers’ hole in the pivot needed filling. After an unsuccessful run at LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Monroe, the Lakers pulled what looked to be a rabbit out of their hat with the trade for former all-star and defensive anchor from the Pacers.

I won’t rehash every detail of what I wrote when the Lakers acquired Hibbert, but suffice to say I liked the move. His history told the story of a big man with real and measurable defensive impact who also had positive qualities the team could use offensively (as well as familiarity with the Princeton Offense). He wasn’t the perfect player, but that’s why he was available for a future protected 2nd round pick.

Now, let’s go on a bit of a tangent. Below are statistical profiles of the four Lakers who have spent time manning the middle – note all counting statics are per/36 minutes:

  • Player A:  8.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 8.1 PER
  • Player B: 12.5 points, 14.1 rebounds, .9 blocks, 12.5 PER
  • Player C: 12.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 18.3 PER
  • Player D: 9.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 11.8 PER

None of these players are world beaters, though the PER of player C implies efficient play. All three are low usage guys so that is not a consideration here. Note I did not include any on/off stats since the minutes distribution is highly skewed towards two of the four players, making the sample too small to really come to conclusions about how much impact — positive or negative — those other guys might have if the sample grew.

With that out of the way, can you guess who’s who? Here they are:

Continue Reading…

When Larry Nance Jr. first became part of the Lakers’ rotation, we looked at what he was doing to earn minutes and why we thought he would stick around for the remainder of the season. Most of that analysis wasn’t based on his calling card of defense, but instead looked at what he was doing offensively as a capable mid-range jumpshooter and roll man in the pick and roll.

A sampling of what we wrote back in early November:

Instead, then, let’s just focus on the fact that he has shown the ability to hit shots from the spots on the floor a power forward in today’s NBA will need to if he wants to be a viable offensive player — especially if he’s not a shot creator.

Against the Nets Nance hit two baseline jumpers, both from around 18 feet. This is the spot on the floor where, when your team is running a pick and roll, the weak side big will almost always camp out (if he’s not a three point shooter) to act as a release valve when his man helps in the paint. And then there is the top of the key and elbow area, which are the key spots on the floor where big men float to in pick and pop actions after setting a screen.

Even more important, though, is that corner three pointer he hit against the Magic.

Since that time Nance has earned a more prominent role as the starting PF, displacing last year’s lottery pick Julius Randle in the process. And while Nance hasn’t shot any threes since becoming a starter, his offense is still a key aspect of why he’s getting burn. Here is Nance’s shot chart from his last 18 games, when he was first inserted into the first five:

Continue Reading…

When I went about previewing the 2015-16 Lakers, I wrote mostly about the difficult balancing act the team was trying to accomplish with the roster which was constructed. Here is a sampling:

On a roster with a mix of young prospects who need development and capable veterans who play the same positions, how do they balance playing time? When trying to win as many games as possible, but also needing for young players to be able to play through mistakes to learn — sometimes at the expense of wins — how do they balance the different priorties? On a team with at least seven rotation players who do their best work with the ball in their hands, how do they balance touches?

As the season has transpired, however, a new variable has been thrown into the mix: Kobe Bryant announced he would retire. While it was pretty much assumed this would be Kobe’s last year, him putting it on the record in the manner he did shifted the discussion and caused a recalibration of what this year would be about.

Continue Reading…

So, for the last three days I’ve been out of commission with a stomach bug. I’ve literally been bedridden. I haven’t eaten a thing and my brain is barely functioning enough to type complete sentences. I am on the mend, though, so here I am, doing the work of the people by previewing the next Lakers’ game.

Wait. The Lakers play the Warriors? Maybe I should have stayed sick another day.

The basketball gods have a way of putting things back into perspective. After winning three games in a row — the first time the Lakers have done that in nearly a full calendar year — the schedule makers send the best team in the league to Staples Center. Nothing humbles you like a trip from the Warriors.

Continue Reading…