Archives For Laker Analysis

No matter your personnel’s skill or experience, there are principles about designing a schematically sound offense that are consistent everywhere. Incorporating some of these principles can make your offense good. Having most of them can make it great. Having all of them can make it elite.

I’ve been openly critical about how poor the Lakers have been in many of these areas, so I decided I’d bring some potential solutions to the table. Below is a link to a PDF of a Laker playbook that’d match their current personnel and would be much better than what they currently run. It’s comprised of plays from other teams, as well as many plays that I designed or are from plays I diagrammed that other teams run that I made adjustments to (that follow the principles below).

Link to Ideal Laker Playbook:

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It’s been a minute since our last podcast, so Pete and I had a little ground to cover. In our latest, we talk some of the roster moves in the last couple of weeks — specifically wondering if Tyler Ennis is really going to be the backup PG and if Vander Blue can make the final roster.

We also get into whether Lonzo can truly be a culture changer on the floor, or if he might experience some culture clash with some veterans who’s style of play to this point might not jibe as much with how Lonzo will try to play. We specifically talk Randle, Clarkson, and Lopez and how used they are to being ball dominant players.

Lastly, we get into Kyle Kuzma and whether he should get minutes at SF considering the glut of guys who will need to see minutes at PF while also understanding how shallow the team is on the wing behind Ingram. It’s a good discussion and it was good to be back talking Lakers basketball with Pete.

Click through to give the entire show a listen.

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He is a power forward who does not shoot threes (not yet, at least). He’s not especially long and is not a classic “big” defender who patrols the back line as a paint protector. He is a power player who loves his face up game. A player who, though very much left hand dominant, loves to drive hard to his right hand on initial moves. He is 6’9″ 250 pounds of down-hill, runaway train who does his best work in the open court.

In other words, Julius Randle’s game is not what you would expect. Not from a “modern” NBA power forward. Not in general. He’s unconventional in most every preconceived notion of style and game for today’s NBA at the PF position. And I love him for it. Give me Tasmanian Randle in the bunker next to me any day and let’s go to battle.

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We are roughly a month and a half from training camps opening and a 10+ weeks until the dawn of the regular season. A lot can change between now and then. Free agency (or what’s left of it at this point), trades, and injuries all can shape the trajectory of a team between now and mid-October.

We all understand this. Still, though, it’s always interesting to me to know what forecasting models and group-think projections say about how good or bad teams will be next season. I have participated in large sample group projections in the past for ESPN. I was part of the early iterations of the NBA Rank project (I stopped after the first two years) and I have offered win projections as part of their summer forecast series that has outperformed Vegas bookmakers.

This isn’t to pat anyone on the back. My point is to say that there is value in what these projections say, even if they’re not always right. And, to be clear, they’re not always right.

So, in saying all that, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton has released a stats only win projection for every team in the league for the 2017-18 season. It’s under ESPN’s Insider umbrella, so it is paid content. You can read the entire thing here, if you have a subscription. I do. So I read it. This article is actually free. So, better for you!

Before we get into the Lakers, piece, though, here’s Pelton explaining the model:

As in past seasons, I’ve put together projected playing time based on a formula that estimates games missed by taking into account the number missed over the past three seasons (adjusted for any offseason injuries/suspensions) and my own guesses at how rotations will shake out.

Most veteran players are rated using the multiyear, predictive version of RPM, adjusted for the typical aging curve. Newcomers to the league and players who played too little for an RPM rating are rated using their projected offensive and defensive ratings from my SCHOENE projection system, which incorporates translated performance in the NCAA and professional leagues besides the NBA.

For those who are not aware, RPM prefers to ESPN’s metric of Real Plus Minus — a sort of “all in one” stat which balances player production against the players he shares the court with (both teammates and opponents). It is supposed to wade through some of the noise which comes from various lineup configurations, strength/weakness of teammates and/or opponents, etc.

The top of the RPM metric often mirrors what most observers would say are the best players in the league. It also rates other players higher or lower than counting stats or the eye test might presume they should. You’ll find varying opinions on how good a metric RPM is. I have no hard opinion on RPM, but thought I should at least give a snapshot.

Now, to the Lakers.

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Welcome to the worst part of the circle of life for an NBA season. August. The dead zone. These truly are the dog days of summer.

Free agency, for all intents and purposes, is over. While there are some high profile restricted free agents still out there (*waves at Nerlens Noel*), most teams have filled their rosters. Teams are starting to use some of their 2-way contracts to snag players who have big team potential but G-League ability, but even these contracts are rare as teams still need to dole out their training camp invites.

Which leads me back to the Lakers. Here is their current depth chart (simplified for guards, forwards, and centers — note, Alex Caruso and his two-way contract is not included here):

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In the latest Laker Film Room Podcast, Pete and I talk with Tania Ganguli of the LA Times.

Tania talked to us about the LeBron James to the Lakers rumblings around the league and whether she thinks this is just smoke or if it’s a real possibility. Then she gave us insight into the Lakers belief in Brandon Ingram as a foundational player, gave us more background and context to the D’Angelo Russell trade, and then talked at length about her fantastic feature on Jeanie Buss and the Buss Family dynamic.

Later in the pod Tania also talked to us about her history as a sports journalist, some of the differences between working an NFL vs. an NBA beat, and other notes of the trade (which I found particularly interesting and great). I want to thank Tania for being so generous with her time and for coming on the show. It was a good conversation that we hope you’ll enjoy.

Click through to listen to the episode.

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I don’t know the right word to describe the Lakers’ off-season, really. Maybe a single word doesn’t do it justice. There’s been lots of noise — an incredible number of innuendo, rumors, and outright leaks — but not a ton of action. However, when things have happened, they’ve been fairly big.

The D’Angelo Russell trade came somewhat out of left field even though there were rumors in the days prior saying the Lakers were open to dealing him. The Kentavious Caldwell-Pope signing was on everyone’s radar the minute the Pistons pulled his qualifying offer, but when the news ultimately broke it was still surprising. These moves, along with the drafting of Lonzo Ball, have remade the roster and have fans excited.

Realistically, though, the work for the front office is not done. Here is their current depth chart (*note, some of these guys are swing/combo players — more on that later):

PG: Lonzo Ball, Jordan Clarkson
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Corey Brewer, Josh Hart
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr., Luol Deng, Kyle Kuzma
C: Brook Lopez, Ivica Zubac, Thomas Bryant

That’s 13 players. The Lakers also have Alex Caruso signed to a 2-way contract with the South Bay Lakers (SBL), so, in theory, he could find some minutes on the big team throughout the year at PG. But, leaving him out of the mix for now, the Lakers clearly have some roster imbalance right now.

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There has been a lot of fawning over Lonzo Ball lately and…I’m going to keep the trend alive today. Ball’s summer league wasn’t just impressive because he put up good numbers or that he ended up winning the MVP. It’s not even that the team won the Vegas championship. Of course those things matter, but it being the summer, what was more important to me was the process of how those things came about, not necessarily that they came about at all.

Which brings us back to Lonzo and the small things he was doing on multiple possessions a game which ended up helping his team.

A quick tangent, I don’t watch much soccer anymore, but I was a junkie when I was a kid. I played all the time and watched the game a ton. Soccer helped me understand basketball better, especially the concepts of counter attacks and creating advantage by passing into space. While soccer helped me with hoops in other ways too (angles, understanding foot work and quick ball movement), it was these ideas of taking advantage of spacing with passing and countering your opponent which stuck with me for a long time.

This brings me back to Lonzo and his summer league play. My podcast partner Pete Zayas of Laker Film Room fame recently made a video that he describes as a compilation of “any pass that Lonzo Ball made in summer league which gave the Lakers an advantage”. Pete adds that the pass did not need to lead to an assist directly, but was just a pass which looked like it gave the Lakers an edge on any given play. You should watch it:

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