We are roughly a month and a half from training camps opening and a 10+ weeks until the dawn of the regular season. A lot can change between now and then. Free agency (or what’s left of it at this point), trades, and injuries all can shape the trajectory of a team between now and mid-October.
We all understand this. Still, though, it’s always interesting to me to know what forecasting models and group-think projections say about how good or bad teams will be next season. I have participated in large sample group projections in the past for ESPN. I was part of the early iterations of the NBA Rank project (I stopped after the first two years) and I have offered win projections as part of their summer forecast series that has outperformed Vegas bookmakers.
This isn’t to pat anyone on the back. My point is to say that there is value in what these projections say, even if they’re not always right. And, to be clear, they’re not always right.
So, in saying all that, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton has released a stats only win projection for every team in the league for the 2017-18 season.
It’s under ESPN’s Insider umbrella, so it is paid content. You can read the entire thing here, if you have a subscription. I do. So I read it. This article is actually free. So, better for you!
Before we get into the Lakers, piece, though, here’s Pelton explaining the model:
As in past seasons, I’ve put together projected playing time based on a formula that estimates games missed by taking into account the number missed over the past three seasons (adjusted for any offseason injuries/suspensions) and my own guesses at how rotations will shake out.
Most veteran players are rated using the multiyear, predictive version of RPM, adjusted for the typical aging curve. Newcomers to the league and players who played too little for an RPM rating are rated using their projected offensive and defensive ratings from my SCHOENE projection system, which incorporates translated performance in the NCAA and professional leagues besides the NBA.
For those who are not aware, RPM prefers to ESPN’s metric of Real Plus Minus — a sort of “all in one” stat which balances player production against the players he shares the court with (both teammates and opponents). It is supposed to wade through some of the noise which comes from various lineup configurations, strength/weakness of teammates and/or opponents, etc.
The top of the RPM metric often mirrors what most observers would say are the best players in the league. It also rates other players higher or lower than counting stats or the eye test might presume they should. You’ll find varying opinions on how good a metric RPM is. I have no hard opinion on RPM, but thought I should at least give a snapshot.
Now, to the Lakers.
The stat based projection says the Lakers will win 33 games, or 7 more than they did last season. Based on the full projection for the West, this would put them 13th in the conference and about 12 games behind the 8th seed. Here’s Pelton putting analysis to what the stats say:
Baby steps for the Lakers, as they move back toward competitiveness after the worst four-year stretch in franchise history. With the additions of No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball, guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and center Brook Lopez, RPM projects the Lakers to improve nearly to league average on offense. They still look like one of the NBA’s worst defenses (28th).
Pretty straight forward stuff and, honestly, nothing to get worked up over. I do anticipate the Lakers being better on offense next season even though they’ve lost D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young, and Lou Williams (who was traded last year, but was great offensively for nearly 50 games). I think they’ll be better balanced, have more spacing, and play with much more pace across both units. All of this should help their efficiency.
I also agree there will be a lot left to be desired defensively. Having Caldwell-Pope will help. As will Ingram having a full year of experience under his belt. But Lopez is not a good defender in space even if he can protect the rim some. And as much as I love Randle, he needs to show he can defend with some consistency before he gets any benefit of the doubt. Losing Tarik Black will hurt on the second unit and it remains to be seen how players not named Larry Nance can play team defense on that bench unit.
So, all in all, I think the stats projection sounds reasonable enough.
What it cannot account for is any sort of true culture shift, chemistry upgrade, or element of adjustment opponents may face when playing a Lakers team which is likely to have a fairly unique style (if summer league carries over — a big if, I know). How much these variables matter in the end — either positively or negatively — could impact that projection. Time will tell how it goes. We still have a ways to get there.
If black was so great they would of kept him … time to move on and get behind the present team .
I agree, don’t be so negative all the time. Always moaning about trading Dlo, complaining about the FO and their likeness to the old, complaining about their draft picks and their FA signings or lack there of, always negative.
wtf really? There was no complaining here, only honest analysis.
quentin peters says
The basketball gods keep saying the Lakers will only will about 33 games max. I guarantee the Lakers will win 50 plus this year if you believe in magic I said it first qpdecember
Given the Lakers tanked after January which deflated their wins, 33 I think they will exceed if they keep the starters together for the entire season. If they start trading off their performing players expiring contracts for a combo of draft picks and poor performing expiring contracts, then 33 is too high.
Defense will be a all season long problem, no doubt.
Old Timer says
12th seed from BSPN projection is a good bulletin board motivation. Remember there are players who were not around in ’16-’17 tanking season: Lonzo, Lopez, KCP, Kuzma, Hart, Bryant, Caruso and Blue. That’s 50% of this new team were not responsible for Lakers performance last season. I say this, it depends on team chemistry to be prepared Luke and coaching committee. It depends on health and injuries of players. This team will be exciting to watch and the preview was the Summer League without Lonzo, Ingram, Hart in the last game. My own projections: highly improbable to reach 6th, 7th or 8th seed. If they fall short, guaranteed 9th and 10th in WC.
How can they accomplish that mission? Aim high, get 50%(2-2) from the best 4 teams in the West and 3-1 on the remaining teams. In the EC, 50% (2-2) with Cavs, Celtics and Raftors; 3-1 with the rest of the teams in EC..
Based on the ESPN projections though, the Lakers could easily leapfrog from that 13 spot to 11 by virtue of Memphis and Dallas projecting so close to the Lakers (34.6 to 33.0 wins). A win here a loss there, suddenly the Lakers are above them.
33 is a fair number because the defense we lost. Nwaba will hurt more than Black because the bigs weren’t the area of concern. I would have liked Nwaba to play with Clarkson off the bench as his KCP. The new guys weren’t the story that he was. He was, and I assume still is, a hungry player with something to prove.
My personal prediction is 36 to 38 wins but still not making the playoffs. If we get to 40 I have no doubt we will end up with two max free agents.
Earl Murphy says
I still believe in Magic. I project 41 wins but still not a playoff team this year. Lopez should improve scoring from beyond the arc. Ball is the real deal. With KCP and Ingram having banner years we get to 45. Tru optimist but that’s how I see it. If Zubak comes on strong and Bryant contributes, Hart, Crusso and kuzma will get us to 45 wins!
I could see us sniffing 35+ wins if the starters (Ball/Ingram/Lopez/KCP/Randle) play above projections. Of the bench guys you named, I think only Zubac and Kuzma make the rotation and any meaningful contributions.
ESPN has been pretty spot on with their assessment of the Lakers wins/losses these past four years. But those previous teams felt far more linear — more predictable. This Lakers team feels as if it has more positive variables and hence more upside.
I think the Lakers can make easily make a 10 game improvement, which would put them at 36 wins this season. That would be real progress in my mind. Just as important, I see them ‘being in’ more games this season. Last year there were far too many games that were over before halftime. I think the Lakers begin to compete this year.
Good to note that ESPN has been more accurate about the Lakers the last four years than optimists have been. And, in general, the consensus around the net, outside of the fanbase, has been mostly right. A few points:
1. The Lakers improved their point differential from -9.3 to -6.9 last year, but that was still the worst point differential in the NBA. So, however people feel about the roster, the Lakers are starting from the bottom, and it is going to be a long, hard climb.
2. The fact that they have no incentive to lose this year will probably help the W/L record since, inevitably, a few teams who own lottery picks will cash in their chips, and NO might implode. But the Lakers are not alone in not having their pick.
3. WRT Pelton, his metrics have been big on Ball from the get-go; Pelton has Ball as the top prospect in the draft. So I expected his numbers would project the Lakers’ O getting much better, and they did
4. WRT the D, as I noted a couple of weeks ago, KCP’s defensive rep is very much at odds with most of the metrics. I will be watching that closely, as eye test/metric dichotomies always interest me, and how good KCP is will have a pretty big impact on the team D.
Pelton has been high on Ball, but I doubt his team model reflects the addition of a rookie generational passer on the *team*. Or that Ingram’s likely hockey stick improvement is reflected, as opposed to a progression from last year’s awful stat line. The coaching staff has been together a season and will be better, we have several players on contract years, and players will be reporting in top shape versus needing camp to get there. Also, we will get extra wins simply from not tanking while others are. These are enough upsides to bring us closer to the Vegas line of high 30’s.
I expect a fun, exciting, .500ish team that starts a little slow and improves, while running other teams rugged.
Sure, it could go that way, and I hope it does. I don’t know if George + Cousins is the best big FA score for the team, but it is a scenario that seems like it could happen, and the better the team plays, obviously, the better the chance that it does happen.
But as noted, for four years, some people have been saying variations of the vague stuff like you do–coaching staff will be better, people outside the fanbase and projection models don’t know how good/much better our young guys will be, guys will be top shape, etc–instead of just looking at the team’s personnel and how they seem likely to produce between the lines based on the information that we have.
It comes back to specific questions about the talent on the roster:
How many Top-10 players do the Lakers have? Top 25? Top 50? How many good defensive players? Do they have rim protection? How many good 3P shooters? How many guys in their primes? How many rookies or second-year men are they counting on? How many guys seem likely to improve?
And if you start looking at it like that, and if you add in the competitive ecology of the West and look at the rosters of the other teams, then 28-33 wins looks very realistic.
As to Pelton and Ball, as noted by Darius, Pelton’s metrics predict that the Lakers will jump several spots in O, all the way up to the middle of the league from 23rd. So the model does seem to say that Ball will affect the team.
All fair comments. Yet, there seems to be a real difference from past years in the quality of our youngins, and much of the NBA agrees. Lopez and KCP will be upgrades, but much hinges on how well LB and BI perform. If they play like near all stars (top-50) we’ll make noise, if they perform like good 19yo’s (top-100), we’ll have to wait for 2018 for a chance to smell playoffs.
Chris J says
Some are placing way too much faith in the rookies… Ball will be a difference maker and Kuzma showed promise in summer league, but counting on Bryant and Hart to drive a bench unit that’s really without a clear-cut star? No disrespect to Clarkson or Nance, but that is just overstating the optimism.
The Western Conference is stacked and the Lakers aren’t going to push for a playoff berth this year. They just aren’t.
Instead, fans should be looking to see improved play from Ingram on both sides of the floor, more cohesiveness on defense and more efficiency on offense, including more breaks. (Ball will help in those last two areas.) Hopefully Randle’s worked on his outside shooting and will be more focused on defense. Hopefully Clarkson learns to play defense, and bolsters his play making more to what he’d done two years ago. Hopefully KCP can instill some defensive prowess. Lots of hopefullys here.
There are many milestones we’ll hopefully cross this coming season, but 40 wins or a playoff berth just aren’t likely to be among them.
While the WC is stacked, it’s still a bit overstated. The WC got stronger, but it also got weaker. What’s understated is it’s become more top heavy with the rich getting richer outside of the Wolves and others getting weaker. The Clippers got weaker, a top team and now are a low playoff seed at best and Houston, already a top team became even bigger. Utah has been a lower seed playoff team and they’ve weakened. The Mavs I don’t expect to improve and a number of other teams either virtually stood pat or regressed in some fashion. There hasn’t been much improvement in the lower and middle rungs of the West outside of the Wolves for obvious reasons (Bulter) and the Lakers.
If Russell was still the PG and Ball not been drafted, I would agree Pelton’s win projection. The question is will Ball be able to force the tempo and get more fast break opportunities for the Lakers? If he can, then the offense might be underrated, even as league average. This will also impact the defense since turnovers will be more important due to improved efficiency converting them into scores. I think the center position will hold them back since they do not have the rare combination of speed, rim protection, and shooting in one player.
The Center position won’t hold them back as much. Last 2 years they’ve had nothing out of the C position. While Lopez isn’t the rim protector they need, he’s still more mobile than Mozgov was last year and Hibbert were. What Lopez is though is a superior scorer to them. He’ll provide big numbers offensively that will be far, far better than they gave. At the same time, I don’t think the defense will be quite the liability at the C spot it was before due to improved defense on the perimeter. I think Ingram having put on some muscle even despite being so thin and having that year under his belt, and the addition of KCP will help to plug some of the holes in the Lakers defense that lead to so many easy buckets. If those 2 can shore up some of the defense on the perimeter, it’ll alleviate Lopez and allow him to work within his limitations and be a serviceable rim protector.
For those, like me, who think the Lakers should target PG and Cousins instead of PG and Lebron, next summer, check out this article from ESPN’s Undefeated:
Cousins has lost a lot of weight and looks ready to realize his potential as a top 5 NBA player.
Doesn’t matter what Cousins physically does, it’s a matter of if he can stay out of his head and stop being such a locker room cancer. Until he gets his head on straight, none of what he does is going to matter.
I read the article. It would seem that the Kings management had a lot to do with Cousins ‘behavior’. Certainly DeMarcus has to own his actions but that being said — given a stable FO/organization an in-shape/focused Cousins Is quite a talent.
PG is a given. But I’d choose a 27 yr old Cousins over a 33 year old Lebron.
We basically traded Russell(who missed quite a few GM’s) and Mozgov (barely played) for Pope, Lopez, Kuzma. Ingram looked like he is ready to make 2nd year jump like Kobe did (7pts-15) Randle has to improve given he is down to 7% body fat and has been wotking on speed and lateral quickness while he terrorizes Drew league. I believe Clarkson game will improve dramatically because of culture shift he knows he has a short leash and needs to perform to level of contract or be shipped out to nets purgatory..lol. I think with Ennis, Kuzma and Nance JC will thrive in second unit because they all pass so we’ll, he will get many slash buckets and won’t resort to his hero ball tendencies. Now that said we also have a very lengthy team as all SF, Pf &C ‘s are 6’9″+ and Ball is also got length. The defense should improve because of the length and culture shift plus the new additions to that of around #20 with a cieling of top 16( if Randle, Ingram, JC improve likeI believe they will). The offense last year was top 3 for first couple months and top bench unit till we traded Lou. JC will be expected and should replace Sweet Lou’s scoring as he avg over 14 a game. But who replaces JC scoring, well we won’t need 14 a game from 2nd scoring option off bench, but Hart and Kuzma (“seasoned” rookies) can adequately combine to fill those shoes. Hart will play good perimeter def, hit the open shot and f slash to the bucket, and Kuzma will be s reat pick n pop 3 guy and I won’t be surprised if finishes top 10 for rookie of year or on all rookie 1st team. I’ve watched his summer league highlights multiple times and yes I know it’s summer league, but many of his shots were from deep and wouldn’t have mattered who was guarding him. Now to expect him to keep at his 48% clip is unreasonable, but if you look at jump Nick young and Lou Williams had under Scott’s to Walton’s offense on their 3pt% (I believe they both saw a rise of 4-5%) it’s not unreasonable to think he could nail 37%. Ingram shot awful from gate but then had a few moths where he shot over 30%-35% from 3 and I expect him to be around 38 ,-39% and breakout with 18.7+ ppg. Lopez and Pope both were hot from for first few months at 40% they both only ended up at 35% because of miserable last couple months which Pope was with out court mate Reggie Jackson and Lopez was on Nets team enough said. With the spacing they will get from Walton’s offense and passing abilities of not only Ball, but Randle, Ingram Nance and Kuzma they should both be able to improve and shoot a % closer to what they shot over the course of first 3 months I’ll say Lopez 39 and Pope 41%(contract year and Lakers super team auditions for both of them) Lopez will get his 18-20 and Pope will drop 14-15. Randle is the enigma here. We need 15&10 which he is more than capable of. In all I believe the 33 wins to be short. I think Lakers grab the 7th seed and could sneek up and grab the 6th seed 45-37 an 19 game improvement.
Unless Clarkson, Randle, and Ingram ALL make significant leaps forward, (the former two on the D side of the ball especially, the last one on the offensive end) 30-35 seems like the right win total. IF all three of those things happen, maybe 35-40 is reachable.
Ultimately, however, anything more than “respectable but sub-.500 with a -1.5 ppg differential and out of the playoff picture” will require ALL THREE of those things PLUS at least two of (1) KCP elevates his defense to at least poor-man’s Kawhi territory; (2) Lonzo Ball is the first rookie point guard in eons to play at borderline all-star level; and (3) Kuzma’s summer league performance was a portend, as opposed to just another DL mirage.
15-20 game improvements are rare and generally involve veterans and much better chemistry. The Lakers may have the chemistry, but too much of the improvement depends on rookies and 2nd year players (Ball, Kuzma, Hart, Ingram, Zubac) for us to even postulate on a 40-45 win season.
If that were to happen, I say we should only go after one max player and keep our current team more together. It would be my dream scenario, but I really doubt it happens.
For several weeks I have been privately projecting 34 wins. So the ESPN projections seem just about right.
Having said that, there are a number of unknown quantities in the equation:
1) What kind of impact will Lonzo Ball have on the offense and its overall chemistry?
2) What kind of impact will KCP (and a one-year older and more confident) Brandon Ingram have on the perimeter defense which was a major flaw on last year’s team?
3) To what degree will Julius Randle (with his newly sculpted physique) improve?
4) Will Jordan Clarkson emerge into a major role player as a 6th man (or possible starter) now that he is no longer shackled by the accompanying presence of Kobe or Lou or DAR?
5) Brook Lopez could be a significant offensive contributor. To what degree will he help the Lakers on the offensive side of the ball?
6) Will Kyle Kuzma make a contribution?
7) Will the coaching staff somehow get this squad to begin playing team defense at a level that eluded them last year?
These are all questions which we cannot answer right now. But if any, say, 3 of these result in positive answers, then 33 wins might be exceeded (somewhat).
But I still say that the season for fans to begin being excited once again about squeaking into the playoffs will be next year, not this. Even so, it should be fun watching a team that will be very different from last year’s. Also, the foundation of the Lakers’ return to some semblance of relevance should be laid with this year’s squad. The maturation of Ingram + the maturation of Ball + the influx of future All Star FAs (if that happens) could be a difference maker.
We’ll see if it all happens.
You can’t climb Mt. Everest in one day. There’s a reason for a Base Camp, Camp 1, Camp 2, Camp 3, Camp 4, Camp 5 and then the Summit. Yes, it’s possible, in the NBA, to combine camps/steps in one year. However, the Lakers have been trying to figure out how to pitch a tent at Base Camp for the last four years — to think that they’re reaching Camp 3 (the playoffs) is a bit ambitious.
Lonzo and Ingram aren’t All NBA yet. Randle and KCP are not All Stars yet. Lopez made one All Star game — 5 years ago. We’re introducing three new starters this year and none of them are PG, Lebron and Cousins.
We’re heading in the right direction for a change. I’m optimistic this journey ultimately takes us where we all want to go (the Summit). I’m content enjoying the ride.
Minor Threatt says
Obvious point here, but how the wins happen matters. Pelton’s projections seem to show that 6-12 in the West could be pretty tight. If we start at .500 and then crater in the second half, as rookies hit the 82-game wall, then the season will look much different than if we get the same, say, 35-36 wins by hanging around and not being mathematically eliminated until April.
Random Laker Fan says
Headed in the right direction, yes.
Offense should be much improved. Combine Lonzo’s passing with Lopez, KCP bombs and improvement from Randle, Ingram and Clarkson should take care of that. But Lonzo will be very up and down.
Defense is the huge question mark. I’m not real optimistic there. Defense starts in the post but Lopez is not known for defense, neither is Randle. Zu looked too slow in summer league. When a bench player (Nance Jr) is the best frontline defender on the team, something is still not right. Basket protection will be a huge issue all year long; even Ingram and KCP will not overcome that. Clarkson? Oh please…
So 36 wins is optimistic. ESPN projection of 33 feels right. But I would be ecstatic if everybody managed to play over their heads especially at the defensive end, then they might get to 40. That could be the sweet spot of making the team attractive to prospective FA’s next summer.
Well, Kyrie Irving allegedly wants to play for the Knicks, who had just a 31-51 record last year and an owner who is a total tool.
So, this “sweet spot” may vary depending on the star.
(Note: I realize Irving isn’t a FA, but the principle applies.)
Love the optimism, and the serious considerations – pointing out all the various possibilities.
As for ESPN and Pelton however; the past 5 years has not had a Lonzo, nor the past 20 years.
There is no one truly to compare him with – even the Jason Kidd talk.
Did anyone predict what the Lonzo effect would be on the summer league team?
Forget the team for a moment. Has anyone else hit a triple double in summer league, let alone two ?
No – and No.
Thus no one, can predict how the Lonzo effect, will play out over the regular season.
I don’t care how stacked the west side is – Lonzo’s style of play almost throws other teams into chaos, and it will take some tinkering for other teams to counter it, if they indeed can.
In other words, we have no idea how many games they will win, but it will certainly be higher.
How much higher is only a guess, but this time – I would bet, that those who consider themselves to be the ‘realists’ around here – will turn out to be wrong.
Being a fan means never having to say your wrong.
LT Mitchell says
Houston went from 41 wins to 55 wins in one season with nearly the same roster by turning Harden into a full time PG, spreading the floor and speeding up the pace….did I mention speeding up the pace? Finding an effective full time PG coupled with the change in offensive philosophy allowed Houston to maximize the talent on their roster. Everyone knew what their roles were. Lonzo alone brings all those aspects that helped Houston improve so drastically. I believe with Lonzo, the Lakers will challenge Houston for the fastest pace in the league, and he will maximize the strengths on this roster. As a poster mentioned, replacing DAR, who provided none of these aspects, with Lonzo, a bona fide culture changer, can easily net a 10 game improvement.
People also underestimate how good Lopez is. The second best player on the Nets last season was Lin, and he was injured most of the year. Their awful record cannot be attributed to Lopez, who is still an elite center. Replacing one of the worst starting centers with one of the best will net at least another 5 wins. Add in KCP, and the improved younger players, and there’s another 5 wins minimum.
That totals at least 20 more wins, conservatively, minus 5 wins for losing Lou and Nick. The Lakers will win a minimum of 41 games, likely more. That’s playoff territory.
First of all, comparing Harden in his prime to a one-and-done guy who will not be able to legally drink until October of 2018 is a huge reach. Second, Houston made three key roster moves specifically designed for MDA ball:
6MOY Eric Gordon
Nene (for 1/2.9M)
So they did not really have the same roster. The Lakers, somewhat analogously, have added KCP, Lopez, and drafted Hart and Kuzma, but even if all that works out, Ball will, as noted by others, have to an historic rookie year for your type of scenario to happen.
LT Mitchell says
My comparison is not between Harden and Ball. The upgrade from DAR to Ball is being compared to impact of switching Harden from a part time PG Harden to a fullfull time PG.
33 wins sounds about right. More is possible but I wouldn’t put money on it. Last year Dlo dominated summer league and the team started 10-10. We know how that ended. Nothing wrong with optimism, just don’t wager anything you can’t afford to lose.
Just a quick quibble – Russell’s effect on summer league was minimal, and he was already an experienced NBA player at that point – while Lonzo was fresh out of the draft.
Not only do his personal stats fail to compare – but his affect on the team was also minimal – compared to the Lonzo Effect, which won the championship.
I think we would have been pretty close to 30 wins last year if we hadn’t tanked so hard. Trading Lou and resting everyone over 24 years old lost some games for sure. It could be that the 10-10 start was anonymous and that we packed on a couple garbage games in march which increased our win total, but still, 7 games improvement over last year’s team sounds really low.
We upgraded 3 of our starting positions significantly:
Russell –> Lonzo
Young –> KCP
Mozgov –> Lopez
I would also argue that Ingram will be a different player this year. He looks like he’s a lot stronger and more confident… dude made summer league his bitch!
Another thought is that everyone on this roster has something big to play for. Literally everyone on the team except Ingram, Lonzo and Nance will be a free agent next year (I’m assuming that we end up trading Deng and Clarkson… writing is on the wall here). And Lonzo and Ingram both have to prove they’re worthy of being in the league.
Bottom line: We’re going to seem a vastly improved product next year and I think we get close to 40 wins if everyone stay relatively healthy.
Hot take: Randle and Deng (and probably a pick) end up in Chitown and we end up with Wade. Also Kuzma sees a ton of playing time and even gets a couple starts at 4 due to his shooting ability.
I’m no fun. I find it impossible to speculate number of wins. All I can suppose is that the Lakers will have an interesting team next year–well worth watching. If they develop the capability of challenging opponents on a game by game basis–winning their share–that would be wonderful.
I might have a forecast in December . . .
I really don’t see the Lakers getting to 40 wins next year.
1) I see them trading Clarkson/Randle to get rid of Deng sometime before the deadline. That will retard development.
2) With BOS and CLIPs losing/gaining stars, what gets lost is what they paid/gained in these transactions. Boston lost some key parts of their defense and the Clips gained at multiple positions and replaced a below average 6th man shooter with an above average one. IMO – Boston will not get the #1 slot in the East and may fall to #4 and the CLIPs will be better than projected. Unless you lose a FA for nothing, you have to evaluate what was lost/gained in the transaction.
I think that the Clips got significantly worse and the Celtics got a lot better.
Key for the Clips, they lost JJ Reddic, there number one spot up option, and Gallinari is not a replacement for 43% behind the line. And obviously, losing Paul they no longer have a primary initiator. I see their offense becoming a lot slower and prone to stagnation. Unless Beverly is able to make do on his goals of expanding his impact on the game, they will no longer have one of the most potent offenses in the league.
The book is still out on how much the losses of Avery, Olynyk and Johnson will
impact their versatility, but having a second offensive option and initiator is such a big deal and that’s what they get in Hayward. That’s what killed them thoughout the playoffs. No one could step up offensively beyond Isaiah Thomas. And if either of Brown or Tatum show significant progress, they could challenge the Cavs.
The reason I don’t agree with you – I am in the minority, I know – is that the Clippers got players back that could play in their system and the dynamic of Paul/Griffith/Jordan simply was not getting them where they wanted to go. We can argue all day about who should have gone, but a change had to be made. Since Griffith was actually better before Paul got there, there is some justification that Paul’s method of ball domination wasn’t allowing the other players to get better – even with his assist numbers.
Boston was forced to let several player go to fit Gordon Hayward in. While Gordon is definitely much better then any one of the players they let go, this does change the dynamic of the team considerably. This is not always a statistical thing and is often overlooked when people are evaluating teams on paper. The organic chemistry is going to have to change next year in Boston far more because they lost several key pieces than because they gained one superior piece. I just think this will not make them stronger – that’s all.
Also, if I am correct, we should be thinking carefully about this as the year goes on, because we will be in the same situation next summer. If we bring in a ‘shiny new toy’, but have to get rid of several of our high functioning ‘toys’ things may not work out to being an entirely ‘plus’ situation in Luke Walton’s offense.
The 2004 Pistons were the only team to win a championship in the last several decades without multiple all-star players. Conventional wisdom and historic success runs deeply contrary to your theory. Am I trading Deng, Randle, and Clarkson away if it nets us Cousins and George. In a heartbeat. Talent trumps chemistry 9 times out of 10.
I agree with you about your Laker analysis.
However, I suspect we may have to trade more pieces away to get both Cousins and George. That was the Celtic’s situation. They didn’t trade for Gordon Hayward, but they had to trade players who would have been very good around him because of the salary cap. If we don’t trade Randle, we are going to let him go in order to fit them in. After a while we aren’t a deep team anymore, but rely on a couple of all-stars and whatever we can find to fill out the roster. Now I do think Ball and Ingram are worth building around. And Cousins and George would make a killer starting four – maybe Kuzma for the 5th starter – but, would we have any bench???
I am not saying I wouldn’t settle for this, but I am saying it isn’t without risk. We always see the shinny toy and don’t think much about the toy we have come to take for granted – that’s all.
Griffin only played one year without Paul, and while Griffin had a great rookie year, there is no substantive evidence that Griffin was better without him. If Griffin blows up this year, there will be, but I think that is unlikely. As to Paul’s effect on the team, the last Clippers team before Paul went 32-50 and was 22nd in ORTG. The first team with Paul went 40-26 and was 4th in ORTG. The Clippers were in the Top 5 in ORTG every year that Paul was there except one (8th) and were 1st twice. The time Paul was there was by far the best period the Clippers have ever had, and of course, the Lakers have gone straight downhill since The Veto and are only now beginning to climb back up.
It has become a fashionable narrative to backhand Paul for his teams’ playoff records, and there may be something to the argument that it is tough to win when your best guy is Paul’s size (although GS did it in 2015). But the Clippers have not come up short (pun intended) largely because of Paul. The biggest problems have been weak/questionable rosters 4-8 and injuries at the wrong time.
As to the deal, the Clippers did a good job of getting value back. Beverley can play D, Williams can play O, and Dekker will be a contributor. But, piggybacking on Kareeme, NBA history tells us very clearly that trading away superstars rarely works.
As to Boston: they beat their PYTH by 5 games last year, so they may be looking at some minor regression. But the point is that some players–the top 20-30 guys–are hard to get. Guys like Olynyk, Bradley, and Johnson, while they have value, are not as hard to find. If Stevens is the coach that so many believe he is, he will be able to work through those kinds of personnel losses. Hayward’s job is to make them better in postseason, and his presence there, combined with the assets Ainge still holds, leave Boston to set up to move on Cousins or Davis if NO implodes.
WRT applying this to the Lakers: Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins are obviously not Kobe and Kareem, so having them, if the Lakers can actually pull it off, may not be as fun as people are hoping. But I find it very weird that a senior-citizen aged Lakers fan is being dismissive about the value of stars in favor of “chemistry”, since every championship team that the franchise has had, literally from George Mikan and Slater Martin through Kobe and Pau, has been anchored by an elite inside/outside combination of HOF and/or ASG-level players. I can only attribute it to continuing to overrate the Lakers’ current talent base.
A Horse With No Name says
“But I find it very weird that a senior-citizen aged Lakers fan ….” WTF? Age? Gender, race, what’s next?
Just pointing out that Craig has been around and knows his Laker history. And given some of your past comments about Jeanie Buss you need to man up and check the mirror on this one Bryan S.