People change. Are you the same you were a year ago? Are you spending your time the same ways? A year ago I hadn’t even considered writing or podcasting, and used Twitter rather passivey. I’d say I’m mostly the same person but with more experience and smarts and have used my time rather differently.
NBA players can be the same way. Some may be in a steady relationship of usage year to year. Others make changes that result in higher efficiency or roles that better suit their skill sets. Others don’t.
There are five key Lakers who have changed teams from last season to this one. Two were free agent signings, three were draft picks. Here’s how those same faces look in their new places.
Lonzo has had quite a change from last year to this one. At UCLA, he facilitated well in transition and within UCLA’s halfcourt sets. Where he generated his offense was from spotting up, the pick and roll, cutting, isolation, handoffs, and scoring via off-ball screens.
Pre-draft, I tweeted how Lonzo’s usage better matched a shooting guard than a point guard, and the data reflected that. But no longer.
All but one of those play types have decreased this season. Meanwhile, Lonzo’s pick and roll ball handler possessions have skyrocketed.
These changes have resulted in a lower expected efficiency from Lonzo. Pick and roll ball handler possessions have a lower average point output per possession than isolation. A player’s efficiency drops when 43% of their half court possessions are those kinds of possessions.
Unless Lonzo were to be used in a similar system to UCLA (Golden State would likely be closest by play types), these kinds of shifts in efficiency should be expected.
Kuzma was not a player at Utah who was creating his own offense. He’s done so even less with the Lakers (and I’m not complaining).
I’m happy to see Kuz posting up less. His value as a shooter, especially on this roster, demands he be in positions to stretch the floor as more a perimeter player. Overall, I’m pleased with the way he’s being used.
Having a high efficiency player that is a “finisher” of possessions is valuable to have and fits well alongside playmakers and superstar players. He’d fit well in teams using set plays to open up shots for him as well. Essentially, Kuz is the type of player that fits everywhere, including this specific Lakers team and a Lakers team with LeBron/George/Cousins/etc.
KCP has made a large shift this season in terms of how he gets his offense. He hasn’t had the highest decrease from primary to secondary offense, but he’s the only player who used to have a majority of their possessions come from that primary creation to now being a majority secondary player.
Pope has not been a great facilitator or scorer out of the pick and roll or off of handoffs. He’s in the 11th percentile as a pick and roll scorer, and his passouts there have resulted in possessions in the 22nd percentile. His handoff possession efficiency is in the 45th percentile.
Those two areas have declined while the one large benefactor has been his off screen usage. An 11.1% increase in an area he’s scoring 1.026 PPP (56th percentile) has been fantastic to see. His spot up shooting has also increased.
KCP has been a 28th percentile efficiency jump shooter on the season, but I’m preferring his usage this year compared to what last year’s Pope would do for this team.
With a 92.4% similarity score, Lopez has been very similar to the player he was last season in Brooklyn, but there have been a couple key differences. Brook has picked and popped a lot more than last season (this falls under the PnR RM (roll man) category), posted up far less than last season, and isolated less than last year.
I’m always a fan of less iso. And post ups as well. Those are two of the lowest expected PPP play types. Only 9 of 293 Laker iso possessions being from Lopez still comes as a surprise, but those possessions going to Ingram or Clarkson or Kuzma is fine with me. But if we’re just looking at a Lopez possession being in isolation vs popping, I’ll side with those higher value shots.
Lopez’s offensive possessions have often left Laker fans frustrated, but it’s better than it could be. He’s taken more of a back seat compared to last year and with the specific realignment of usage his expected points per possession has risen, albeit at the lowest level of the four other players we’re looking at that had an increase.
Hart’s sharp decline in primary action usage does not come as a surprise. The player getting the highest number of possessions for a college team with a 4.3% isolation frequency moving up to be a “plays within the offense” role player should look like’s Hart’s profile with the Lakers.
Hart post ups being down makes sense because:
- He was bad at them at Villanova (15th percentile)
- Luke Walton doesn’t like to post up his guards *cough DLo cough*
- It’s hard to post up your guards when you have non-shooters like Bogut, Nance, and Randle on the floor
The off screen frequency decreasing isn’t what I’d like to see. Hart was the most efficient college basketball player on off screen opportunities at Villanova and is playing behind KCP (who has been used off screens for 23.9% of his possessions), yet is not being utilized in this way nearly at all.
It wouldn’t hurt LA to run some quick hitter pin downs for Hart every once in a while. Hart is a good shooter (and was great in those situations at Villanova), and those attacks take just a couple seconds to launch. If they don’t work, the offense can keep moving for the remaining 17 seconds or so.
That’s what has happened, but what do you think should happen? What are your ideal breakdowns for each player? Have they moved in the right direction? Would you have prefered to see last year’s usage of these players on this Lakers team?