I’m a firm believer that the path to victory is forged by the best players on each team. The stars are the guys that carry the load and have the ball in their hands in the biggest moments of the game. Offensive schemes are built around their talents and defensive ones are geared towards slowing down their exploits. That said, the stars aren’t the only players that suit up or the only ones that impact a game. We covered this topic in our look at both the Lakers and Suns benches and I truly believe that these groups of guys are also going to make their imprint on this series. But within every team or in any given match up, there’s also that player that is considered an x-factor. That single player that, while not the most talented, can turn the tide of a game or even an entire series with his particular skill set. This series will be no different and today I want to take a look at a player from each team that I think will play that role.
Suns’ X-factor: Channing Frye. Frye is a very important player to the Suns success. Throughout the season he alternated between starter and key reserve and in the playoffs has found his niche as the first big off the bench for Alvin Gentry’s Suns. His playoff numbers are nothing flashy as he’s averaging 8.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.4 fouls in a shade over 28 minutes a game, but numbers don’t begin to tell the story of why he’s important to Phoenix’s success – especially on offense.
Frye is the quintessential floor spacer and when he’s in the game his presence is crucial in dragging big men out of the paint so that Amar’e has open lanes to dive to the rim and the Suns’ guards have free paths into the paint on their penetration. For the regular season he made 172 three pointers on 43.9% shooting. For comparisons sake, Artest led the Lakers in made threes with 105 and Farmar led the Lakers in 3 point FG% (for players that had more than 20 attempts) at 37.6%. And while his three point shooting numbers in the playoffs are down overall (38.5%) due to a rough series against Portland, against the Spurs he was back to being on fire going 12-22 on threes for a nice 54.5%.
To me, there’s more than just a casual connection between Frye’s success as a shooter and the Suns success as a team. When Frye was shooting poorly versus Portland that series went 6 games, while in the next round they were able to sweep the Spurs when Frye was on fire. And in this series, I anticipate the same thing being true. If Frye can successfully knock down shots and force the Lakers bigs to either stick to him around the 3 point arc the domino effect begins and the Lakers advantage in the paint lessens. However, if Frye is missing the long ball and the Lakers bigs get to clog the paint while he misses from deep, the Suns spacing will not be as strong and their offense will be disrupted. To me, this defines his status as the Suns’ X-factor and I’m anxious to see how he plays against the Lakers.
Lakers X-factor: Lamar Odom. Surprise, surprise right? This is familiar territory for LO as he’s the player that, over the years, has carried the tag line of “if he plays well, the Lakers can’t lose”. Well in this series that will be no different as LO will likely see a bump in his minutes in order to match up with the rangy players that the Suns throw out to play power forward. And if Odom can take advantage of his match up advantages against guys like Frye, Amundson, and Dudley it will go a long way towards helping the Lakers advance to the Finals.
And understand that Odom will need to flash all facets of his skill set in this series. On offense his ability to both post up and operate from the perimeter will be needed as he’ll need to bang against some of the undersized Suns that he’ll match up against while also being an offensive initiator from the perimeter as Kobe and Pau go to work in the post on their defenders. On defense Odom will have multiple roles and need to bring his agility and length to the Lakers P&R defensive schemes, mark players like Frye spotting up on the perimeter, and still be able to recover to the paint to rebound. He’ll also need to have his head on a swivel and be the primary player “helping the helper” as Gasol is likely to find himself being the “show” man when guarding Amar’e in the Suns’ P&R sets with Nash/Dragic/Barbosa. This means that when Gasol hedges out to contain the Suns’ guards it will be Odom rotating to the paint on the diving big man and then if/when Pau recovers back to the paint LO will need to get back to his own man. Odom will have a lot of responsibility in this series.
This role is nothing new for Odom as he’s been used as a jack of all trades for the Lakers ever since Gasol joined the team. Last year against the Jazz, Odom was used as a part time starter specifically to match up with Memhet Okur and I think LO will be asked to do similar things in this WCF. Ultimately, I’m hoping that we see a more consistently impactful Odom than what we’ve seen so far these playoffs. No one can argue that Odom hasn’t made a difference in these playoffs. In the OKC series he had big moments in both games 5 and 6 to help the Lakers close out that series. The same could be said about the second round series against the Jazz as Odom hit big shots, recorded key blocks, and rebounded well in some of the series’ key moments. However, in this series, he’ll need to do that more often and over longer stretches. Is he up to it?
As I mentioned earlier, this series will likely tilt on whether the Suns have enough on defense to handle Kobe and Gasol or if the Lakers have an answer for the Nash/Amar’e pick and roll. However, I think that the performances of Frye and Odom will also have a major impact on the result of this series. If one of these players plays to his maximum potential and the other one falters the team that employs the more successful player will have a much better chance of winning this series. These players are the guys that I consider the x-factors. However, this is just my take and there are surely other worthy candidates. Maybe you think the return of Robin Lopez is more key. Maybe you think Artest’s defense and his potential to be both a shooter and post player are of more consequence. If that’s the case, I couldn’t disagree with those sentiments. So, let me know in the comments who your x-factors are and how you think they’ll impact this series.
j. d. hastings says
I think Barbosa is another x-factor because I remember what he did in 2006-2007. He’s not the same player and the lakers aren’t the same team (and they don’t play him at our weak PG position), but it’d still be a nice moral victory to prevent him from averaging 30 points per game as it seemed like he did before.
Good post. While I think all the X-O analysis matters, I have written a few times that when Odom and Bynum are doing well and are active, the Lakers are very, very hard to beat, even with the team’s other limitations. Simply put, when that happens, the opponent is dealing with Kobe Bryant + three skilled All-Star caliber bigs. I would guess that if you tracked the team’s Win % vs. Odom’s numbers, you would see some interesting results.
I think Lopez could be huge for the suns, even in limited minutes. Surely he’s better than Collins.
I’m concerned about Odom’s knee. If it hampers his speed and mobility, Phoenix will take advantage of it.
off-topic, but I looked at the in-depth stats on 82games and noticed something strange. I figured most teams, like the Suns, tend to shoot a lower percentage when there’s less time on the clock. But for the Lakers, their eFG% takes a dip between 11-15 seconds, but then spikes upward between 16-20 seconds. Weird.
Re: The X Factor
Odom can always be the X factor because you never know what your gonna get from him. I am more interested in how the Lakers use Ron Artest actually. One of the advantages of having Artest instead of Ariza is that Artest can be used to take advantage of certain cross matches making it more difficult for a team to put their SF (Hill) on Kobe. The Suns best defender is Grant Hill and if he gets assigned to Kobe that leaves the smallish Jason Richardson on RonRon. I know the Lakers have not been known for making teams pay for mismatches in the past but here is to hoping we see a lot of Artest in the high post against J Rich.
Couldn’t agree and disagree more on Odom’s knee. It killed his game in the first two rounds… but I am not very concerned because of this week off. I am confident this week can do wonders for a slightly sore knee with the kind of medical attention these guys receive.
Re: Orlando vs Celtics
I hate to simplify,,, OK… I love to simplify,,,, but this series comes down to SVG. If the Magic put Dwight on KG they win the series. If they put Rashard Lewis on him they lose the series.
If Bynum doesn’t average a double-double against Lopez we’ll be in for a longer series than we want. Our strength remains our bigs and how they perform. Nash and Amar’e will get theirs as will Kobe and Pau. But the question marks are Bynum vs. Lopez and Artest vs. Hill. Whereas both pairs will play significantly better at home, it is imperative that Drew and Ron-Ron follow suit and send a message right away. Any glimmer of hope in the first two games will give the Suns a tremendous amount of confidence heading back to Phoenix.
They have absolutely nothing to lose at this point and that’s a dangerous ingredient when you can score in bunches like they can. Put doubt into their minds immediately by pounding them inside. Hill does all of the little things that pay dividends down the line. Artest must make him stick to him and not allow Hill to be the help or secondary defender on Kobe.
Has ESPN forgotten that there are still four teams left in the playoffs? It goes to show that a lot of these sports “journalists” are really just vultures willing to pick all the meat off of any story before they move on. And in doing so, they forget about the actual event that they’re supposed to cover. I can understand a few stories, but ESPNs front page is devoted to LBJ.
Has ESPN forgotten that there are still four teams left in the playoffs
Well, yes, but none of those four teams are actually playing basketball today.
#3, I’d guess the higher % is due to Lakers running their offense and getting better looks as they work the ball around and force the defense to chase after.
But if they’re shooting earlier in the clock, that means they’re jacking up the first open shot. At least that would be my guess for that difference.
Lakers do tend to do better if they go early in transition but if nothing is there, pull it back out, settle down and run the offense.
That’s why sometimes I get a little frustrated to see the guards just walking the ball up after inbounding. By the time they get into the front court, there’s only 16 seconds left barely beating the count. Then it takes another few seconds to initiate. I hate seeing the offense get started with 12-14 seconds left on the clock. Much rather the guards push it into the front court right away and initiate around the 16 second mark.
But that’s just a minor irritation and sometimes I wonder how much of that is the coaches stressing not to be sucked into a run and gun game. So they tell the team to walk it up.
Sascha will be an x-factor. He have to guard his countryman, Goran, and that will be a little war within the big war. Remember they sit Nash out for big minutes in the fourth quarter.
I have seen stats where it indicated when Jason Richardson plays well- with 20+ points- Suns are unbeatable or have been unbeaten. X-factor, anyone?
>ESPNs front page is devoted to LBJ.
I hate to be contrary.. okay, I lie; I love to be contrary. there is currently nada, as in zilch, on the ESPN front page regarding LBJ.
two of the featured stories are playoff previews, and another features those great athletes at the Preakness Stakes. you know, like Calvin Borel. /s
now if it’s the NBA page you refer to.. that’s another story.
I just read on ESPN that Bynum’s knee is gradually getting worse. How small is this tear on the meniscus? I thought it could not get any worse? Perhaps surgery 2 weeks ago should have been the chosen route?
It is annoying that LeBron is dominating but the sports world, but it is understandable.
He is the face of the NBA. The same overreaction from the media occurred when Kobe demanded a trade and Jordan announced his retirement. The coverage was outrageous and lasted forever.
It is a HUGE deal when the face of the NBA, its top player, is bounced from the playoffs and may be changing teams. While LeBron possibly leaving Cleveland may not seem the same as Kobe demanding a trade or Jordan retiring, his decision will affect the NBA for years to come. I mean if he goes to Miami and partners with Wade, that would change everything. Or if he goes to Chicago or partners with Bosh in New York. This free agency season can change the face of basketball for the next decade.
Also, there aren’t any games on today so there isn’t really anything else interesting to talk about. Even though that crazy rumor that Delonte West was sleeping with LeBron’s mom and LeBron found out before Game 4 and splintered the team is going around. This is the state of the NBA discourse when there are no games going on.
So while I hate that I see LeBron’s face everywhere and wish the hoopla would just end until July 1 when he actually becomes a free agent, I understand why it is happening.
As for the X-Factor post, I think that Ron-Ron or Bynum being productive offensively can be just as much of an X-factor as Lamar’s overall game. I think that if Ron or Bynum are able to get their offensive game together, the Lakers will be close to unstoppable. As of right now, our most consistent scoring options are Kobe, Pau,and surprisingly Fisher. Ron has shot horrible in the playoffs. Bynum was very quiet in the two games in Utah. Lamar’s offense has been sporadic.
If the Lakers are able to get that consistent third scorer, they will be very difficult to defeat.
12: my guess is that the swelling is related to the knee hyperextension; the meniscus tear is causing unrelated/additional pain and discomfort.
Well, it looks like Bynum won’t be all that useful for the rest of the playoffs now.
I have no idea why he is whining about his knee to the media, but no matter what team we face – Suns, Celtics, Orlando – out defense isn’t going to be as good without him there, even though he says he is going to play, he was useless the last two Utah games. We didn’t trade him for Chris Bosh because???
@16, and where do you see whining? Sounds like he was asked and he discussed it.
I am getting tired of Bynam. Will we have to listen to a career of his injuries and have to listen to his potential?
Enough is enough. if he dosen’t step and outplay a also injured Lopez then I am done with this guy.
You think Kobe would cry to the press about his injuries? No way.
And 17 when they ask him his answer should be I feel great. Why give the Suns more inside info then is needed. Shut up and earn your $10 million a year!
18, I’m sure bynum is tired of people like you.
People like me include the other 20 season ticket holders that sit around us and tend to agree.
Four years of injuries are not his fault but appear to be the norm and has a effect on the Lakers bench and planning for the present and the future.
18, doesn’t surprise me you feel that way and still can’t spell his name correctly.
I got it right one out of two. All I ask is not to disclose information to the media. Do we hear Ron or LO or Kobe talking about their injuries, It effects the lines.
Actually they do talk about their injuries.
Major bummer about Andrew. Hope he is able to play through it- I’m of the mind we won’t need him as much against the Suns but he will be absolutely vital in the Finals.
OK . I hope he can contribute. 0 point 4 rebound games can make this a harder series.
I am tired of all the people complaining about Bynum. He’s been a part of the Lakers win last year, and even this one. He’s still going to play. He’s not whining, he was asked.
We should take a vote to see who thinks Bynum should have got the “Brandon Roy Surgery” the morning after the Utah sweep.
Since Roy had a 1-2 week projection time, that would leave Bynum with one week to miss one game or two weeks to miss 3-4 games. (the fourth falling on the two week mark.)
Personally, I’d vote yes for a Bynum Surgery this previous Tuesday. (As long as it is that kind of Surgery.) We need him much more against Dwight Howard, Marcin Gortat, Glen Davis, and Kendrick Perkins than we do against Channing Frye and Amare Stoudemire.
I’d like to here back to see what everyone else’s opinion is on the circumstance.
Muscle through it Bynum, just think of the ring!
Appears Andrew is slow healer. Don’t think he would be back or in shape if he was out for two weeks. Lot more weight then Roy had.
After all we do, all we need our bench for is to maintain the lead. Phil knows that. Kobe knows that. Pau knows that. Fish knows that. Does the bench know that? Yes and know. If they did, they’d know they’re inadequate/innefectual and stop messing with our leads. Regardless, I just want to see our bunch hold our leads and operate sanely when then’re out there. Good luck second squads,,,,,,(that’s right: both of them. -Seth W
Heres the interview with Bynum about his knee.
the other stephen says
in honor of our upcoming game against phoenix, i think we should watch this and repost it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFBxNCiL7cw
P. Ami says
My X-Factor is Wow. I haven’t looked at numbers, so I might just be coming off as lame, but it seems to me that he’s been shooting much better from behind the arch since the bandage came off. I also think his decision making, while not perfect, is good enough and he rises (literally) to the moment.
I agree he should not have shared information with the media. Knowledge is power. The Art of War, man, The Art of War! Seriously, a big tactical mistake it is, unless it’s misinformation, then it’s sweet.
I like a lot of what Bynum does and appreciate him finally playing hurt. Based on his apparent injury propensity and inability to play all games I suspect we probably did overpay him.
We’ll soon see, anyway.
I’m rooting for Bynum showing he’s worth it!
Drew made the right decision regarding not getting the surgery. He is a super slow healer, so much so that the last injury Phil never put a timetable on his return.
While I think Bynum is very important to our overall championship aspirations, Im not sure how important he is for this series. thought it would make it easier to have him and Pau in the middle, he really is more important for the next round if we are fortunate enough to get there.
But, I am worried for his long time health. I think it is safe to say that his knees/legs are injury prone, and has been even in high school.
That being said, I just want the damn games to start already.
how about trying a big lineup of kobe, artest, walton, lamar and pau? who would nash guard? everyone would be able to post him up and have a size advantage. lamar and kobe could bring the ball up and be the main ball handlers. i like this lineup alot better than i like lamar, pau and drew playing together.
Very true Ray and I wonder if Andrew talking about it getting worse is a out in case of poor play aganist a running Suns team.
he’s talking about it getting worse because it’s getting worse. and the kid is really disappointed.
I don’t think he’s one to play mind games.
Yea your probably right. I heard that on sport radio today and when i heard it I didn’t like it.
Then like a fool I repeat it.
Sorry Andrew, my bad.
thats an interesting lineup, but since they haven’t played at all this season together, im not sure how it would flow in the offense. seems like a lineup that would make kobe go into “Black Mamba” mode… and dribble coast to coast type of thing…
1: 2010 Kobe burning up precious energy by chasing Steve all around the court is not that strategical. It would be like giving up your Queen for their rook. (assuming Stoudemire is their Queen)
2: I can see Phoenix beating us up in transition if we try to pull some crap like having “Bad Back Luke” in the starting lineup.
It’s a clever line up that could probably have good offensive fluidity but we need to protect our selves from Pheonix getting hot in transition. I can see them opening up with 8-0 or 10-2 runs if we don’t protect ourselves from transition buckets and pull up 3’s. We shouldn’t have to worry about them working us inside out as long as we keep Nash from driving and kicking out. We don’t have to double Amare when Pau and Drew are guarding him and Frye… well enough said. (lanky Obama)
My line up would be… pg;Fish, sg;Kobe, sf;Artest, pf;Pau, c;LO.
Why? They usually keep Amare at the 4 and I like Pau on him way better than LO. Also, LO is way better at closing out on 3’s and guarding the perimeter. If Lopez or the other hairy Center are in, I’d still keep it that way as long as we don’t have to double for LO and Pau/ Drew are somewhat containg Amare.
The only thing You’d have to worry about is Drew chasing Stoudemire around the court. Best thing to do in that situation is have LO and Drew switch on any fastbreak.
Last thing that I can think of that will help us benifit from the Pau/ LO swithch would be that if LO hustled up the floor Pheonix won’t have time to switch which would leave Amare on Pau a good deal of times. (and that would be good news for us)
Hopefully we figure out an affective strategy. (most likely that will be to make sure our offense doesn’t lead their offense and don’t let them prove how good they are at 3’s)
All in my humble opinion. correct me if I’m misinforming. sorry for the long post.
i think a very important aspect would be to get the ball inside early to draw some fouls. how do you stop their offense most effectively > get amare into foul trouble and make nash work on the defensive end. i am very confident that pau can get a couple fouls on amare early. also: small post defenders like to reach in before the give up a easy basket. if we keep bynum out there, we should try to get him into the deepest position possible since that will probably force the suns defenders to foul.
since we have seen this crazy lineup already once during this playoffs, im going to throw it out there: kobe, ron, lamar, pau, bynum… who will nash be guarding?
you will probably say that the suns will run this lineup out of the building, but i dont see them keeping nash or dragic on the floor if we switch to this lineup since kobe will post them into two or 3 quick fouls.
i´d love to see this happening at some point… what do you think darius?
Neither Derek nor Drew may have a sparkling series against Los Suns. I expect Phil to reduce the minutes for Drew and Derek in favor of Lamar and Sasha (even finding a role for Luke). Expanding the rotation to 10 may be crucial.
Cross assignments on defense may be necessary. At the opportune moment in the series, I wouldn’t be surprized at all to see Ron dogging Amare.
I wonder if Phil will reach back into his bag of tricks and once again use Sasha both offensively and defensively on Nash. Some may remember that matchup as the first real playoff contibution for the Machine as a Laker. He may additionally be sicced on Dragic as already suggested above by Lakerpassion (9).
Craig W. says
Lineups that are put on the floor specifically to draw fouls rarely work. While the Suns are a better defensive club than they were in the 1st part of this year, they also would really prefer to run you off the court. They love playing Golden State and are a tough matchup for Utah. This means we need balance to beat them.
Our big lineup is not predicated on balance and I think they might just run us off the court and live with our post ups.
If we use either of those huge lineups, the Suns will go zone and we’ll be f’d.
This is in reference to the previous post about the Suns offense. In watching the Kevin Arnovitz video and others with regards to the Suns P&R, there’s one thing that sticks out to me. If you watch the clips you’ll notice it also. When Amare is the screener, he will almost never touch the man he is supposed to be screening. In the situations where he rolls to the hoop (he does this most of the time, as opposed to hang and pop), he’ll begin to roll before the opposing guard even passes him. The Spurs let him get in to the lane for a Nash pass way too easily.
If the Lakers decide to play strong on the ball when the screen comes, they can run right through most of them since they are weak screens at best. This will force Amare to stay home and actually set the pick with the guard running into him. This will ultimately slow his roll to the basket. Of course this easier said then done, and Nash will adjust to any way you try to defend him. But by making things a little more difficult on Amare, I think it will slow down probably their most potent offensive weapon.
Bill Bridges says
In the Sun’s notebook, there must be a whole chapter devoted to how the Sun’s will take advantage of the matchups in the beginning of the second quarter.
The Suns will play a unit of Dragic, Barbosa, Dudley, Ahmundson, and Frye.
The Laker’s will likely have a fivesome of Bynum, Odom, Bryant, Brown, and Farmar.
I’m sure the Sun’s are licking their chops.
Their playbook says:
1. Attack in transition. Both Dragic and Barbosa are quicker than their counterparts and can finish.
2. If transition is stopped, find a trailing Frye for the wide open 3. (Bynum might just be getting past half court)
3. If Frye misses, Amundson and Dudley crash the offensive boards, as their defenders, Odom and Kobe are habitually lazy and boxing out.
4. If the immediate put-back isn’t available, run the trusted Dragic/Frye Screen Roll and exploit Bynum’s lack of speed.
With the healthy Bynum, the Lakers would look to exploit their advantage on offensive by feeding Bynum in the post. But this advantage, if the games in Utah are indicators, may have been torn away much like Bynum’s meniscus.
So Phil has a decision to make. Who guards Frye? most likely Odom. But then Odom gets pulled out closing (and perhaps fouling) a three point shooting Frye and becomes less effective at defensive rebouding – thus creating more second chance rebounds for Dudley and Amundson.
Kobe’s disdain of role players such as Dudley will result in open corner 3’s and offensive boards for Dudley.
Dragic is taller, quicker, stronger, and much better than Farmar. Brown’s lack of defensive lateral quickness will result in fouls to Barbosa or expose Bynum’s slowed reflexes on help defense.
I hope Jackson has thought through this match up and has already come up with plan B.
Here’s my plan B. Rest Kobe at the start of the 2nd as per most of the regular season.
If Bynum starts the 2nd (and you can make a case that Gasol should start the 2nd quarter), he guards Amundson and gives him plenty of space. Although Amundson can shoot from 15 feet, this is a shot that the Lakers would love the Suns to settle for.
Odom guards Dudley. Better to help in the corner and recover for the board against a shorter Dudley than close at the wing against Frye and be useless at the defensive boards.
Sasha checks his Slovenian counterpart. When motivated (hopefully recovered) Sasha can be surprisingly tenacious at staying in front of his man and fighting through screens (something Farmar just can’t do).
Farmar or Brown must guard Barbosa. There really isn’t a clever scheme here other than hope Barbosa takes and misses a lot of threes.
The biggest change for me would be to guard Frye with Ron Artest. Not having a dominant wing man to guard, Artest can get plenty of rest in the 1st quarter to tackle a potentially very strategic match-up. There is no doubt that Artest can cover Frye on the perimeter. He is also strong enough to box Frye out.
The Artest-Frye matchup will be a surprise to Gentry and might tempt them to try to “exploit” this by posting Frye up against Artest.
I doubt Frye had more than a handful of postup opportunities during the season and if they try, this will serve to slow the game down, make the Suns more deliberate, close down the lane both for penetration and for offensive rebounds, and throw the Suns out of their normal rhythm.
Beginning of the 2nd and 4th quarters are the biggest danger points for the Lakers and where the Sun’s will look to make their push. I hope the Lakers are ready.
Craig W. says
You are always insightful. Thanks for the addition. I will be watching.
So…..who are we pulling for? Magic or Celtics?
Personally, I want payback against the Celtics.
but zephid, this huge lineup is actually quite capable of shooting over the zone, no? its not like we have someone who is shooting lights-out this postseason (except derek, but he will get his minutes anyway). it will be hard for the suns to run this unit out of the gym because of all the offensive rebounds our guys would get…
i dont know… maybe your right, it just seemed like a nice idea to force nash to foul… kinda trusted kobe, ron and lamar to be good enough shooters vs a zone…
A new post is up. We go behind enemy lines with Michael Schwartz from Valley of the Sun.