The Lakers are 0.500! And that’s no sham, because the Lakers data shows the team, based on their points over expectation and remaining schedule are projected to win 40 games this season! It’s incredibly impressive that as the season has gone on the team has continued to take steps forward and improve their overall POE game after game.
We’ve now had four positive CPOE games following three double digit negative CPOE games from the Lakers. This time, it came against the seventh best defensive team by DPOE.
This has been the same story for a few games now, but LA has continued to regress positively to the mean in their jump shooting after starting off the year in horrendous fashion.
The team is still getting open shots, but now they’re hitting them. Putting up a 5.3 CPOE in spot up shooting and a 3.9 CPOE from roll men that were popping often was a huge factor in LA’s success.
Isolation & Post Ups
Isolation and post ups are two of the three least efficient play types (not counting miscellaneous), but LA is above average in their use of both. Through 10 games the team is ranked 16th in both areas, so negative performances like we saw against Memphis should be expected.
Really only two players that have had high volumes of sustained success in these areas. The first is Clarkson in iso, who is currently in the 95th percentile by his PPP and was the 11th most efficient iso scorer last year. The other player is Lopez in the post, who’s in the 75th percentile currently and we can likely count on to remain well above average.
Ingram and Kuzma will occasionally have great games in iso, but they’re about equally met with bad games. Randle in the post is the same way.
I’m not a big fan of these play types, especially when a player being above average in them still isn’t as efficient as a half decent spot up or off screen possession. Also, usually there isn’t much else going on during an iso or a post up and the pass outs don’t result in much other than resetting the offense. However, LA has gotten better with cutting on post ups, so that should help the PPP of kickouts as well as the efficiency of post scorers.
Despite my hesitations with these play types, it’s a positive sign that the Lakers have a player in each of their main groupings that can be turned to late in the shot clock to put up points. Brandon Ingram will also probably still get a lot of iso attempts and have up and down days. I’ll be looking for Ingram to trend upward and the current duo of efficient Lakers can keep up their solid performances in these areas.
Through 10 games LA now has the 11th best defensive PPP, 15th best defensive transition PPP (which is great improvement from the rough start), and 9th best half court defensive PPP. They didn’t have an above average performance against the Grizzlies, but being just 1.1 points below the expectation won’t lose the team games.
Pick and Roll
Memphis is third in the league in pick and roll ball handler CPOE, and they took it to the 25th ranked Laker pick and roll ball handler defense in that department Sunday. I’m not surprised by this relative dominance, but it’s not ideal.
While LA allowed ball handlers to get into the paint and put up points, they didn’t allow kick out options or roll men to kill them. Keeping this pick and roll one dimensional and not letting that deteriorate the defense in other areas is what you’ll get from LA defending the pick and roll the way they did, and it’s at least good to see we’re staying strong in other areas.
The team’s DPOE in transition isn’t bad, but 19% of Memphis’ possessions being in transition isn’t ideal. On the year the Lakers have faced transition on 15.3% of their defensive possessions, and the Grizzlies are only averaging 15%, so this was an uncharacteristic game for both teams.
Keeping this frequency down as much as possible while still maintaining a strong transition frequency on offense would be the goal. A large contributor for this frequency being up is poor execution by LA in transition, resulting in fast break to fast break situations.
Player Spotlight: Kyle Kuzma
There have been a lot of surprises this NBA season, but Kyle Kuzma has been one of the most pleasant. The rookie out of Utah has dazzles in his performances thus far, showing three level scoring ability and his floor spacing ability has greatly helped the Lakers. Now that he’s been thrust into a starting role, let’s take a look at how he’s done so far this season on offense.
First, here’s a chart showing every rookie (including Ben Simmons) based on their CPOE and their possession share, which is the percentage that player has of their team’s overall possessions.
Kuz is the red dot. He has the highest CPOE of any rookie and is in the top 10 among rookies in possession share. The solid blue line on the chart shows the expected decline in CPOE as a rookie has more volume, but Kuz (and Hart!) don’t abide by those rules.
It’s important to look at how Kuz has been form a style perspective to understand more about his performance. The “Player Comps” tab on my 2017-18 NBA data spreadsheet which I introduced here and here can help us with this.
What immediately stands out his are how he’s overwhelmingly an off-ball scorer. He spends about 15% of his possessions running the pick and roll, in the post, on handoffs, or in isolation, but the other 85% of his chances are coming off-ball. He’s spotting up a lot, doing lots of damage as a cutter and roll man, and has almost 10% usage running off of screens.
This is the profile of a scorer that would aid any offensive lineup if he can execute efficiently. The spacing that Kuzma is bringing with his shooting and the fact that he isn’t a ball-dominant player help him fit with any Laker lineup or even on a team like the Warriors or Cavs.
To get an even better idea of how he’s played, we can look at his top player comparisons from that same tab. I like what I see. Kuzma having almost a 96% similarity score with Otto Porter Jr. makes a lot of sense. 96% is very high for a similarity score. If Kuzma can continue to be that guy for this Lakers team, LA has really found a gem.
Next, we’ll utilize the “Player Profile” tab from that same spreadsheet to check out how Kuzma’s CPOE looks in-depth.
Looking at how he’s done in each of those areas you’ll see a lot of green. Even on those on-ball attacking play types that I mentioned he doesn’t do much, he’s performed really well.
I’m interested to find that Kuzma has actually been essentially perfectly average as a roll man (mostly popping) and as a spot up shooter. But that’s still fantastic for a rookie and great compared to other Laker players.
LA found themselves a rookie that’s filling a great role, has shown the ability and skillset to play 4 or 3, and is scoring the team 1.8 points per game more than you’d expect an average player to score on the same possessions. Kuzma is special.