Rodgers Report: Assessing LA's Team Needs

Rodgers Report: Assessing LA's Team Needs

Postby trodgers on Tue Aug 19, 2008 12:11 pm

Assessing LA Lakers' Team Needs
Assuming the Los Angeles Lakers have the core of their camp invites already selected, it becomes easy to speculate about which players address problem areas exposed during the Lakers' ill-fated Finals appearance. Speculation is possible at three levels: identifying the problem areas, identifying who are the core players and who are not yet guaranteed, and identifying which players address the needs best.

The first thing that needs to be said is that the Lakers have a team that must build for the post season. This is obvious for two reasons. In the first place, the team was dominant before Andrew Bynum's season ending knee injury and dominant after the arrival of Pau Gasol. Now both of them are on the team and presumably healthy (Pau is; witness his dominant Olympics performance). Second, simply getting to the playoffs will not do. After a young team makes a trip to the Finals and retains its core, the expectations increase. The Lakers must play like a playoff team, not like a regular season juggernaut (see the Phoenix Suns of recent years) in order for the season to be considered a success.

Three Problems
With that out of the way, the next task is to identify the shortcomings in the playoffs. There will be some disagreement here, but there is a core of problems that no one can deny. LA did not rebound well enough (they yielded far too many offensive boards), LA did not play good perimeter defense (gave up too many open jumpers), and they did not have the ability to create shots off the dribble (so they became easy to defend).

Sixteen Players
Point Guard: Derek Fisher, Jordan Farmar, Joe Crawford
Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant, Sasha Vujacic, Dwayne Mitchell, Sun Yue
Small Forward: Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza, Luke Walton
Power Forward: Pau Gasol, Vlad Radmanovic, Josh Powell
Center: Andrew Bynum, Chris Mihm, DJ Mbenga

The contracts of all of the above are guaranteed except Joe Crawford, Dwayne Mitchell, (possibly) Sun Yue, (possibly) Josh Powell, and DJ Mbenga. In fact, Mbenga may not even have a contract at this point and may not receive one. Leaving aside those issues, the core of the team includes the first two players listed at each position as well as Lakers fixture Luke Walton. The tally stands at eleven players. The Lakers can accommodate as many as fifteen players although Mitch Kupchak has reportedly said that he would not be opposed to (and may even be leaning toward) running with thirteen or fourteen players so the Lakers have 'flexibility' (which may be spelled 'Alonzo Mourning' who is expected to be ready some time in December). Assuming the Lakers are really impressed with Joe Crawford, whom they drafted, and are serious about the two-year contract they extended to Sun Yue, the roster stands at thirteen. Assume those are the thirteen players on the roster when LA opens the season. How does that roster address LA's weaknesses?

Problem One: Rebounding
It has been said that the Lakers need toughness. It is not something that shows up in the stat sheet or the weight room, but it is something you can see on the court. It is just unclear whether toughness really matters. If it is possible to be a good defender and good rebounder without toughness, then the Lakers should settle for rebounders and defenders. They receive an immediate lift in the form of Andrew Bynum, who was averaging an impressive double digit rebounds per game before his injury. He was replaced by offensive dynamo Pau Gasol, a surprisingly good athlete, swift of foot, sporting an expansive shooting repertoire, but not a very good rebounder, especially at the Center spot. The return of Bynum may shore up that weakness immediately. It surely cannot hurt. The Lakers lost Ronny Turiaf, a player long on toughness and shotblocking, but short on rebounding.

Problem Two: Perimeter Defense
After watching Paul Pierce slice through Los Angeles and either hit a shot, draw a foul, or dish to any number of wide open three point shooters, LA fans must recognize this weakness. And they should be sick of it. The problem is not so much a problem for the guards as it is for the Small Forward spot. Pierce's ability to get into the lane and cause defensive rotation was the main culprit. Basketball wisdom says that the thing to stop dribble penetration is a defensive anchor. There are questions about whether Andrew Bynum is going to be a dominant defensive presence, but there is no doubting that a seven foot, 290 pound athletic player is a good start. His sheer size and shotblocking skills outshine anyone's on the team and should go a long way toward addressing this weakness. Yes, Derek Fisher should stop going under screens and Kobe should invest more energy on defense (he will be able to this year, as LA boasts five or six players who can score 20 points on a given night). But no Guard should be put on an island repeatedly. When an opponent beats an LA defender off the dribble, if there is a defensive anchor, the need to cheat and help defensively decreases for all players. Expect team defense to improve and dribble penetration to look a bit different next season. That will reduce the number of open three pointers teams see.

Problem Three: Creating Shots
Kobe Bryant is the best in the NBA at creating a shot off the dribble. Unfortunately, outside Kobe, the skill is perhaps the scarcest on the team. Gasol and Bynum can go to work in the post, but the Lakers need someone to penetrate and get to the rim or kick to the open man. And if a team is not getting to the rim and is merely looking to kick out the ball, the defense need not over commit. So the Lakers must find other players to get to the rim. It appears as if Jordan Farmar and Trevor Ariza have this ability to respectable degrees. Ariza has been a high flying player at times, a thunderous dunker, but his handles are limited, which decreases his ability. Farmar on the other hand, has good handles but is perhaps even too aggressive in driving to the hoop for such a small guy. Added strength for both players would allow them to take contact and still finish the play. In short, however, the Lakers have done little to address this problem.

Three Problems, Two Solutions
So two of the three problem areas have been addressed. The third has not. Looking over the roster, the two players who have the best chances of helping the Lakers address that third weakness are, in no particular order, Joe Crawford and Dwayne Mitchell. Crawford is the better ball handler and better Free Throw shooter, but he is lighter and a bit weaker than Mitchell. Mitchell is more athletic and more likely to finish at the rim, but he is a poor Free Throw shooter. Either player could go a long way toward adding a penetrator, but if Kupchak remains firm in his thought that the roster will stand at thirteen or fourteen, only Crawford will make the team. And that seems a problem. Perhaps as an aside, Josh Powell, it should be noted, is (among other things) a far better rebounder than Ronny Turiaf.

So here is hoping the Lakers retain Mitchell and Powell or make use of those two remaining roster spots through shrewd moves. Alonzo Mourning would address rebounding and provide a fantastic help defender (addressing the first two problems) while a player like Bonzi Wells (if fully healthy), on the outs with so many other teams, would be a fantastic fit at getting to the rim. Unless LA finds someone to fill that third role on the team, a dominant regular season performance could again be wasted.
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Postby KOBEhastheMAGIC on Tue Aug 19, 2008 1:59 pm

LMAO at us having five or six players that can score 20 on any given night.
Kobe Byant has brought the Lakers three championships, 4 Finals in 5 years, carried an absolutely pathetic team to the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference twice and almost upset the so-called MVP, and has given us countless thrills and memories. If you are not a Kobe fan, then you are not a Laker fan, period.
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Postby trodgers on Tue Aug 19, 2008 2:19 pm

KOBEhastheMAGIC wrote:LMAO at us having five or six players that can score 20 on any given night.

On "A" given night...meaning we have some guys who have the ability to put up 20 point games. On "any" given night...meaning who can do it regularly. It's not even a subtle difference.

Kobe did it in 68 regular season games. Since that's not every night, I guess Kobe can't do it on any given night.

Anyway...
Pau did it in 28 of his 66 games.
Odom did it in 10 of his 77 games.
Bynum did it in 5 of his 35 games (actually 5 of his last 16).
Fisher did it in 7 of 82.
Heck, Farmar did it twice despite not starting. He could do it ten to twenty times as a starter.
Sasha did it in 4 of 72, could do it much more regularly as a starter (scored 19 or more in 4 of the 22 games he played at least 20 minutes).
Vlad did it in 3 of 65 games.

So, yeah, we have at least five players, including all of our starters, Farmar and Sasha, and probably Vlad, too, who could score 20 with decent frequency as starters.
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Postby LDR on Tue Aug 19, 2008 2:21 pm

KOBEhastheMAGIC wrote:LMAO at us having five or six players that can score 20 on any given night.


Kobe, Lamar, Pau, Bynum, Fisher, Farmar, Vlad and Sasha.
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Postby KOBEhastheMAGIC on Tue Aug 19, 2008 2:28 pm

You could say that about almost every rotation player in the NBA. They've all had games where they've scored 20. If that's your criteria for making that statement then the statement itself is worthless.
Kobe Byant has brought the Lakers three championships, 4 Finals in 5 years, carried an absolutely pathetic team to the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference twice and almost upset the so-called MVP, and has given us countless thrills and memories. If you are not a Kobe fan, then you are not a Laker fan, period.
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Postby trodgers on Tue Aug 19, 2008 2:33 pm

KOBEhastheMAGIC wrote:You could say that about almost every rotation player in the NBA. They've all had games where they've scored 20. If that's your criteria for making that statement then the statement itself is worthless.

It's no biggie. It's weird how other posters knew exactly what I meant. Would be strange if a worthless statement had that ability. Carry on.
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Postby bumrusherer on Tue Aug 19, 2008 2:36 pm

Rebounding wont be too much of an issue.
Kobe is an above average rebounder when he needs to be...as is Odom from his position on the floor.
If Bynum is truly healthy than he is good for 10-12 and Gasol for 8+.
I have visions of Trevor Ariza being a quality rebounder also. Something along the lines of the Shawn Marion mold where he picks up lots of Offensive boards.

Perimeter defense - Nobody can guard the perimeter these days. It is all about your main big man being able to read where the dribble drive is coming from and closing up the lane before the ball handler can make his move.
Bynum, if healthy, will help us tremendously in that regard and the combined length of Bynum with Gasol should be quite formidable.
Plus, Kobe will have a far less workload on offense this season, so I would expect him to be a doberman for the majority of 2008/2009. He is my sleeper pick for DPOY.

Creating Shots - That again shouldnt be an issue if all of our guys get a good training camp under their belts and get the system ( Mainly Gasol and Ariza )
Gasol and Bynum are above average passers for their positions and the attention they receive should allow our guards to enjoy a plethora of open shooting chances.
IMO, crisp inside-outside ball movement is more important than having guards to create off the bounce.


Trodg, there are no problems my man. Enjoy the talent we have and get excited for a good season.
Kobe finally has a 20 and 10 big man to play with....Oh wait, he now has two of them to play with!! Combine that with Farmar and Ariza's progression and Kobe's surgery...........Just make sure you are of clean health and mind when June rolls around.
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Postby trodgers on Tue Aug 19, 2008 2:39 pm

Here's a thought bout DPOY...because of the difference he COULD make, not because he's the greatest...might we see Bynum get the nod? He could put up a ton of blocks and boards and if LA's team defensive numbers improve, he could see a Garnett-type vote. Thoughts? Just because you made me think of it, bumrusherer...
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Postby bumrusherer on Tue Aug 19, 2008 2:39 pm

KOBEhastheMAGIC wrote:LMAO at us having five or six players that can score 20 on any given night.

Its about being realistic. Sure other teams have players that can do it. But if someone came to you and said that 4 Lakers scored more than 20 points, you wouldnt have a immediate reaction to who it might be.

Sure, you could say Kobe, Bynum, Fisher, Odom. but then you have to factor in that All Star from Spain or that shooter with the long hair. Or that other shooter who sometimes looks like teenwolf.

Yes, other teams can say it but with our team. It is actually realistic and was realistic all last season.
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Postby trodgers on Tue Aug 19, 2008 2:42 pm

bumrusherer wrote:
KOBEhastheMAGIC wrote:LMAO at us having five or six players that can score 20 on any given night.

Its about being realistic. Sure other teams have players that can do it. But if someone came to you and said that 4 Lakers scored more than 20 points, you wouldnt have a immediate reaction to who it might be.

Sure, you could say Kobe, Bynum, Fisher, Odom. but then you have to factor in that All Star from Spain or that shooter with the long hair. Or that other shooter who sometimes looks like teenwolf.

Yes, other teams can say it but with our team. It is actually realistic and was realistic all last season.

Exactly. Make those guys starters and they'd do it pretty regularly. Even coming off the pine, we had three guys who did it several times.
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Postby Ras Algethi on Tue Aug 19, 2008 2:43 pm

Kobe is the 2nd best rebounding guard in the league.
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Postby bumrusherer on Tue Aug 19, 2008 2:48 pm

trodgers wrote:Here's a thought bout DPOY...because of the difference he COULD make, not because he's the greatest...might we see Bynum get the nod? He could put up a ton of blocks and boards and if LA's team defensive numbers improve, he could see a Garnett-type vote. Thoughts? Just because you made me think of it, bumrusherer...

Not next year IMO. Bynum wont play enough minutes to put up rebounding and blocking numbers that would stand out enough to get a DPOY.
Where as it is much easier for the perimeter player because there are no real basic stats to show how good he has been on defense as an individual....Thats not to say Kobe isnt a great defender though.

Bynum will get his chance when he begins to play proper starters minutes for the Center position. But even then, he has to deal with Dwight Howard getting the media love for his Post defense ( Overrated post defense I may add ).
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Postby bumrusherer on Tue Aug 19, 2008 2:48 pm

two0one7 wrote:Kobe is the 2nd best rebounding guard in the league.
Especially at that free throw line :jam2:
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Postby revgen on Tue Aug 19, 2008 2:50 pm

KOBEhastheMAGIC wrote:You could say that about almost every rotation player in the NBA.


Zaza Pachula?
Marcus Camby?
Erick Dampier?
Reggie Evans?

And, just to be fair, these are starters from playoff teams. The bench players are even worse.

Only Camby and Dampier of that group have scored 20 and they did it only once. All of our starters have at least 5 20 point games. The one with 5 happens to be Bynum, who only started 25 games.
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Postby trodgers on Tue Aug 19, 2008 2:51 pm

two0one7 wrote:Kobe is the 2nd best rebounding guard in the league.

Yeah, but he seldom goes down and really mixes it up with the bigs. I think he's awesome...don't get me wrong...but he doesn't really provide post rebounding.
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Postby sm61893 on Tue Aug 19, 2008 2:58 pm

trodgers wrote:
KOBEhastheMAGIC wrote:LMAO at us having five or six players that can score 20 on any given night.

On "A" given night...meaning we have some guys who have the ability to put up 20 point games. On "any" given night...meaning who can do it regularly. It's not even a subtle difference.

Kobe did it in 68 regular season games. Since that's not every night, I guess Kobe can't do it on any given night.

Anyway...
Pau did it in 28 of his 66 games.
Odom did it in 10 of his 77 games.
Bynum did it in 5 of his 35 games (actually 5 of his last 16).
Fisher did it in 7 of 82.
Heck, Farmar did it twice despite not starting. He could do it ten to twenty times as a starter.
Sasha did it in 4 of 72, could do it much more regularly as a starter (scored 19 or more in 4 of the 22 games he played at least 20 minutes).
Vlad did it in 3 of 65 games.

So, yeah, we have at least five players, including all of our starters, Farmar and Sasha, and probably Vlad, too, who could score 20 with decent frequency as starters.


How can you even say he is wrong. He is not saying that we have 5 or 6 players that can score 20pt the same night just that we have 5 or 6 players capable of scoreing 20pts period. The facts are the facts.
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Postby KOBEhastheMAGIC on Tue Aug 19, 2008 4:04 pm

sm61893 wrote:
trodgers wrote:
KOBEhastheMAGIC wrote:LMAO at us having five or six players that can score 20 on any given night.

On "A" given night...meaning we have some guys who have the ability to put up 20 point games. On "any" given night...meaning who can do it regularly. It's not even a subtle difference.

Kobe did it in 68 regular season games. Since that's not every night, I guess Kobe can't do it on any given night.

Anyway...
Pau did it in 28 of his 66 games.
Odom did it in 10 of his 77 games.
Bynum did it in 5 of his 35 games (actually 5 of his last 16).
Fisher did it in 7 of 82.
Heck, Farmar did it twice despite not starting. He could do it ten to twenty times as a starter.
Sasha did it in 4 of 72, could do it much more regularly as a starter (scored 19 or more in 4 of the 22 games he played at least 20 minutes).
Vlad did it in 3 of 65 games.

So, yeah, we have at least five players, including all of our starters, Farmar and Sasha, and probably Vlad, too, who could score 20 with decent frequency as starters.


How can you even say he is wrong. He is not saying that we have 5 or 6 players that can score 20pt the same night just that we have 5 or 6 players capable of scoreing 20pts period. The facts are the facts.


And again...the statement is worthless. Just about every NBA player is capable of scoring 20 points on a random fluke night. Luke Walton scored 25 points in 06. Do you want to include him in that category too?
Kobe Byant has brought the Lakers three championships, 4 Finals in 5 years, carried an absolutely pathetic team to the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference twice and almost upset the so-called MVP, and has given us countless thrills and memories. If you are not a Kobe fan, then you are not a Laker fan, period.
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Postby trodgers on Tue Aug 19, 2008 4:08 pm

Considering he has done it 4 times in 336 games, it's obvious that you're not really interested in engaging with the argument.
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Postby Ras Algethi on Tue Aug 19, 2008 6:25 pm

trodgers wrote:
two0one7 wrote:Kobe is the 2nd best rebounding guard in the league.

Yeah, but he seldom goes down and really mixes it up with the bigs. I think he's awesome...don't get me wrong...but he doesn't really provide post rebounding.


Well yes, but he doesn't need to with Drew/Pau/Odom up front. I just pointed that out since Bumrusher mentioned it. I'm sure his 6.3rpg will go down next year.
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Postby Indianballer on Tue Aug 19, 2008 7:16 pm

Good points, I agree with all those weaknesses. I want to ask if there is any player but Bonzi Wells who can solve problem 3?
I don't think the Lakers are interested in Bonzi. Plus doesn't odom fill the role of a guy who creates of the dribble really well. All he does is dribble penetrate.
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Postby davriver290 on Tue Aug 19, 2008 7:29 pm

The one player I really hope comes back ready to go and better is Ariza.

Walton will always be Walton.

Odom would be a talented Guy who wont post up a smaller man, and somehow misses a gimmie layup at times.
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Postby trodgers on Tue Aug 19, 2008 9:55 pm

Indianballer wrote:Good points, I agree with all those weaknesses. I want to ask if there is any player but Bonzi Wells who can solve problem 3?
I don't think the Lakers are interested in Bonzi. Plus doesn't odom fill the role of a guy who creates of the dribble really well. All he does is dribble penetrate.

Davriver points to one outside possibility: Ariza could become that. There are some others. I think Fred Jones is still available. Gelabale. I'm sure there are others. I'll do a more in-depth look tomorrow.
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Postby KB24 on Wed Aug 20, 2008 12:04 am

great article...I agree and those are exactly the areas we will have to improve on.

One thing I see as a problem as well is speed. With Odom we have a big front court but it remains to be seen if the speed disadvantage isn't too much to overcome.
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Postby d33pzone on Wed Aug 20, 2008 12:06 am

Wow. A good article explaining the Lakers biggest needs with quality solutions.
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Postby doggy dogg on Thu Aug 21, 2008 10:21 pm

Nice job trodgers. I enjoyed reading that. While i might not agree with u on all the points but all in all good summary

Andrew and Powel will solve the rebounding problem. Providing Mihm doesnt play :freak2:

We still have a problem at the SF. Odom will not be that great at the 3 cos he cant shoot. Luke is :hurl: . Vlad and Ariza are better options but both have clear weaknesses that other teams would target. I dont know about Bonzi, he also not a good shooter. I thought he was going to join the Rox's anyway?

PG position should fine if Farmar checks his atitude and play with team first mentality. I guess we will find out in couple of months how is that working out
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