Archives For Laker Analysis

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?

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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Twelve games ago Byron Scott decided he wanted to shake up his starting lineup. The move was a controversial one as he demoted Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell — the two players most considered cornerstones of the team’s rebuild and future — from the ranks of the starters to reserves. The young players have said all the right things, but when pressed have expressed a desire to start (at least Russell has – Randle has taken the “control what you can control” approach with the media).

With the change now 12 games deep and exactly three weeks old, now is as good a time as any to take stock and look at some of the numbers and trends which have emerged since the switch. Please note that while Randle has been a reserve for all 12 games, he has missed a contest with a sore ankle and that Russell did start two of the 12 contests while Jordan Clarkson sat out with his own ankle issue.

With that, let’s dig into some numbers:

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Getting Ahead of the Game

Darius Soriano —  December 15, 2015

One of my favorite movies is the 1994 crime film Fresh. I won’t summarize the film for you here, but the way the main character (a 12 year old black kid in New York) manipulates his situation via strategic plotting influenced by his playing of chess will always be something I appreciate. What can I say, I’m a sucker for smart characters and this kid was smart.

This isn’t a movie review, but I was thinking about chess earlier after I read Zach Lowe’s latest piece for ESPN on the Dallas Mavericks. Lowe goes into detail about how the Mavs continue to win games even though their roster has turned over by more than half and how an aging Dirk and head coach Rick Carlisle are still getting it done.

The passage which caught my eye, however, is below:

It turns out, Dallas needed a slight recalibration, rather than a total overhaul. The team traded a few pick-and-rolls for more intricate pieces of five-man basketball chess: classic Carlisle and Terry Stotts “flow” sets, with Pachulia and Nowitzki helming the elbows and a whir of on-ball and off-ball screens unfolding around them. Only three teams have set more on-ball screens, and only five have nailed opponents with more off-ball picks, per SportVU data and numbers crunched to by Vantage Sports…

The Mavs have collected smart players who read the game in snapshots, guys who can improvise an off-ball screening ballet and understand how to cut against the defense’s expectations. They keep you guessing all over the floor until someone breaks.

The concept of elite basketball players “playing chess” on the floor is not a new one. Back when the Lakers were coached by Phil Jackson and ran the Triangle Offense, I often talked about how Kobe, Pau, and Odom manipulated defenses via expert level understanding of how each action of the offense would impact what their opponents did to stop them.

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Back in February of 2012, the Lakers were a team looking to find its way. Coming out of the NBA lockout, Mike Brown was tasked with coaching the team Phil Jackson departed, trying to pick up the pieces and re-form a group fractured by the attempted trade of Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom for Chris Paul.

Looking back, it was not an easy time at all. Not the lows the team is facing now, but a different sort of struggle where expectations to contend were still high, but coming in a condensed season with a group possessing insane numbers of miles on their legs, looking to achieve what was, in hindsight, well beyond their grasp.

That was the backdrop for comments that Kobe Bryant made to Stephen A. Smith about what his future might hold. Yes, those questions were popping up nearly 4 years ago, before the ruptured achilles, before the team’s plunge into the high lottery. Stephen A. wanted to know if Kobe might one day leave the Lakers to join a better team – a team which might net him that elusive sixth NBA Championship. Kobe shot that down pretty quickly:

“Why would I want to go somewhere else, that ship sailed in (2007),” Bryant said. “If there was ever a time I was going to move to go play someplace else, that was it. I’m not going to jump ship to chase a sixth ring, it’s just not going to happen. It’s going to happen here or it’s not going to happen.”

After Kobe said that, he also had this quote about how long he might play:

“You think I’d hang around and average 18 points, 19 points… hell no.”

We all know what is happening this season. I do not want to pile on Kobe, but his season has been poor. The numbers speak for themselves. I don’t need to paint them in vibrant colors or put them into historical context to sensationalize them. We watch the games, we know he’s not done well. He knows he’s not done well.

This is where that last quote comes into play. Kobe never thought he’d be this guy. He’s a career 25, 5, and 5 guy. The thought of him becoming a guy who would only be getting 18? No chance.

But, Kobe was wrong. And that’s perfectly okay.

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