Archives For Laker Analysis

We know from everything Luke has said, taught, and done that one of his core coaching philosophies is the need for an unselfish team approach to offense. He speaks more of ball movement than perhaps anything else, and recently emphasized the importance of achieving 300 passes per game as a team. This philosophy is unsurprising given Luke’s style as a player, and given his training under both Steve Kerr and Phil Jackson, who both tried to implement team offensive systems over one on one play. Just today, Luke commented that he learned from Phil that “One bad pass to start a possession can start a chain.”

The Lakers have made substantial strides so far this year on offense, and currently sit 9th in the league in offensive rating at 109.6, which is a stunning increase from where they finished last year (101.6 and 29th). This has made me think about Luke’s offensive philosophy and how his approach compares to some of the great offenses of the past few years.

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The Lakers are a surprising 6-5 through 11 games this season. Considering their Vegas over/under was 24.5 wins, being on pace to win almost close to twice that many games isn’t something many (any?) people saw coming. I know I didn’t.

There are several factors which are contributing to the team’s early season success, but I’d argue none are more important than the performance of the team’s bench. The unit of Lou Williams, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Larry Nance Jr., and Tarik Black is destroying opponents. Seriously. It’s not hyperbole.

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The other night I was out with a friend having a drink and talking basketball. In between some NSFW commentary on topics from around the league, he asked me about D’Angelo Russell. My buddy, an OKC Thunder fan, said he really likes Russell and wants him to do well. He asked me if I had any concerns about Russell (I will get to my answer to that in a minute) and then we went on to discuss how good we think he can be as a player.

In Sunday’s game against the Timberwolves, Russell did not play well. It took him 10 shots to score his 7 points and he struggled defensively, both when trying to contain Ricky Rubio off the dribble and when forced to switch onto other wings/bigs. This type of game isn’t indicative of how Russell has played all season, but it’s also not the first time it has happened. In a loss against the Pacers he scored 11 points on 3-10 shooting and the Pacers attacked him with Paul George down the stretch, intentionally singling him out by forcing switches defensively. A loss against the Jazz saw him score 9 points on 3-14 shooting while George Hill cooked offensively on the other end.

For the season, Russell is scoring 15.4 points a night and dishing 4.7 assists. He’s shooting 40.5% from the floor, including 35.9% from distance. If these numbers sound familiar, it’s because they are quite similar to the ones he posted last season: 13.2 points, 3.2 assists, 41.0% shooting from the field, and 35.9% from behind the arc. Russell is scoring and assisting better and in fewer minutes a night, but if you look at his shot charts, things this year resemble last year.

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The Lakers Collective

Darius Soriano —  November 7, 2016

The Lakers have traditionally been built on the premise that stars win. The idea is seemingly embedded into the fabric of the organizational ethos. This is a franchise that does not retire your jersey number unless you get elected into the Hall of Fame. They are the franchise who has always had a leading man (and usually more) — from Mikan to Magic, Baylor to Bryant and all the HOF names in-between — anchoring the roster and driving it towards success.

Recent summers (save for 2016) were dedicated to the chase of the next front-man who would lead the organization out of shambles and back into position to compete for championships. Even though there are high hopes for the youngsters grabbed in the lottery, the team always operated under the guise that the next great team might need to be fronted by a star not yet present.

And maybe that is still true. We don’t yet know how good D’Angelo Russell or Brandon Ingram or Julius Randle will be. Early returns tell us they have the potential to be special. And I am a believer in their respective talents. But if every player with potential reached their ceiling, Anthony Randolph might be the league’s reigning MVP on the Warriors, not that Steph Curry character.

While the young players ply their craft in pursuit of living up to their draft status, a funny thing has happened: the Lakers are winning games and are a fun team to watch play. Even if we thought this was possible, to see it actually happening is surprising. What’s even more surprising his how it is happening.

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The Lakers pulled out a surprise win over the Warriors on Friday, not only by being ahead when the clock hit triple zeros but by doing so in a wire to wire fashion with a 20 point final margin. Before the game, I wrote that I was only looking for good execution and the types of incremental improvements I think is the goal of this season. Instead, I saw the Lakers play quite well on both sides of the ball and punish a Warriors’ team who shot poorly and defended even worse than that.

The Warriors’ performance might lead some to give less credit to the Lakers than would typically be the case after such a win. And when you rewatch the game and see some of the open looks the Warriors missed, I can understand that sentiment to an extent. However, what the tape also revealed was the Lakers doing so many little things well, leveraging some of their advantages against a Dubs team who is simply not as deep as previous contending versions, and also countering every run with a big bucket or stop of their own to hold off any hard charge.

These are the things winning teams do often and the Warriors game marks the second consecutive contest in which the Lakers exhibited these traits. Now, I’m not ready to call this a trend and the Lakers have a ways to go before they can be considered much more than the type of pesky opponent who will play hard and stay in games — pulling some out you do not expect. However, if we start to see these things more consistently, it will force many (including me) to reevaluate our projections for what is possible for them.

But that is a discussion for down the line. For now, here are 10 thoughts from a game I did not see coming, but was more than happy to be wrong about.

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To say Julius Randle is playing well to start the season would be a massive understatement. Through three games, Randle is scoring 15 points, grabbing nearly 7 rebounds, and dishing over 3 assists a game. He is shooting 67.9% from the floor and has a PER of 21.6. It’s a fair argument to say that over the team’s first three games, Randle has been the Lakers’ best player.

Most of the gains mentioned above are on offense, but that should not obscure some of the defensive improvement Randle is showing. No, he’s still not a “plus” defensive player overall, not when he can still stand to make real strides as an off-ball defender who is making early rotations and being a real deterrent at the rim. Over time, if Randle is going to be considered a real two-way threat, these areas of team defense will need to be improved. There’s no way around that.

But, I think as is the case with Randle through his first two seasons, many are too quick to point out all the things Randle’s not doing (or not doing well enough) rather than crediting him for where he is actually is making strides. With that in mind, one area in which I have been impressed with Randle this year is when he’s been asked to switch onto wings and defend in space.

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Darius joined me on “Locked on Lakers” to discuss how different this Lakers season feels compared to the last couple years. During Wednesday’s game, the thrill of winning wasn’t accompanied by the baggage that came with a Byron Scott-coached team. Watching, it felt like we were witnessing the foundation for future success being laid in ways we simply haven’t seen in the past few seasons.

The second half of the show featured a rapid-fire segment on expectations we might have on the Lakers’ young core. Could D’Angelo Russell generate All Star buzz? How much time should Julius Randle play at center? Why should Lakers fans pay more attention to Brandon Ingram’s steals and blocks than the points he scores this year?

I’m blackmailing Darius into coming on the show regularly throughout this season, so enjoy this and look forward to many more appearances like it. If you’re interested in “Locked on Lakers”, you can find all episodes here. Past guests include John Ireland, the Kamenetzky brothers, Pete Zayas (Laker Film Room) and more.

Hit the jump below to give it a listen.

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We already gave you a recap to the game, but when the Lakers win on opening night as home underdogs against a team with James Harden and a ton of offensive firepower by holding them to 18 4th quarter points — including only 4 points in the final 3 minutes — there is more to say on what happened in the contest.

The NBA never ceases to surprise and, even if you are the staunchest Lakers supporter, I would imagine many thought any close game would simply turn into Harden, as the best player on either team, taking control of the action late to win the game. Instead, the Lakers got stingy defensively and found enough offense to tighten the screws on Houston and win the game.

With that, I have more to say and I hope you want more to read so here are 10 thoughts from last night’s Lakers win over the Rockets:

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