Any stat you cite this early in the season is the definition of small sample size theatre. Even if you start to see trends developing in the numbers, a stretch of a few games can alter them significantly and make an grand proclamations about what a team is look silly. In other words, don’t get too caught up in the numbers — even the Lakers’ awful ones on defense — just yet. Yes, some of what we’ve seen so far will end up having staying power, but expect fluctuation in what the stats say for at least a few more weeks when the samples get bigger.
In saying this, however, it’s not too early to say that something, as it stands today, is surprising. I mean, even if it’s only been six games, if a statistic or performance is unexpected, it’s fair to say so. Which leads me to the Lakers’ offensive efficiency:
Per http://t.co/3RmAC7DP6v the Lakers currently have the 11th best Offensive Efficiency in the league.
— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) November 10, 2014
After all the hand-wringing about the Lakers’ offensive approach this year (which I have done plenty of), the fact the team is even sniffing an offense in the top half of the league is quite the feat. Even more so when you look at their opponents and where they rank in defensive efficiency this season:
- Warriors: #1
- Rockets: #2
- Hornets: #10
- Suns: #14
While I don’t expect the Lakers to remain a top 15 offense all year, there are some interesting early trends that are serving as the backbone for their current ranking.
First, they are playing at the 5th fastest pace in the league. For all the “anti-D’Antoni” talk that stems from the team’s lack of three point attempts, what has not changed much is how fast the team is playing under Byron Scott. They are only averaging about 2 possessions less per game this season than last (or a little bit more than the difference between the #1 Warriors and #2 Nuggets this season). Playing at this pace has allowed the team to get into some of their set earlier and get some easier buckets against defenses that aren’t yet set.
Second, this team is getting to the foul line at a healthy clip. They are 4th in the league in attempts per game (30) and free throw rate (.356). It’s not the most glorious way to score points, but when you get a team to foul you and you convert those fouls into points, you can up your efficiency. Further, when the other team is fouling you can get key opponents off the floor, weakening them in the process. Against the Rockets, for example, the Lakers were able to keep the game somewhat close early because they got Dwight Howard in foul trouble and were able to attack the basket against them without one of the best rim protectors in the league.
The Lakers have also done a fairly good job of keeping their turnovers down, tallying the 12 fewest giveaways per game and the 10th best turnover ratio. Considering the pace they play at and their lack of great depth on the wing, this is even more important. Partnering with this is that the Lakers are one better offensive rebounding teams in the league, ranking 9th in offensive rebounding percentage. When you’re not giving the ball to the other team and do a good job of extending the possessions you do get, you can find a way to produce points more efficiently than teams who may be more talented offensively but are mistake prone and not very good at getting these extra shots.
Sooner or later you have to figure that the number of mid-range and long two point shots they take and their lack of shot creators to catch up to the Lakers. Historically, it’s simply difficult to maintain an efficient offense when your attack features these types of shots. That said, the early part of the season has them maxing out on this end of the floor. Which, for me, has been totally unexpected. So, I’m going to enjoy this while I can. Especially with the Grizzlies, Pelicans, Spurs, and Warriors coming up on the docket.
I actually think the Lakers can maintain or even edge up slightly on the offensive end. If Kobe begins to be more efficient and shoot closer to his 45% career mark, instead of these high 30’s % games that will help out. Get Young back to make a few treys each game and help the team with spacing and dribble penetration–that will help. Even Kelly playing could help, since the guy can knock down 3’s if his hamstrings work.
Lin is elite at going to the hole and he is a good free throw shooter. So if he gets enough opportunities to score he will boost the offensive rating, especially when he get’s looks at corner 3’s which he shoots at a high clip.
Ed Davis has been a statistical monster, takes good shots and finishes well. I really like Ed Davis, he plays defense, blocks shots, plays within the flow of the game, rebounds and doesn’t seem to pout or whine even though he only gets 20mins some games. Davis is really more of a power forward anyway, he just needs to get more of Boozer’s minutes with Randle out for the year.
I think the Laker’s strength remains in some really excellent offensive players. Unfortunately individually they have a lot of average defensive players–and no rim protection outside Ed Davis. Young/Kelly aren’t going to be bringing up the defensive ratings either, although I do think Kelly is better than Boozer on D. I know the whole team keeps preaching defense and how that wins blah blah blah, but the Hornets mostly just stunk it up in the 3rd and their offense is lackluster. Please Mr. Scott, start Ellington and move Kobe to the #3 and start Ed Davis at the 4. Then Boozer can come in off the bench and jack up his 15 footers with the 2nd unit.
-As stated, this is very surprising. Just shows how deceptive some stats can be.
-Actually this offensive efficiency rating plus the 1-5 record says quite a bit about the Laker defense.
6 down, 76 to go. Lakers hunting for bear. Grizz obviously will be a serious challenge, but since they are not the highest scoring offense…maybe, just maybe.
Michael kellough says
So I ask once again, Why is Jim Buss allowed to make personnel player decisions? Why Dosen’t Jeanne Buss speak up?
@ Michael, Jeanne says that’s not her strong point.
this is despite Kobe’s shots? impressive.
Baylor Fan says
This also shows how diluted the talent is in the NBA. It is much harder for teams to hoard top players and have elite players ready to come off the bench when the starters are faltering.
Michael and Big
I feel the answer falls in her Twitter photo.
I am considering changing mine to a naked clown. That should bring more respect to my business.
Ko, totally agree, very unprofessional for a top executive of an elite organization to have a photo like that!…. anyways as Darius tweets confirmed, Davis and Ellington need to be inserted into the starting line-up in place of Wes and CB. I know, its a SSS, but it’s imperative to play your best players 30+ minutes and frankly Davis is better than CB and Wes is just a “space cadet” out there!
When Lakers fans talk about the “good” offense last year I always get confused. In terms of efficiency the Lakers had a bad offense (I believe they were 21st out of 30). The truth is, and I know a lot of D’Antoni apologists don’t want to hear this but his offensive “genius” is mostly based on the fact that he had an in his prime Steve Nash on his team. Steve Nash was running the most efficient offense in the NBA in Dallas (by far) his last two years there and they had the #1 offense again when Alvin Gentry was the coach instead of D’Antoni. Now I’ll give D’Antoni credit for realizing that playing at faster pace with the most efficient offensive point guards ever would demoralize teams and make worrying about defense schemes unnecessary (especially in the regular season), but people acting like D’Antoni was some type of genius or great coach never made sense to me.
In fact D’Antoni was a missed Tim Thomas 3 pointer for having “seven seconds or less” get strangled in it’s crib by Phil Jackson and a Laker team that had 2 out of 10 of the best players in that series.
I think it’s obvious that Jim Buss and his sister did not get the intelligence of their father. What about the other children? Perhaps they can do better as head of the family.
Jeanie has not proved that She has any Basketball Knowledge.The Lakers do have talent.If Kobe shoots less then 25 times a game you will have a better chance of winning.Most of the Lakers will/can shoot over 40%….
Jeanie Buss this, Jim Buss that…if ya’ll think you’re smarter than both of them put together, why not talk about new things instead of sounding like broken records? This is not meant at anyone specifically. It’s just that we’ve been reading those same comments for two years now. Now it’s gone beyond whinning.