Archives For Laker Analysis

If you have not read all three parts of Eric Pincusinterview with Lakers Vice President of Basketball Operations Jim Buss, you should. Pincus doesn’t try to play “gotcha” or spin Buss’ comments in either a positive or negative way, instead giving us Buss’ words directly for our own interpretation. It’s refreshing to hear what Buss says in this format, even if you don’t agree with what he’s saying.

In the wake of Pincus’ work, one of the more under-discussed topics is Buss’ slight hedge regarding the summer of 2016 and building through free agency:

What the Lakers didn’t accomplish this summer was to sign a major free agent.

“It’s just that it takes time to build a core that guys want to play with,” Buss said. “I understand a superstar doesn’t want to come in and say, ‘Oh, we still have two or three years of rebuilding.’ I think with Jordan Clarkson, Russell, Randle, even Hibbert … we’re getting a core of seven or eight players.”

With the NBA’s new national television deal kicking in next year, the Lakers could have up to $60 million to spend in July, enough to go after two max-level free agents, including Kevin Durant.

“If a big name or two came, we have the room. That’s the key,” Buss said. “We’ve kept our flexibility.”

Buss’ first quote gives us a bit more background into what he and the rest of the front office has learned through the past three years of free agent meetings and recruiting pitches*. From Dwight Howard to LaMarcus Aldridge (and even Greg Monroe), the Lakers saw their top targets sign with teams in better position to win games sooner. These results seem to have left a lasting impression.

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Many have covered what Roy Hibbert brings defensively. His understanding and implementation of the “Verticality” rule is easily his greatest attribute and is probably the manner in which he’ll improve the team from last season. The reverse can be said about Hibbert’s influence on team rebounding, which is what I’m looking forward to watching most this season.

The Lakers have desperately clung to the idea of recapturing the Showtime era. Ironically, adding a player most see as a plodding giant might actually be the best way to take a step toward such a playing style.

A common criticism lobbed Hibbert’s way typically concerns his rebounding rate. In terms of what we see in the box score, Hibbert’s rebounding is pretty disappointing. Someone his size should be absolutely prolific in that facet of the game, but he isn’t. For his entire career, Hibbert’s averaged only 6.8 rebounds per game. His per 36 minutes are better (9.4 rebounds per 36 minutes), but he’s never displayed an ability to consistently stay on the court for so many minutes, given his conditioning and foul rates.

When understanding what Hibbert brings to the table, though, you have to take a deeper look at his team’s rebounding while he’s on the floor. While he may not necessarily grab every rebound in his vicinity, Hibbert’s value comes in his ability to block opponents out, allowing his teammates to sweep in for the rebounds. Hibbert’s Pacers grabbed 44.7% of the available rebounds while he was on the court last season, good enough for fourth in the NBA. If that trend continues when the games start this season, the Lakers would be in position to greatly improve their pace.

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2015-16 features a brand new core, a departing hero and a coach potentially on his last chance. Sure, there are no realistic championship aspirations, but here’s a crazy thought: The upcoming campaign might be the most interesting Lakers season before actual games are played in almost a decade.

We all remember that crazy summer of 2007, which featured trade demands from Kobe Bryant, his general disdain towards Andrew Bynum and whether or not ownership would cave to such demands. Could you imagine if we had Twitter back then? #Pluto would be trending worldwide for reasons beyond whether or not it’s a planet. Considering how the season turned out, it’ll absolutely go down as one of the most memorable in Lakers’ history. The franchise somehow went from utter chaos to title contention in a matter of months.

Had they managed to win the title after all that, Disney would’ve made a movie about it.

Yes, fans have enjoyed a couple titles and a potential super-team since then, but this roster offers more intrigue heading into the season, and here’s why.

Championships are obviously fun. They are, after all, the entire point of athletic competition. That said, the narrative in such seasons is fairly straightforward, and can easily grow tiring. Each loss hurts more than wins feel good. Those Lakers rosters, identified early on as title favorites, rarely led to “fun” regular seasons as we parsed effort and execution and whether the lack of either might doom the team’s chances. It was all an overcooked appetizer to the most stressful meal one can try to enjoy – the actual NBA playoffs.

I can’t try to numerate how many fans have said something along the lines of “I just can’t endure another season like the last two” or “please, just don’t let the team suck.” If this is indeed the baseline by which success will be defined, fan expectations should be fairly easily appeased. Knowing that before the season takes place should be a healthy source of excitement in and of itself.

The Lakers’ personnel lends itself to interest here as much as general expectations.

Any conversation about intrigue in the makeup of this team probably has to start with the fact this will probably be Kobe’s final season. Every minor moment we get to enjoy will be bittersweet. Might this be his final home opener? Any game-winning shot might be our last throwback to one of the greatest clutch players in league history. Road trips will undoubtedly feature heartfelt moments between him, the crowd and his opponents. And that final game? Don’t even get me started. Such a season is incredibly rare, and what all this might bring about will generate a wealth of legitimately great moments.

The flipside to those great moments is… Well, you know. And I dare not even mention it.

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With about another month to go before the Lakers open training camp, now is as good a time as any to take a quick review of where the team’s roster currently stands. With the recent signing of Jonathan Holmes, the Lakers have 15 players under contract:

Guards and Wings

  • D’Angelo Russell
  • Jordan Clarkson
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Lou Williams
  • Nick Young
  • Jabari Brown
  • Anthony Brown

Power Forwards

  • Julius Randle
  • Brandon Bass
  • Ryan Kelly
  • Larry Nance Jr.
  • Jonathan Holmes


  • Roy Hibbert
  • Tarik Black
  • Robert Sacre

Of the 15 players above, Tarik Black and Jabari Brown have non-guaranteed contracts for next year while Jonathan Holmes’ deal is only partially guaranteed. Per Eric Pincus, that partial amount is $100K on his two year minimum contract*.

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The NBA schedule was released on Wednesday and now every team knows the route they will travel on their marathon campaign. 82 games of ups and downs, wins and losses, and countless storylines will captivate us fans and players alike. We’ve already started this discussion with some of the games we are most/least looking forward to as well as some other general observations.

But, frankly, there is even more on our minds. With that, here are 10 more thoughts on the Lakers’ 2015-16 schedule…

1. I love that the Lakers open with the Timberwolves. It is by no means a glamorous match up pitting traditional rivals against each other, but there are a lot of match ups and intriguing stories worth discussing. On one end of the spectrum you have the #1 and #2 overall picks in Karl Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell facing off in their first regular season games. And, on the other end, you have Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant facing off on the opening night of their 21st and 20th seasons respectively. The rooks are the most recent high profile one-and-done prospects to grace the league while the veterans are the two players who ushered in the prep-to-pros era which graced us with some of the best players of a generation. Add in last year’s rookie of the year in Andrew Wiggins and the return of Julius Randle and there is no shortage of reasons why I’ll be excited about this game.

2. I love that the Lakers’ annual Grammy Road Trip is only going to be four games, but with it being so short they have to make up some of those road games somewhere. Enter a brutal December where only four of the team’s 17 games will be at Staples Center. Welp.

3. A few dates to circle on the calendar: February 19th, February 21st, March 10th, and April 3rd. In order, those may be the last times Kobe suits up in a game against Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol, LeBron James, and the Boston Celtics. There are other match ups worth mentioning, but I’d say those four opponents will carry extra weight.

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A good rule of thumb to live by is to never really expect much from a second round pick. While most of the guys drafted after the first 30 picks are surely talented, the NBA is filled with skilled players whose careers are hanging on by a lose thread. The churn at the bottom of NBA rosters isn’t quite like what you see in the NFL, but every year guys lose their jobs to similarly talented peers.

Depending on any 2nd round player for real contributions, then, is a mistake. If you strike gold — like the Lakers did with Jordan Clarkson — that’s great, but you cannot expect this to happen. The odds are just too low.

This brings us Anthony Brown, whom the Lakers selected with the 34th selection in this past draft. Brown showed strong play in the PAC 12 as both a Junior and Senior and looks to have translatable skills to the NBA level (more on this in a minute). The Lakers, hoping they’ve found another player who can be a long term piece, invested in Brown as such by signing him to a three year contract with the first two seasons fully guaranteed and a non-guaranteed third year*.

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Among a large sect of Lakers’ fans, Byron Scott is not held in the highest of regards as a coach. The former Showtime shooting guard is absolutely revered as a former great player who helped the team capture three championships as Magic’s backcourt mate, but when it comes to stewarding the ship from the sideline there are reasons to doubt him.

I have, admittedly, been one of these critics. There is no need to rehash it all in now, but his history in New Jersey, New Orleans, and Cleveland — especially how he exited those places — spoke a lot more to me than some of his early success in the first two of those stops or his knowledge of “what it means to be a Laker”. When he was hired, then, I spoke my mind on this. I still believe what I wrote at the time had merit and that is independent of the bad season he shepherded the team through last year.

Like any fair critique, though, one must look at the full picture and note where things were actually, you know, good. For all his faults, Byron did several things worthy of recognition, including getting players to play hard all year even with all the losses, getting some above expectations performances from more than one of his big men, and, of course, the management of Jordan Clarkson’s development from forgotten 2nd round pick early in the year to 1st Team All-Rookie by the end of the campaign*.

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Nick Young couldn’t possibly have felt great about his Lakers signing Lou Williams this summer. The redundancy between the two is fairly obvious if simplified down to layman levels. Young and Williams are both chuckers best used off the bench to bring an immediate scoring punch to whichever lineup they’re joining on the court.

So, Young took the type of measures any normal person would if threatened with replacement by their employer: get a Tupac tattoo on the arm previously reserved for buckets. In all seriousness, though, trying to figure out what to expect from Young this season is pretty difficult given the several variables at play heading into the 2015-16 campaign.

First, we need to understand how we got to this point. Two years ago, Mike D’Antoni’s system lent itself to success in the form of spot-up jumpshots in efficient parts of the floor and isolations against defenses spread thin by excellent spacing. As a result, Young enjoyed a career season and earned the contract the Lakers seemed pretty quick to want to shed this offseason.

So, the question begs asking: is Young the player we saw under D’Antoni or the punchline to the joke that was last season? The answer, as usual, is somewhere in the middle and, as such, he still deserves a spot on an NBA roster. But, Young has some roadblocks to overcome if he hopes to flip the narrative.

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