Archives For Laker Analysis

D’Angelo Russell made his return from a bruised glute in Thursday’s win over Maccabi Haifa and promptly put on a passing clinic. He dropped 11 dimes, several of them of the “whoa, nice look” variety which get fans out of their seats and teammates anxious to start cutting harder and working to come off screens better.

It wasn’t just that Russell was racking up the assists, though. It was what kind of assists they were. Or, more specifically, that his assists led to the exact types of baskets every offense wants.

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Welcome back to our series at FB&G where we take one player on the Lakers’ roster and discuss one specific skill they possess. Sometimes it will be something very subtle, others it will be more straight forward. We’ll try to shed some light on how this skill can help the team in the coming season. Our previous entries can be found here. Today we look at Nick Young’s three point shooting.

There may not be a Lakers player who endeared himself to fans and then fell out of their good graces as quickly as Nick Young has. Coming off a summer that saw Dwight Howard depart in free agency, Young provided a season that saw him bring a fun energy and above expectations production while exuding his “love of being a Laker”. Fans ate it up.

Then came last season where a questionable contract, clashes with the coach and nagging injuries led to a dip in production, and it turned those initial feelings of joy sour. It got to the point where there were strong rumblings the team was trying to trade him while signing/drafting players that could be seen as redundant to his role. Add in Mitch Kupchak going on the record that Young had to “make our coach happy” and it’s not hard to wonder how Young fits in at all, much less how he can help the team with a (mostly) one-note skill set.

Yet, when reviewing the Lakers’ 1st preseason game, Young was again a staple of the team’s reserve unit and even earned the starting nod in the 2nd half when Kobe sat out to rest. Young did several things well during the game, including working hard defensively and making several good passes, one of which was a heads up read where he noticed the defense wasn’t organized and he threw a lob pass to Tarik Black who hit a nifty left handed hook.

Young taking forward strides by doing more of the little things will certainly put him back in the good graces of his coach. It will also likely lead to stability in his role and with playing time. But, let’s be honest, regardless of what Young does as a passer or a defender, those will always be secondary to what Young is really in the league for: getting buckets.

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James Worthy’s hire to work with the Lakers’ big men was met with somewhat mixed reactions. While almost everyone recognizes Worthy’s greatness as a player, it’s also fair to question whether that greatness can translate into teaching and, maybe more importantly, whether his hire signals another case of the Lakers falling into the trap of seeking out candidates inside the organization (or Lakers Family) rather than going outside the castle walls for people who may be just as good (or better) to fill these roles.

It’s an interesting discussion and one worth having. But it’s also one for another day. James Worthy has been hired. He’s in Hawaii right now, going through practices and working with the team’s big men. The topic, then, shifts from how he may have gotten here to what he’s doing now that he is. If Worthy ends up being good at this job — something only time will tell — no one will really care that the Lakers turned to him rather than, say, somebody from a different organization with a stellar reputation. This is how it goes.

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Byron Scott would be the first one to tell you that he’s old-school. Even if no one uttered those words to you, however, you would still figure it out from the way he’s managed his teams and through an examination of his overall basketball philosophy.

When it comes to training camp, this translates to conditioning. Lots of conditioning. We have to remember, as a player, Byron came up in an era where players worked themselves into shape during camp. And while players today are much more conscientious about the type of shape they keep themselves in during the off-season — as the slogan goes, basketball never stops — as a coach, he still uses camp as a way to work his players hard to ensure they are ready for the season.

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Media day is part circus — well, mostly circus — and part infomercial for every NBA team. The players, walking around in full uniform, will hit their key talking points while reporters try to get something insightful out of them that they have not already heard to this point. There will be quotes, but the chance we get anything truly worthwhile out of the players today isn’t high.

When you add on Mitch Kupchak and Byron Scott have both gone on the record with long sit downs and half the team has been introduced via press conference after their acquisition (either after being drafted, traded for, or signed in free agency), those odds go down even further. In reality, there just isn’t much new for most of the players to say today. It doesn’t mean we won’t all be lapping up the quotes like a kitten does a bowl of milk, though.

Of course, while we’ll get plenty of answers today, we won’t really get any answers. That’s because the Lakers are a team full of question marks that won’t be worked through with a scrum of reporters engulfing them. The Lakers need court time — in practice and in games — to figure out what they’ll be, where they’re going, and how the roles will be put together to get them there. As much as we would like to know how that will go today, it’s just not going to happen.

So, rather than focus on the many questions we will get answers to today, let’s examine five that we won’t…

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It is rare that the signing of a journeyman, end-of-his-career player makes any sort of waves with an organization or their fanbase. When that player is on a non-guaranteed contract inked the week before training camp starts, this is even more the case. It’s also rare, however, that the player inked to this type of deal played a key role in helping the team win a championship in a previous stint with the organization. When that player earned somewhat of a cult following, it complicates matters more.

This is what the Lakers are dealing with after signing Metta World Peace. At, Mike Trudell touched on this dichotomy well when discussing the deal:

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Before fans were obsessed with a top-5 protected pick, arguing over Jahlil Okafor vs. D’Angelo Russell, or getting overwhelmed with excitement over the growth displayed by Jordan Clarkson, the main cog in the Lakers’ future chances was Julius Randle. After being the team’s highest lottery pick since James Worthy went #1 overall in 1982, expectations were high for Randle and he seemed ready to try and live up to them.

Of course, nothing really went to plan for Randle in his rookie season. He flashed his enormous potential in the 2014 summer league, but also looked a bit out of shape and was prone to tiring after long stretches of minutes. Byron Scott prodded him in the press with minor slights and digs, almost always noting what he wasn’t doing rather than offering praise for what he was. And then came opening night when, on a late game drive to the hoop during garbage time, Randle broke his leg, ending his season in the process.

Since then, Randle is still looked at as a core player, but he’s fallen a bit behind in the pecking order. Russell and Clarkson makeup the “backcourt of the future” and Randle, while a prodigious talent, may not even start ahead of Brandon Bass when the season begins. Some of this is surely lingering cautiousness by an organization that is still not completely over the injury he suffered last year.

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Welcome to a new series at FB&G where we will take one player on the Lakers’ roster and discuss one specific skill they possess. Sometimes it will be something very subtle, others it will be more straight forward. We’ll try to shed some light on how this skill can help the team in the coming season. Our previous entries can be found here. Today we look at Brandon Bass and his ability to finish in the paint.

Brandon Bass is a player best described as a “pro’s pro”. He is not spectacular at any one aspect of the game, but is well rounded and skilled enough where no single part of his game is easily exposed when on the floor. He is certainly better at certain things than others — his midrange shooting percentages bests more celebrated PF’s like LaMarcus Aldridge and Serge Ibaka — but, overall, he’s a player who simply does most things well enough that he’s not a liability.

Bass, then, is a very useful player and can be slotted into almost any lineup and be a net-positive. He will certainly help the Lakers in a variety of ways, not the least of which is his aforementioned midrange shooting, his smarts defensively and on the glass, and his general leadership as a seasoned veteran who has been around the block and seen pretty much all a player can see in a decade of NBA experience.

Where I imagine Bass will be quite useful, though, is in his ability to finish in the paint with better consistency than you would imagine a somewhat undersized PF would. While Bass only stands 6’8″ (which is probably a generous listing), he actually does a good job of converting his inside chances.

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