57 games are in the books and the Lakers are 7 games out of the playoffs. In a year without any incentive to lose but also without a realistic shot at the playoffs, it’s a year to focus on growth. Many seasons are defined by winning or losing. For LA, this one is different. The process and smaller details are where LA can find wins and growth. With that in mind, here are the stats and trends that have stood out to me so far this season.
- The Lakers lead the league in transition frequency, with it accounting for 19.5% of their offense. The Warriors are a close second at 19.3%.
- LA’s transition offense started out pretty crummy, but has steadily improved since, to the point where it’s now above average. Here is a 15-game rolling average of the team’s transition CPOE:
- LA’s half court offense has never been average for a 15-game stretch (by CPOE) and also doesn’t quite have the same upward trend that the transition offense has:
- Brandon Ingram has had 74 more isolation possessions than Kyle Kuzma so far this season (133 to 59). If we gave Kuz 74 possessions to have him be even with Ingram’s 133, he would only need to score 0.595 points per possession on those possessions to tie Ingram. 0.595 PPP would be the lowest isolation efficiency in the league. It’s safe to say that Kuzma has been a far superior isolation player this season.
- 419 NBA players have had at least as many offensive possessions as Isaiah Thomas on the Lakers. Of those 419 players, only Andrew Bogut has turned the ball over on a higher percentage of their possessions than Thomas, who has a 29.5% turnover rate in LA.
- The Lakers pass the sixth least of any NBA team with 285.9 passes per game. Interestingly enough, the teams that pass less than LA are the Bucks, Cavs, Trail Blazers, Rockets, and Thunder.
- Kyle Kuzma has been the most efficient post player in the league among the 81 players with at least as many possessions as him. Randle is 30th and Lopez 69th on that list.
- The Lakers are tied with the fourth lowest pass out percentage on drives at 27.4%, only better than Portland, Phoenix, and New York. I’d venture to guess this has to do with a lack of movement and off-ball action during plays.
- 154 players in the NBA have had at least 50 pick and roll ball handler possessions this season. Lonzo is 143rd in efficiency, Ennis is 147th, and KCP is 152nd. Ingram is 110th, the best mark among remaining Laker guards. Isaiah Thomas was 83rd in his time in Cleveland.
- Brandon Ingram’s closest role comparison is as a “Glue Guy,” based on his play type frequencies. If he were to keep his same efficiencies in those play types but change his role to a “Reluctant Shooter,” among the likes of Otto Porter Jr., Kyle Anderson, Andre Iguodala, James Ennis, Jeff Green, Jaylen Brown, and Justin Anderson, his CPOE would improve from -0.8 (19th percentile) to -0.1 (51st percentile). There are several other wing roles that would also improve his impact based on his current efficiencies, and you can use the roles adjuster tool here in the Player Comps tab to try those changes for any NBA player in any of the 18 roles.
- Josh Hart at Villanova had more than triple the Off Screen possessions his senior year (in 21 less games) compared to what he’s had so far this season. On those possessions, he was *the* most efficient scorer in college basketball. Using the role adjuster tool, changing his role from a Glue Guy to an Off Ball Worker would almost double his CPOE.
- And when it comes to defense, LA started out well for a brief period of time but hasn’t been average over a 15-game stretch for more than half of the season so far. Remember that positive DPOE values are bad, and negative ones are good. Luke Walton deserves credit for a vastly improved defense from the past couple years, but we have yet to see the defense return to its early season form. Over the last 55% of the pre-ASG games, the team’s +1.3 DPOE would place them tied for 21st in defense. Before that point, over the first 45% of pre-ASG games, the defense was 9th best.
- The Lakers defense has given up 53.1 points more than expected in the three game stretch with Isaiah Thomas based on the play types defended and league average PPP on those play types, the worst three game period of the season
- The three games before Isaiah Thomas was a Laker, the team conceded 56 points less than expected, the best three game period of the season.
- How much do the Lakers rotate? A lot. On defense, the Lakers run 8.44 miles per game, highest of all teams (and they’re 12th in transition defense frequency, so it’s not all because of that).
- The Lakers are tied for 7th least among all teams in box outs per game, which matches up well with what we’re seeing in games (as stats tend to do). They benefit from guards crashing down to grab boards to help the rebounding defensively, but some improvement in this key fundamental area could help the defense jump from good to great.
- By team POE, the Lakers have had the 8th most difficult schedule so far. Their remaining strength of schedule is 15th.
- Thomas Bryant has been the most efficient player in the G-League, and has been the most efficient roll man, transition player, scorer on putbacks, and scorer at the rim (on non post ups).
- Ivica Zubac has been the most efficient post player in the G-League
- Gary Payton II has struggled in LA for both teams. He’s had a couple nice games, but overall is in the 12th and 17th percentiles by his points per possession on offense and defense for the Lakers, and is in the 19th and 16th percentiles during his time on the South Bay Lakers.
Those are some of the noteworthy stats that stuck out to me when reviewing the team’s progress so far this season. There’s some good and still a ton of room for development. It’ll be worth keeping an eye out on how the defense fares moving forward with Isaiah Thomas, Brandon Ingram’s role, appearances from Zu/Bryant, and if the half court offense can get back on track.