On Tuesday we shared Matt Moore’s piece on the awkward dynamic between coach Byron Scott and the team’s more modernly constructed roster. Today, we double up on the folks over at CBS, starting with a Lakers Offseason Report provided by Zach Harper, where he attempts to answer a few of the team’s more pressing questions for this coming season, here’s a bit:
On this summer’s roster moves:
… To say the Lakers needed a talent upgrade would be a major understatement.
And to their credit, they quietly pulled off some nice moves — going out and signing both Hibbert, who is still one of the best rim protectors in the NBA, and reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, for $21 million each. That’s some incredible bargain shopping when you further consider that all they had to give up to get those two players was a second-round pick.
The Lakers also replaced the malaise of Carlos Boozer with the energy of Brandon Bass, and maybe most importantly, they drafted D’Angelo Russell, who could easily end up being the biggest star of this draft. They even brought in an international veteran point guard in Marcelo Huertas to teach Russell the craft.
If the Lakers end up losing 60-plus games again, you can’t blame a lack of talent anymore. …
On whether Byron Scott is a poor fit for this Lakers roster:
Will Scott be too set in his ways to bend? Will he trust Clarkson and Russell in a way old-school coaches don’t normally like to do with young players? For what it’s worth, Clarkson was fantastic last season, without a lot of structure mind you, and eventually became the team’s only decent scoring option. Russell would appear capable of at least that same level of production in his rookie season, if not more, and Julius Randle is essentially a rookie after only being able to log 14 minutes before his season-ending injury.
The Lakers will talk about the playoffs being the goal, but the reality is they have to set up the future of this franchise by letting Russell, Clarkson and Randle find time on the court with veterans who can fill in the blanks. The future of the Lakers is also the present, and that’s because their young guys may end up being the biggest difference-makers. Scott just has to manage the rotation properly and kick convention aside.
On if Kobe will interfere with the team’s progression:
Forget about the money Kobe makes. The bigger problem is he’s only managed to play in 41 total games the past two years, and even when he has been on the court, he hasn’t been good. He put up 22.3 points per game in his 35 games last year, but needed 20.4 shots per game to do it. In all he made just 37.3 percent of his shots with a true shooting percentage of 47.7 percent.
Going deeper, Kobe made just 33.9 percent of his jumpers last season. That’s worse than Ricky Rubio. That’s how big of a toll the injuries have taken on Kobe’s game. It wouldn’t be such a problem if Kobe was willing to take a backseat (say, to Russell, if he becomes a dynamic playmaker in the early going), but is he willing to do that? Is he willing to step aside during key stretches of games if there is a better option on the floor? These are questions he’s never really had to answer before.
For someone with a career as decorated and celebrated as Kobe’s, a reduced role is a tough pill to swallow. Now, it’s not like Kobe is going to keep the Lakers from being a playoff team even if he does continue to dominate the offense. This team isn’t going to make the playoffs under any circumstances. They probably couldn’t make the playoffs in the East. The key is this: how does Kobe handle being a true mentor for the next Lakers star?
Hours before the release of the above article, Harper and Moore joined forces for the Eye on Basketball Podcast and spent about the first 30 minutes discussing the Lakers’ outlook for this upcoming season and delving further into the root of their current struggles (while also making a few references to FB&G, for what it’s worth). The two don’t paint the rosiest picture of the team by any stretch — although, both are relatively high on the current roster — but the honesty and insight provided from two well-respected analysts is valuable and deserves a listen.
On Wednesday the Lakers officially signed Marcelo Huertas to his 1-year (fully non-guaranteed!) contract. Huertas, though 32 years old, will enter the NBA as a rookie just as the Lakers’ 19 year old, #2 overall pick D’Angelo Russell will. At Searching for Slava our old pal Dave Murphy profiles Huertas and wonderfully compares and contrasts him to Russell, finding similarities and differences between the two point guards:
But despite the vast differences in age and experience, the two NBA newbies also share common attributes.
Russell is heralded for possessing an uncanny court vision at a tender age and Huertas has been similarly celebrated for years. The teenager fires ridiculous wrap-around passes that seem to defy the laws of physics, while Marcelinho has been dealing spectacular dimes ever since that long-ago 70-footer.
Neither is an elite defender—Russell lacks strength and is slow getting around ball screens while Huertas doesn’t have great lateral mobility and is also relatively ineffective combatting screens. Each will benefit from being backstopped on the defensive end by L.A.’s biggest free agent acquisitions this summer, man-mountain Roy Hibbert.
There are also important differences. Russell is a superior rebounder and more complete shooter whereas Huertas’ offense is streaky, featuring a funky-looking set shot and a one-legged runner.
One has already peaked while the other is just getting started. During an interview with Yahoo’sAdrian Wojnarowski, Huertas spoke about a potential secondary role in the NBA at this late point in his career, mentoring young players and assisting veterans.
No matter how the Lakers’ record unfolds, one player who is expected to assume a greater role on the team going forward is Jordan Clarkson. On top of that, Clarkson is also expected to show plenty of individual improvement in the midst of what many foresee as a second-year “breakout”. While a bigger year is certainly possible for Clarkson, Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen and Roll explains why we should temper our expectations:
“Yeah, his numbers look nice, but is he a looter in a riot?”
The preceding question was the second most frequent starting point of the discussion surrounding the ascent of Jordan Clarkson last season, being just narrowly edged out by “Wait, the Wizards sold him for how much in cash?” The question was inevitable. NBA history is littered with the names of guys who put up big numbers on bad teams simply because someone had to score, assist, or rebound. Now, much of the discussion centers on how Clarkson must prove he is the real deal, that he can produce on a good (or at least better) team.
The only potential problem with this is the way we value NBA production. With the infusion of talent the Los Angeles Lakers experienced during the offseason, it seems unlikely Clarkson will get quite as many opportunities as he did while averaging 16.7 points, 5.4 assists, and 4.6 rebounds after the All-Star break. Clarkson’s usage rate over that period was 24.4, which, if it was prorated over the entire NBA season, would have put him just behind Chris Paul’s 24.8.
With the additions of rookie D’Angelo Russell and free agent Lou Williams, combined with the return of Kobe Bryant (who posted a monstrous 34.3 usage rate in 2014), Clarkson getting to use 24.4 percent of the Lakers’ possessions probably is not going to happen. Instead of looking for Clarkson to improve upon his raw per game numbers from a season ago, the focus should be on the sophomore guard’s efficiency.
Faigen goes on to lay out each one of Clarkson’s areas for improvement based upon last season’s results and details exactly how we should measure his growth beyond the basic statistics. The piece is well worth your time.
Honing a relatively deep crop of talent at the guard positions this season — including Kobe — it can be expected that the Lakers will get the opportunity to push the pace off of rebounds multiple times during the course of a game (don’t bring up Byron, DON’T bring up Byron). While not a Lakers-oriented piece, Seth Partnow of NylonCalculus recently examined the effectiveness of “guard rebounding” and revealed that these particular rebounds present an interesting paradox:
Following up from Justin’s earlier post about the difficulties in forecasting individual effects on team rebounding as well as some earlier work I’ve done which suggests the battle is really over about half the available rebounds1 I wanted to point out what appears to be something of a paradox, and that is guard rebounding.
In terms of helping team rebound rate2, uncontested defensive rebounds are worth around half of other types of rebounds. Perimeter players who secure large numbers of rebounds tend to gorge themselves on these freebies. So, guard rebounding is gaudy from a statistical standpoint, but maybe not actually that helpful. Unless it is.
The benefit of a defensive rebound is two-fold. For one it ends the opposition’s chance to score. Additionally, grabbing that board might key a fastbreak. Playing on the break is good for all the usual notions about getting quality open looks against a not-quite-set defense.
And herein lies the conundrum – it appears on first pass that rebounds by guards are more likely to start a fastbreak than those by wings and so on.
One of my favorite Lakers to watch grab-it-and-go over the years (not quite for the purposes of efficiency or eye-pleasing aesthetics) was one Metta World Peace. And, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, there may be more Metta-led fast breaks on their way:
Free agent Metta World Peace has begun to work out daily at the Los Angeles Lakers’ practice facility, inching closer to a return to the franchise on a one-year contract, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
World Peace, 35, started participating in informal workouts with Lakers players this week at the team’s facility in El Segundo, Calif., and is expected to continue through the start of Lakers training camp later this month, league sources said. No deal has been agreed upon, but there’s an increasing expectation that will happen this month, league sources said.
World Peace had been in the Lakers’ practice facility earlier this summer, too, working against 2014 first-round pick Julius Randle, sources said.
World Peace has been out of the NBA since the New York Knicks waived him during the 2013-14 season. He played last season in China and Italy. Lakers officials are growing in the belief that World Peace, formerly Ron Artest, has evolved into a mature veteran who can impact a young roster with his toughness and resolve, league sources said.
… dusts off old Artest shirsey … puts on said shirsey … RON??!!
On Tuesday, we highly recommended you gave a listen to the latest edition of Zach Lowe’s “The Lowe Post” podcast. The reason being that Bleacher Reports Howard Beck — who covered the Lakers during their three-peat era — joined Lowe to shed light on the various dynamics within the Phil-Kobe-Shaq relationship through the use of untold stories and unpublished quotes from that period in time. One of the gems Beck dug up during the show were old transcripts of an interview he conducted with Jackson days prior to the official disbanding of the trio in 2004. Jamie Cooper of Dime Magazine has the scoop:
Jackson has been known at times for being incredibly candid when speaking to the media, particularly when it serves some sort of corrective-behavior purpose, and he certainly didn’t pull any punches when he described the differences (in all their respective dysfunctional glory) between those champion Bulls teams of the ’90s and his then Lakers squad.
Here’s more from Beck:
“I’m asking him about those relationships – the difference between the Shaq/Kobe thing versus Jordan – and he talked about how mature those Bulls teams were, and Scottie and Michael in particular, and granted they both had their moments, especially Scottie, but he said there wasn’t anything disciplinary. This is a quote: ‘There wasn’t anything disciplinary I had to do. I had to do some disciplinary things with Dennis Rodman, but we signed off on them. Dennis, I’m gonna fine you for being late, because he’s late every day.’ And he said, ‘I went to the team and I said Dennis is gonna be late, I’m gonna fine him, but we can’t act out of sorts with this and become childish because we have to make allowances for his behavior.’ He said that Bulls team was mature enough to allow Rodman that space to be out of bounds. But he’ll pay for it. He’ll be fined. But we’re not going to get caught up in Dennis Rodman’s eccentricities, his tardiness and everything else. We’re not letting that drag us down, or make that an opening for then everyone else to get out of line.
Phil pivots then to Shaq and Kobe and this Laker team. He says ‘This group…’ and I think he’s mostly referring to Shaq and Kobe. ‘This group has been so childish that they keep tabs on who gets more benefits, who has more discipline, those kind of things, and it’s tough because you can’t keep tabs.’ This is all Phil talking. This is all direct quote. ‘Guys should have to know there’s a certain amount of coaching that has to be done, and you have to submit to that coaching regardless, and that has been a difficult thing because some of these players have not really wanted to be coached. That’s how you get to be a good team. And we did it the first couple of years, but it became difficult, so that’s one of our challenges that we had trouble surmounting last year, that we became so sure of ourselves that it was difficult for me to coach that team.’ And I ask him if he’s referring specifically to Kobe, and he says ‘some of it lies with Kobe and some of it lies with Shaq. They’re the two leaders. They have to be the most coachable.’ So he’s drawing a really strong distinction now between those Bulls teams — we often compare them because Bulls teams had two three-peats.”
- Lakers Nation Roundtable: Who Will be Starting Power Forward? from Staff at Lakers Nation
- Lakers Sign Brazilian Guard Marcelo Huertas from Baxter Holmes of ESPN
- Kelly Oubre Trying to Develop a Mentality Similar to Kobe Bryant from Marcel Mutoni of Slam Online
– Zach’s off-season report sounds very fair. Just waiting to read why some will disagree w/ his assessment of Kobe.
Mike Glyer says
It’s always such a sorry thing to see the Lakers blog refuse to call the guy by his legal name.