Metta World Peace: Position: SF Height: 6’7” Weight: 260 Age: 30 Contract: $6,322,320 (’10-11); $6,790,640 (’11-12); $7,258,960 (’12-’13; player option); $7,727,280 (’13-14) Nickname: TruWarier Years With Team: 1 Years With League: 11 Previous Teams: Chicago, Indiana, Sacramento, Houston Acquired: Free Agent '09
Strengths: Lockdown overall defense/defensive aura/rarely fouls on hybrid forwards, Ability to pass the ball/court vision, Appears to be more subdued with antics, Has conformed more into a role-player Weaknesses: Rapidly declining athleticism in all facets of the game, Very flawed inside game/finishing, Rapidly declining shooting touch, Potential for antics/shot selection abuse to appear, Should be better rebounder
Peace has seen better defensive days: his past four seasons sported higher defensive efficiencies, and this season he's merely slightly above average both with the Lakers and in the context of the league: 109th to 133rd out of 270 NBA players is his overall defensive range. He doesn't excel at defending any one area, but he has no cold spots either. In fact, he's pretty average at defending both mid-range and three point jumpers, but appears to struggle most with at-rim defense, which is second worst only behind Steve Nash on the team. To make matters worse, he doesn't contribute much on the defensive boards (51st out of 70 SFs). He still has super quick hands for steals (6th), a trait he's always had and makes defensive plays still (17th) on an average foul rate as far as SFs go. But he's becoming more of a style over substance type here, with just a cut above average defense and poor rebounding.
Offensively, Peace has a relatively average usage rate (30th out of 70 small forwards) and he operates as a hybrid small forward--he creates off his own accord equally as he has shots that are set up for him. His shot distribution mostly comes from three point land, where he's 16th among 70 SFs in attempts, but he's only 30th out of 70th, and below average, in hitting those attempts. Peace doesn't play around the rim too much and is a non-descript foul drawer (40th and 42nd respectively out of 70 SFs), but still, he gets there enough where he's a hindrance, as he's 58th out of 70 SFs in finishing ability. Peace completely eschews mid-range shots. Peace is merely an average ballhandler, however, and a very poor passer, ranking 55th out of 70 SFs in assist rate.
Overall, Peace is awkward offensively--he's an inclined, but subpar, long range shooter, and he's an empty trip generator when he tries to do anything off the dribble, because he suffers from massive tunnel vision, predictably likes to go to the basket and is unable to finish well. There's nothing really to work with offensively. Defensively, he still has is uses, but he's slipping, and being slightly above average doesn't quite cut it when there's no real asset to hang on to offensively.
Peace has become an albatross of a contract, and apparently the Lakers need to keep playing him in order to increase his value. Peace ranked in the bottom 20 SFs in ten different categories so far in this season, and ranked especially woeful in TS% and mid-range shooting.
I had a hunch before when crunching Peace’s shooting percentages in past seasons, but I think it’s safe to say it now: Peace’s jumper is absolutely broke. The unfortunate thing is that much of this is self-inflicted: for a low usage player, Peace takes a ton of shots off the dribble, a shot that almost always lowers one’s shooting percentages. It’s not surprising however, as Peace has always been a rhythm player rather than a spot-up player, and it’s a major reason why in set offenses where he’s a third or fourth option he really struggles to find his footing offensively. The Lakers treat him like a spot up shooter, but he treats his possessions like a superstar does. Between him, Blake and Fisher, the Lakers have had a woeful time spacing the floor for their bigs. Peace, with the horrific mid-range, three point and free throw percentages, has a ton of data points to prove that he’s a horrific shooter.
The thing about Peace is, and I’m not even sure he realizes this, is that he’s virtually useless offensively at this stage of his career. Besides the shooting ability, his finishing ability and free throw drawing has plummeted like a rock in past years, due to rapidly declining athleticism. Peace is horrible at corralling rebounds despite his strength and girth as well. Players who lose their athleticism and can’t shoot see enormous declines in offense in their 30s, and Peace is just one of the casualties of this. He’s having trouble adjusting to his lower usage rate, and that makes it hard for him to adapt to a niche role. The shooting is so poor that it’s hard to see him becoming a Bruce Bowen corner three point shooter, which would be good for the Lakers. About the only thing Peace is good at is the passing ability, but he’s also a bit turnover prone in the process. Overall, the Lakers are hurt significantly offensively with him on the court.
The athleticism (or lack thereof) is also catching up to Peace in the steals department—he once had the quickest hands in the league, and now is landing near the middle of the pack there. Not surprisingly, he’s making fewer defensive plays. However, he’s still a lockdown defensive player—he holds the opposing starting SF to a single digit PER on a consistent basis, and is highly effective in lowering his man’s shooting percentages. His team defense is still a net positive, but his man defense is worlds better at this stage. Peace can also play spot PF minutes, where he also does a good job of forcing opposing PFs into low percentage shots.
Nonetheless, Peace’s offense is such a wreck that it’s probably hard to justify playing him even with the stellar defense. The unfortunate part is that it’s hard to see any one area in offense where he stands out, and that really makes him a huge question mark going forward. He’s probably best playing situational minutes if he continues to play like this, but his past resume has enabled him to gain more minutes than he actually should.
Shannon Brown: Position: SG Height: 6’4” Weight: 211 Age: 25 Contract: $2,400,000 ('11-'12) (Player Option) Nickname: ShanWow Years With Team: 3 Years With League: 5 Previous Teams: Cleveland, Chicago, Charlotte Acquired: Trade involving Vladimir Radmanovic (Feb '09) Strengths: Top flight athleticism, Defensive potential, Some shades of shooting ability Weaknesses: Ballstopper/very limited court vision, Questionable IQ on both ends of the court, Few handles/cannot take anyone off dribble, Poor long range shooter/takes too many jumpers, Doesn't get to the basket/line well, Relatively inconsistent defender
Offense: On the surface, this really looks like Brown’s breakout season: Brown scored nearly a point every two minutes for a bench where scoring was needed, and his overall impact in terms of offensive and defensive contributions was a positive, which is impressive coming off the bench. Looking deeper, however, Brown’s “breakout” was incredibly singular: all he did was increase his usage rate, to the point where it is above the league average. And it came with quite a few flaws: Brown is largely a 1D scorer, but a scorer who is also a ballstopper once he receives the ball. Brown has a penchant for taking one or two dribbles into the mid-range with the shot clock winding down and taking contested shots off the dribble; in fact, a third of his shots are of this variety, which means that he’s often the “go-to guy” in the Lakers’ second unit, which really had trouble creating offense this year. However, while he’s taking more mid-range set shots this year, his conversion rate there has plummeted, and the results show: the Lakers are significantly worse with him offensively on the court, and given his volume-shooting exploits this supports the theory that he’s a ballstopper, who while he gets his “numbers”, actually ends up hurting the team. Brown does pass the ball within the Triangle’s confines but he exhibits maladies of a me-first player, namely that he can’t create plays for others: Brown’s passing has dipped quite significantly in each of his three years with the Lakers, and now he passes the ball like a PF, at 6’4”. Brown’s shooting is not only an overzealous “mental” problem, but also possesses inherent structural limitations: he struggles to slash to the basket in the half-court due to poor ballhandling skills, which manifests itself in in a very poor free throw rate. As a result, Brown limits turnovers, but the tradeoff is insignificant with regards to the team, as breaking the Triangle by forcing jumpers and ignoring teammates is just as bad as forcing slashes and getting turnovers. Brown can really finish though, as he has top flight athleticism especially for his size and can leak out in transition for highlight reel jams, but while the Lakers used to cater and set up lobs for him, this happened with far fewer frequency this year as Brown became much more of an active, and inefficient, jumpshooter. It’s also quite obvious, at age 25, that Brown is probably a poor to mediocre three point shooter in this league and probably overrates his abilities here: he actually started off the season hot from long range but his shot rapidly went way south over the course of the season, and for a team in sore need of a floor spacer Brown didn’t provide it—instead, he carried a scoring three-point gunning mentality, taking more than a few off the dribble for a player who couldn’t even shoot it well, further affirming the ballstopping theory. So Brown’s scoring has structural, mental and accuracy limitations: it’s really hard for him to overcome all three, and he can possibly overcome one or close to 1.5 over time, but probably with more experience. What makes it frustrating is that Brown can really shoot those set shots: he led the Lakers this season with 91% FT percentage, and his body of work has shown him to be a good free throw shooter. But the other limitations might be severe enough to stymie his adaptation into a spot-up shooter, so he’s really in a precarious position. Brown’s selfishness and inability to create plays on top of the inefficient scoring is a “loser’s” style of game that won’t fly with disciplined offensive teams, and the Lakers paid the price with it. As Brown ‘s jaw-dropping athleticism is put in the backburner as he progresses in age, the rest of his game is put under the microscope: unfortunately, in both categories, personal offense and team-impact offense, he rates poorly in both. I actually wrote that Brown has been “exposed/revealed” in his offensive game last year when he played the full 82 game slate and actually thought he wasn’t good enough to live as a jumpshooter, and unfortunately he’s proving me correct.
Defense: Brown's also a a bit of a facade player on defense--with good lateral quickness, reasonable strength, and top-notch athleticism, he has the all the markers of a good/great defensive guard; however, this season he also had a tendency to be overzealous, occasionally fouling three point shooters and sometimes gambling and getting himself out of position. While his large hands/reflexes allowed him to increase his steal rate this season, missed gambles were attributed to mental lapses. Defensive IQ is certainly in question, much like offensive IQ is in question with Brown’s offensive play. However, this season in particular, it’s the offense that’s more grating than the defense: Brown actually played very good man-to-man defense against opposing second units, where he does have a reputation for holding down opponent shooting percentages, and his team defense was decent. However, his overall defense is just inconsistent: he can be mediocre in both man and team D as he was last year, or he can be quite good like this year, and in between surround it with the aforementioned mental lapses. Brown is generally a contain defender who also has a penchant for athletic highlight reel blocks. Overall, he’s a bit unfocused on this end, but he actually does have a track record proving potential for defense. It’s hard to forget that he was the Lakers’ defensive PG ace in the 2009 playoffs. Brown is also a subpar rebounder for a SG despite all his athletic gifts, and doesn't seem to have a real nose for the ball.
Intangibles: Well liked player with a good head on his shoulders, and personable and team-oriented off the court. However, the me-first mentality on offense, lack of real shooting development, and questionable IQ on both ends do bring a bit into question regarding his work ethic. While that same ethic was commended in years past as he toned his wild game down from his pre-Laker years, that wild game might be manifesting itself again, which shows that perhaps ingrained habits are hard to break. At this stage, I’d say that these are more inherent limitations rather than any problems of work ethic, given Brown’s record off the court. Also appears to be in the entertainment business, having appeared in music videos for Monica and Nelly.
Future: Even at age 25, one can argue that Brown's athleticism is still ahead of his actual skills, and that’s why he still doesn’t get much acclaim despite having several rings. And while that athleticism should still be intact for several more years, its decline can be seen in the horizon. As stated, putting the microscope on his overall offense yielded poor results, and the questionable IQ/shooting ability raises question marks on his ability to morph into spot-up shooter. Brown’s main problem is that he lacks an all-around game to alleviate these problems, and no real asset to hang his hat on, besides maybe defense if a team can rein in that inconsistency. It’s not a stretch to say that he’s still “raw” and “rough around the edges”, but at his age he’s already a player, not a prospect, and the question going forward will be “how can he adapt” rather than “how much more can he improve”. Players of his mold with athleticism and no real assets can flame out by the time they hit their early 30s, so Brown is best served honing on his catch-and-shoot jumpshooting and defensive roleplaying, similar to another former Laker, Mo Evans. Considering Brown already re-signed with the Lakers last year and might think that his bigger load this year warrants a bigger contract, I expect Brown to opt out of his player option and most likely leave the Lakers (who would be wise not to overpay him).
Projection: If Brown stays with the Lakers, he’ll still stay with his role backing up Kobe at shooting guard, playing roughly 19-20 minutes at the SG slot still. It’s hard to see Brown increasing his minutes significantly, as he can’t play PG due to his skill set, and can’t play SF due to his lack of height, so rearrangements will have to be made around him if he gets playing time. That’s perhaps another reason Brown might want to leave—at age 25, he might be discouraged by the minutes cap the Lakers present, despite the fact that they have dumped Sasha Vujacic’s contract.
Kobe Bryant: Position: SG Height: 6’6” Weight: 205 Age: 32 Contract: $24,806,250 (’10-11); $25,244,000 ('11-'12); $27,849,000 ('12-'13); $30,453,000 ('13-'14) Nickname: The Black Mamba Years With Team: 14 Years With League: 14 Previous Teams: N/A Acquired: Trade involving Vlade Divac (July '96)
Strengths: Cornerstone player, Excellent offensive instincts/all-around offensive game, Very clutch, Extreme work ethic/rarely suffers injuries, Respected/good perimeter defender Weaknesses: Can get caught up looking for own shot, disrespects lesser players on defense
Kobe's defense, believe it or not, is actually quite poor this year. Even teamwise, he's below the mean for the team defensively. He doesn't particularly get burned at any spot, he's just below average in many of them--in fact, he's had trouble defending almost everything this year, from at-rim shots to mid-range J's to corner threes. In the aggregate, his range is between 168th-177th out of 270 shooting guards, and he arguably he hasn't been this poor since the 2006-07 season. Kobe's has uses on this end, as he goes after the defensive boards (15th among 62 SGs) and doesn't foul (12th) which allows him to stay on the court. Still, he's average at best on this end, because along with his cut below defense, he doesn't make many defensive plays (39th).
Offensively, Kobe leads all shooting guards in usage rate, and has the green light to do anything offensively, as he's also an uber-creator whose shots are rarely assisted. In particular, Kobe loves it from 15 feet in: while he's "only" 22nd out 62 shooting guards at shots around the basket, he enhances through his always-present ability to draw fouls, which elevates him to 15th out of 62 SGs, and of course he's an excellent finisher (15th in conversion rate despite creating off his dribble most of the time).
Kobe's favorite spots are in the 7-15 foot range: he's 10th in runners taken, and 10th in shots from 10-15 feet, spots that only the craftiest of wing players only take their shots in. Kobe's major hotspot is from 10-15 feet, where he loves to iso and use jab steps to free himself for jumpers (ranking 9th out of 62 SGs in this area). He's still good, but not as adept, at runners (21st). While Kobe doesn't take as much, he still takes mid-range shots (26th out of 62 SGs), and it's still a major threat (20th) considering how many he takes off the dribble. Kobe has completely eschewed threes (50th out of 62 SGs), and wisely so, since it's the worst part of his offensive repertoire (47th), although once again a lot of it comes off his own dribble.
Kobe's a good ballhandler and can navigate to his spots, and an average passer (25th out of 62 SGs in assist rate). In the aggregate, he's able to take and make shots from everywhere mid-range in, particularly excelling in no man's land, is able to do so in huge doses with his green light and good ballhandling ability.
Offense: Has every offensive trick in the book and diversifies his offense from everywhere, which on top of his killer instinct makes him one of the toughest players to defend. His preferred territory nowadays is from the mid-range, where he a deadly shooter; Bryant is excellent at taking what the defense gives him, and can execute jab steps or spin moves to throw off defenders to either step back for a J, bait them into fouls or attack the basket. It's hard to emphasize just how special Bryant's mid-range game truly is; whereas most SGs prefer to live off threes or slashes to the basket, Bryant optimizes all areas of the mid-range and displays especially exquisite touch when operating from 5-15 feet (an area where almost all guards struggle). He also produces very reasonable results creating off the dribble from 16-23 feet, and while he doesn't take as many threes as the usual SG, based on how many threes he takes off the dribble, he's a better three point shooter than given credit for. Bryant is absolutely lethal when slashing to the basket--he converts at an extremely high rate. While he’s lost some of the spring in his step from past years and doesn’t get to the line or dunk as much as he’s used to, he’s still athletic and has the craftiness to finish well or get to the line once at the basket, and if the lanes are taken away he can pull up for floaters or short mid-range J’s. Bryant has arguably the greatest primacy in the league and has the green light to score and create whenever he wants, although sometimes he can get caught up in looking for his own shot. There are also times when he’s too passive and trying to blend in with his teammates, although to his credit, he adjusts to the flow of the game well and can take over when necessary. He can also be a good passer when he wants to, and does this all without turning the ball over. He also has a clutch reputation and can carry the team to victories at the end of games.
Defense: Kobe is notable for conserving his energy on defense, tending to disrespect lesser players and rising up to the challenge against more established players. When he’s motivated, he can be really good—he can hound his man in personal matchups but also aggressively chase him off screens, and he has enough deceptiveness to rank in the upper ten of SGs in steals and blocks as well. Opposing SGs actually shot quite well against him, but Bryant held down their overall efficiency by lowering their rebound and assist totals; all told the Lakers were 11.9 pointers better with him on the court.
Intangibles: Has one of the toughest work ethics in the game, and has been playing at an extremely high level for over a decade. Has tons of mileage on him, and while he does conserve energy, his skills still allow him to play at a high level; most notably he plays through injuries and rarely takes injury breaks, and conditioning never appears to be an issue with him. Motivates others with his play, and has been a father figure of sorts for talented younger Lakers.
Future: Kobe is obviously the cornerstone of the Lakers and should very well retire with them. Few players currently in the league can top his body of work—elite two-way skills with high level production and few injuries. He’s slightly past his prime, but with his work ethic and skill level he would still be able to play at a high level for many years to come.
Projection: Kobe has a set of 36 SG minutes allocated to him, and Laker brass has indicated that they would like to reduce his minutes to get him more rest during the season. Expect him to play 80+ games as well.
Andrew Bynum: Position: C Height: 7’0” Weight: 285 Age: 24 Contract: $15,157,667 (’11-12); $16,473,002 (’12-13; Team option) Nickname: A-Bomb, Socks Years With Team: 6 Years With League: 6 Previous Teams: N/A Acquired: 2005 Draft Round 1 (#10) Strengths: Combination of height/mobility/athleticism, Dunk machine, Scoring machine from within 10-feet/potential go-to scoring option, Elite defensive rebounder, Shotblocking instincts/ability to play defense without fouling/good defender, Steadily improving/potential to improve further despite top two center status Weaknesses: Awfully bipolar game when he’s an offensive centerpiece due to scoring-hungriness (offensive rebounding/passing/defense/defensive playmaking all suffer), Hasn’t put everything quite together, Immature/rebellious behavior/still at the growing pains stage, Lingering knee problem concerns of past
Bynum has always had the ability, putting up PERs of 20 in the last four seasons, but this season he took it a notch further, increasing his usage rate and maintaining his elite scoring efficiency. While eight centers had higher usage rates this season, Bynum blows all of them out of the water in terms of scoring efficiency (although Nikola Pekovic comes close in that respect). In other words, he’s a score waiting to happen when he receives the ball, and the Lakers have increasingly realized this by force-feeding him the ball in the low blocks.
Bynum’s combination of length, mobility, strength and athleticism is unique among centers, and he absolutely caters to his strengths: while the league average among centers is to take two-thirds of their shots inside 10-feet, Bynum takes 91.2% of his shots from his inside 10-feet. Only five centers shoot a higher percentage around the basket, but only one of them plays over 30 minutes per game (Tyson Chandler). The Lakers routinely set up lob passes or easy feeds to him around the basket: Bynum is third in dunks in the league as of this moment, with 122 to his name. He’s likely to surpass his dunks for a season mark as well (career high in a season is 124). Moreover, he’s capable of sizing up his man, getting a step on them, and using spin moves to inch himself closer to the basket for finishes. To optimize his at-rim game, like many of the better offensive centers in the league, Bynum takes a lot of 3-9 foot hook shots and turnarounds: only three big men took more shots from this area, and for the last five years, he’s shot between 42-47% from this area, well above average for a big man. Besides dunking, Bynum’s length allows him to avoid getting blocked: among centers who play 30+ minutes a game, only Andrea Bargnani, Al Jefferson, Marc Gasol and Tyson Chandler are better or have similar comparables. That same length allows him to accrue AND-1’s and amass a high free throw rate: among bigs with 30+ mpg, only Tyson Chandler and Dwight Howard have higher rates. He’s also a capable free throw shooter for a scoring center: only Tyson Chandler and Nikola Pekovic have a higher TS% and FT%. His offensive game inside 10-feet along with his capable foul drawing and free throw drawing has allowed him to have the sixth-best scoring rate among centers and the fifth-best in scoring efficiency.
Bynum’s put up seasons of top-15 offensive rebounding ability among centers, but now, he’s merely a slightly above average offensive rebounder. As with his passing ability (as delineated below), Bynum’s activity on the offensive boards has a direct correlation with his usage rate. When he’s not receiving the ball, he has more room to grab offensive boards. When he’s the feature of the offense, as he is, he doesn’t pursue those boards as much.
Where Bynum has slightly suffered is the black-hole aspect of his offensive game—among centers with higher usage rate, only Dwight Howard and Byron Mullens have lower assist rates. There are several other centers in the vicinity (Pekovic, Derrick Favors, JaVale McGee, Marreese Speights) who suffer from an inability to pass, but many of them only play in the ~20 minute range or are merely finishers, like what Bynum was earlier in his career. As is, Bynum’s starting to get the same criticisms that plagued (and still continue) to plague Howard—how to handle double teams. Between his ability to create easy offense for himself and between his low assist rate, teams have been starting to double team him. Moreover, the Lakers have opted to have several passive offensive weak links on the court (i.e. Steve Blake, Josh McRoberts or Troy Murphy) so this makes the decision to double team easier when the Lakers play a 3-on-5 or 4-on-5 offense in that respect. As a result, Bynum’s turnover rate has cropped up relative to the past three seasons, although he’s still below the league average among centers. Of note is that Bynum has actually showed ability to pass the ball: in the five seasons before this, three of the five saw him with above league-average assist rates among centers. However, there’s a correlation between this: Bynum always put up usage rates in the teens when this happened (even last season, when fans were demanding Bynum receive the ball more). Well, guess what now? Bynum now is receiving the ball, and now he’s getting complaints about being a black hole. As you’ll see in what’s becoming a trend with Bynum, he suffers from an inability to multitask: he hasn’t quite put everything together, even if the basic ingredients are there. When he’s playing within the team concept, he can pass; when he’s the centerpiece, as he now is, he can’t. But that’s the easy part, given that he’s shown the passing before, and that’s why he even shows more potential to grow offensively, and that has to be a scary thought for opposing teams, given that he’s already beasting in the scoring category. Once he starts to pass more, his game will open up that much more.
Between the offensive boarding and the passing splits, Bynum’s game seems awfully bipolar. Well, here’s another one, but this time Bynum has carried it over: defensive rebounding. In past seasons, when Bynum had a heavier load of the offense, Bynum actually had a below average defensive rebound rate, which is blasphemous for a 7’0” 285 lb center. And again, when he’s had a usage rate in the mid-teens, he’s put up top-10 defensive rebounding ability among centers. But now? He’s really commanding the boards. Moreso than the increased efficiency/role in the offense, this is the key here: this season, only three centers have higher defensive rebound rates, and only two of them have higher overall rebound rates. He’s starting to combine high-octane offense with high-octane rebounding, and hopefully he can eventually combine that with higher-level passing and higher-level offensive rebounding, as he’s already shown those two attributes in the past.
Another element that’s now never talked about in Bynum’s game is how he’s staying on the floor. Not just in terms of injuries—but in terms of foul trouble. While he’s playing more minutes per game than ever before, he’s also never picking up fouls—never. Catch this—Bynum has the LOWEST foul rate among centers, at 1.9 per 40 minutes. Even as a point guard, that would rank him at the top eight in the position. While Bynum’s rate of shotblocking is the lowest it has been in six years, even that’s a bit of a silver lining: he’s the only center who averages more blocks than fouls per 40 minutes (2.2 to 1.9). In fact, his lack of fouling in general is the reason why the Lakers rarely send opponents to the free throw to scrounge for easy points. Bynum has always been a poor stealer and nonexistent at drawing charges, so he’s actually quite below the average at defensive playmaking. Nonetheless, only Ben Wallace makes more defensive plays/foul, so in that respect credit deserves to go to Bynum for being able to stay on the floor.
Nonetheless, there’s that correlation cropping up again: Bynum makes more defensive plays in seasons where he has a usage rate below 20 than compared to when he has a usage rate above 20 (3.17, 3.37 and 3.38 as compared to 3.05, 2.69 and 2.76 over the past six seasons). I’ve talked about this problem at relative length in past scouting reports, that Bynum gets scoring-hungry when he’s given free rein, and starts to neglect other aspects of the game—as mentioned, the offensive rebounding, the passing, and now the defensive playmaking. He’s improved in quite a few areas—such as the defensive rebounding and avoiding picking up fouls—but there’s still a ways to go. As mentioned, though, he’s shown all the pieces, unlike many of the other players, and with time and maturity hopefully he can put them together.
In terms of overall defense, Bynum’s combination of tools makes him very good, in a vacuum. When he’s focused, he has shown the ability to put the clamps on opposing starting centers, particularly lowering their shooting percentages and forcing fouls on them. Bynum also rotates well and plays good team defense. More and more, as seen with the reduced fouls, he’s starting to play traditional hands-in-the-air type defense a la Pau Gasol (with his length, that’s helpful) and not go for every block. On the flip side, when he’s not that motivated, as has happened a few times this season, he gets out of position against dribble penetration or pick-and-roll situations, and he doesn’t fully contest everything in his quest to avoid picking up fouls. He’s a far smarter defensive player with the reducing of the fouls and helping the Lakers into a top defensive efficiency a third into the season, but as has been his wont, he just can’t sustain the intensity level on this end of the floor for a full season. In an aggregate, he’s still very good, but he has the tools to be awesome, and he still hasn’t reached a DPOY level yet. This season, it’s clear he’s far more invested in the scoring aspect of the game, so he’s just put his good, but slightly underachieving, effort here.
Bynum is a maddening player, because it’s all “relative” with him—fans and writers alike don’t tend to say this about him, but he has the potential to almost “do it all” from the center position. He doesn’t quite put it all together with offense and defense, even though he’s shown ability to do both, just not simultaneously at an elite level. But you have to look at the flip side with him: he’s already a top two center in the league—only Dwight Howard is better—at the age of 24, and he has already shown flashes of being an above average passer, offensive rebounder, defender and defensive playmaker. Considering that he’s already made inroads in combining the elite rebounding with his scoring, and cut down his fouls, it’s only a matter of time before he incorporates everything altogether. He’s not even at his peak yet. As of now, he’s a player that every other team would like to have, in terms of sheer game. Even at his top two status, he has a lot more potential to grow—and that has to be very scary.
The other “maddening” part of Bynum is his perceived ego—he doesn’t seem to be a bad kid at all, and like Metta World Peace he seems like a laid-back, fun-loving type of person. He’s just immature at this stage—he’s accrued more technicals than he ever did than in any of the past five seasons, has taunted opposing player’s benches, got into the face of several others, and openly scoffed at coaching staff by wanting to launch three pointers and even saying to the media that he’s ‘willing to take more until he hits one’. Some have argued that he’s trying to establish his authority after being in Kobe’s shadow and now that he’s a feature point of the offense, and that appears to be the case. The immaturity also falls in line with what appears to be Bynum’s constant “rebelling” within his game—when he’s offensive-minded, as I keep emphasizing, all the other parts (defense/passing) all seem to become worse than they once were. Only starting to take three pointers, lashing out at the coach/opposing players is only another dimension of this immature “rebelling”. It might only be a flash in the pan, but Bynum isn’t going to take any prisoners in announcing he’s become a top-two center in the league. And for that reason, I don’t think it’s that bad an issue at all—he’s still in the “growing pains” stage that many of the young offensive-minded centers seem to possess—Dwight Howard and DeMarcus Cousins had/currently have similar problems as well. As mentioned, these bad habits can be easily cleared, and it’s what still gives him upside even though he’s the second-best center in the league. Kobe even mentioned that Bynum ‘reminds him of a young Kobe’.
Bynum has a history of knee injuries, but he’s stayed upright for the most part this season, only missing five games so far in the lockout-shortened season. That will probably always be a red flag surrounding him, but to his credit he’s improved by leaps and bounds this season and made his first well-deserved All-star appearance. Anyhow, his championship experience, youth, top-two center status, and potential to be better all seem to offset his red-flags involving immaturity, in-game rebelliousness, and the injury-label at this stage, and he’s clearly a centerpiece that’s quite well worth investing in.
Jordan Farmar: Position: PG Height: 6’2” Weight: 180 Age: 26 Contract: $1,352,181 ('13-'14) Nickname: N/A Years With Team: 4 Years With League: 6 Previous Teams: N/A Acquired: Free Agent '13 (2nd time), 2006 Draft Round 1 (#26) (1st time)
Strengths: Three-point shot based scoring game, athleticism/quickness, quick hands Weaknesses: Porous defense, Streaky offensive game, Decision making/limited passing ability, Mid-range game/inability to get to the line, Tendency to settle/ego concerns
Farmar, no longer shackled as a pseudo-point guard in the Triangle offense as he was in his previous iteration with the Lakers, now is allowed to roam free as a ball-dominant point guard. Currently he's sporting a career high in usage--off D'Antoni's bench, no less--and manning the highest scoring bench squad in the NBA. Even in his first stint, Farmar has always had a confident strut about his game, but his shoot-slash-pass decisions were always questionable, especially when he tried to force offense to overcome the Triangle shackles that were cuffed on him. Besides the "perfect" offense for him, as D'Antoni's free-rein, point guard friendly offense is an excellent fit for Farmar's ball-dominant ways , there's also added maturity : Farmar is making reads in passes that were not necessarily there in his first stint, and the game has really slowed down for him. Farmar's storm of ideal offense, usage and internal improvement has made the Lakers' offense be over seven points better with him on the court, and there is a major injection of much-needed offense primarily with bench lineups helmed by Farmar. A lot of this stems from his addition of a money mid-range game and elite passing to complement an already even distribution of slashes and three point shooting.
The biggest change in Farmar is that with a higher usage rate, Farmar's assist rate is extremely high. Given Farmar's previous assist rates, this screams fluke, but consider this: if you were to draw a two-dimensional plot between Farmar's usage rate and assist rates, you will find that the more usage he has, the much higher his assist rates tend to be. In other words, he's much more attentive and has the ability to make his teammates better when he's more ball dominant, a mark that characterizes very good point guards. Farmar has utilized D'Antoni's screen and rolls to excellent effect, whether passing to outside shooters or to rolling bigs, and he excels at using the threat of his mid-range shot and drive to open up shots for others. Farmar does have a tendency to force bad passes off the dribble, but with his current assist rate, that is acceptable.
In terms of personal offense, Farmar's distribution of shots--roughly a third at the rim, a third from mid-range, and a third from threes--is very ideal for what you want in a scoring guard. Farmar has incorporated a much needed mid-range game to his offensive arsenal, something that was non-existent in his previous stint. Farmar's mid-range pull-up, an added key feature to his game, is now money, as he is shooting 44.4% . Elsewhere, Farmar needs work, but it's amazing how much Farmar is able to use the threat of his slashing to open up shots, when it's not even much of a threat. Farmar is only shooting 50% at the rim, has little runner game to speak of and does not draw fouls, in line with what he's done in previous years, although he's really getting after the offensive boards, again showing activity. Farmar's three point shot is decent but has a lot of potential, given what were excellent percentages during his stint in Europe. Of note is that Farmar, an awful free throw shooter during his first stint, vastly improved his free throw shot since leaving the Lakers and is sitting at 84% right now, as well.
Defensively, Farmar also is top notch, really guarding opposing point guards well in man situations but also being very good in team defense. He's also putting up a career rate in defensive rebounding, perhaps showing that when he's in tune with offense, he can be in tune with defense as well. He has a short wingspan and will never bring much in way of defensive plays, but when tuned in, he has a good disposition on this end. There is concern about deviation though given his career defense has been slightly below par to average.
Overall, Farmar is a completely usage-dependent player, a trait exhibited even earlier in his career. With higher usage, all his better traits--including passing ability and defense--are unleashed. Also, all forms of his jumper--mid-ranger, free throw shot, and three point shot from European returns--are massively improved. If this all holds, Farmar is absolutely a quality point guard who should be starting, on the basis of his two-way game--jumpshooting with passing, as well as with the defense. There might be some deviation with all of his improved traits--passing, defense and shooting--but given the offense, internal improvements and his usage dependencies, there might be little deviation. He appears to have grown into a quality point.
Farmar's shot composition throughout his six years in the league has always been heavily reliant on the three pointer--extrapolating from his two most recent NBA seasons with New Jersey, he ranked 15th-27th out of 72 NBA PGs in three point attempts. In the past, this was not really a good idea--Farmar made exactly a third of his threes in college, and shot between 33-37% in his Laker stints, but he might be doing a Jason Kidd-like reinvention of perfecting that shot. Farmar shot 44% from deep in his last stint with the Nets, and shot 40 and 46% from three in two seasons against high level European competition. Possibly corroborating the improvement in his shot is his free throw percentage, which was a hideous 58-68% in his last three seasons with the Lakers, but was 78, 82, 84, 86, and 90 between his last three years with the Nets and Europe, so this could be a weapon now.
Farmar has virtually no presence elsewhere however--of note is that his driving game is poor, because he ranks 35th-45th out of 72 PGs, but that's made even worse with his notorious inability to draw fouls, dropping him down to 39th-54th. Despite having what was billed as a 41-inch vertical at the time of the draft, Farmar's dunk rate dropped substantially in New Jersey and is now in the unathletic cluster. In addition, he ranks average to poor in typical in taking shots that are typical PG staples--the runner (36th-57th) and the mid-range shot (31st-53rd). But he's right not to take these shots--he's always been a subpar to just OK finisher and mid-range shooter, so both are far from reliable, even though many of those shots were created for him.
Farmar operates slightly increased his usage rate from poor running the Triangle with the Lakers (46th to 50th) to decent (23rd-33rd), but his first season with the Nets was interesting: when he was given more free rein to create (33rd out of 72 PGs in % of non-assisted shots) he had the third highest assist rate among PGs. However, five of his six NBA seasons so far he's played more of a spot up role (52nd-58th) and his assist rates were ordinary (23rd-31st). To further prove that first season as a fluke, Farmar's two seasons playing at the Euroleague saw him operating at shooting guard levels in terms of his passing. One of Farmar's major problems, particularly for someone who mostly takes long range jumpers, is that he's EXCESSIVELY turnover prone: his two years with the Nets would have both ranked 3rd in turnover rate among PGs, and he was also turnover prone in his first season in Europe.
Defensively, Farmar's nothing more than an average defensive rebounder, but there was some improvement here in his European stint. However, a cause for alarm was that Farmar's rate of steals and blocks went down significantly in his New Jersey stint, which along with decreasing dunk rates indicate rapidly declining athleticism. Farmar's team defense and man-to-man defense against PGs were extremely awful in his last year in New Jersey, but his first year in New Jersey he played the fifth best overall defense on the team, although it was more slightly above average than good--he was decent at protecting the rim and guarding mid-range J's and corner threes, but poor at defending runners and straightaway threes. Overall, Farmar's defense just seems to be at an average to poor pace, with potential slippage due to his declining athleticism. Farmar's declining athleticism can also be correlated with injuries--he was quite healthy with the Lakers, but his last season in New Jersey and stint in Europe saw various groin and knee injuries.
Overall, the template is that Farmar is a potentially good three point specialist now, but very turnover prone with average levels of passing ability and average to poor defense. He's an incredibly frustrating player because when he drives inside the three point line it's like Jodie Meeks or Chris Duhon--it's likely a low percentage shot or a turnover. There isn't even great faith in his offense, because he isn't a natural three point shooter--he only self-made himself into one the past couple of seasons. Even with that shot, considering all his other limitations, he's likely a net negative offensively. It's really, really questionable whether Farmar can build his three point shot into a level that can offset all his other relative limitations in ballhandling, passing, defense and inability to score inside the three point line.
Offense: Farmar's inconsistencies on the offensive end have unsettled many a Laker fan, and one of the primary reasons is this: relative to most other guards, he sorely, sorely lacks/under-utilizes his mid-range game. Instead, throughout his career, Farmar has fashioned himself as a preferred slasher and a preferred three point shooter relative to most other point guards, but he probably isn't good enough to live this way. One particularly interesting stat is Farmar's finishing: his first two years in the league saw really, really good finishing numbers out of Farmar, but last year was disappointing, so last year's finishing was probably a fluke on his part. Nonetheless, his overall slashing game consists of several flaws: he doesn't get to the line as most other point guards, a trend exhibited throughout his career, and he seriously lacks a floater game from 5-10 feet to help further optimize his slashing talents. Farmar's three point shooting is far easier to analyze: he's really an average three point shooter, at best, even though he takes more than a fair share of threes. But as noted, where Farmar really struggles is with his mid-range game; throughout his career, he's he's shown great reluctance in jacking up 16-23 footers, an area where most guards take most of their mid-range shots. The lack of attempts have most likely translated to his extremely poor free throw shooting numbers for a PG, and illustrate his real lack of a mid-range game. It's also unfortunate, because Farmar has actually shown reasonable ability to hit from 10-23 feet in the past, albeit in limited attempts, so he might just need to grow more confident in utilizing that part of his game more. Farmar's problems also span across other areas: he's significantly better shooting from the right side than the left side of the court, and his decision making is an issue, as he's prone to forcing bad passes off the dribble. Overall, it's quite obvious in seeing where Farmar's inconsistencies lie: with some flaws in his slashing game, an average long-range game, and a nonexistent mid-range game, all compounded with decision-making issues, he really can't be expected to be the finisher/three-point bomber he's trying to carve himself to be under this offense. If he ever gets around to playing in a faster-paced offense, these aspects might further impede him as well. Referring to his strengths, Farmar is a good ballhandler and can utilize a quick burst in exploiting seams to the basket, but he doesn't change direction well or break defenders down, so he gets most of his slashes off cuts/transition instead--perhaps making him a better option as a sparkplug rather than as a starter. Farmar's assist numbers are right in line with most scoring guards, but it appears that if his mind is into it, he can be a decent passer; more often, he gets caught up with scoring for himself. Watching the games, the largest issue is really with Farmar's inconsistency: at his best he displays a strut about him, raining threes, getting to and finishing well around the basket, making creative passes and in general dominating the ball and forcing a faster-paced game than the Lakers are accustomed to having. When he's off, as was last season, Farmar forces up bricks off the dribble, makes lazy passes, tends to settle, and loses intensity on both ends of the floor, resulting in the bench giving up leads last season. Overall, the Lakers utilize Farmar as a pseudo-shooting guard, as he doesn't carry to the same extent creating duties of most other PGs; however, he doesn't quite fit that role of off-the-ball cutter/shooter as necessary in the Triangle offense.
Defense: Farmar’s overall defense this season was abysmal—the Lakers were 9.7 ppg better with him off the court, and opposing point guards routinely torched him, posting superior scoring and assist rates against him. While he does have the lateral quickness, he’s small and lacks the length to contest shots effectively, although he does have good anticipation skills and can intercept passes. Nonetheless, at his best, Farmar’s defense appears to be average, but his effort level on this end is dependent on his offensive success; because he was largely terrible offensively this year, he appeared to be going through the motions on this end.
Intangibles: Farmar involves himself with charity work and youth programs off the court, and is a very motivated player who looks to improve his game. However, he’s had an especially hard time adjusting to the confines of the Triangle, and his disastrous year this season saw his tendency to settle, individualistic exploits and offense-dependent defense. Overall consistency has been an issue with him--for his career, he's always played much better pre-All Star break than post-All Star break, and in particular he really falters down the stretch towards the playoffs. He's naturally talented--his athleticism, ballhandling and scoring instincts are more of the innate aspects of the game--and reportedly has a good work ethic, but has developed little in more team-oriented skills such as passing and defense, so one wonders if his ego could be holding him back here.
Future: Despite the disastrous season, Farmar still has some value—he’s only 22, has shown some level of foundation of a three point shooting-based scoring game, and has the athleticism and quickness to finish around the basket and even throw down dunks for his size. He’s playing in a contract year and with competition from Shannon Brown, might be further motivated to improve his game; however, many believe that his scoring-minded game fits better in a run-and-gun team rather than the Triangle offense.
Projection: Farmar's minutes were reduced in increments as the 2007-2008 season wore on, and he only ended up largely playing bit minutes in the playoffs. He's in a contract year and will likely to compete for 26-28 minutes between him and Shannon Brown, but he enters the season perceived as the 3rd string PG. If he applies himself consistently he certainly has the talent to get in the high teens in minutes, but if he continues to play as he did last year it's reasonable to expect 10 mpg at the PG position as he enters the Lakers' doghouse. Farmar has also been the subject of some trade talk this offseason, and with his expiring contract he could find himself traded by the deadline, especially if he doesn't play well.
Derek Fisher: Position: PG Height: 6’1” Weight: 210 Age: 36 Contract: $3,700,000 ('10-'11); $3,400,000 ('11-'12); $3,400,000 ('12-'13) (Player Option) Nickname: Fish Years With Team: 11 Years With League: 14 Previous Teams: Golden State, Utah Acquired: 1996 Draft Round 1 (#24)~ 1st time; Free Agent '07~2nd time Strengths: Good mid-range shooter, Flops/decent defender, Intangibles (Clutch/Durable/Leadership/Understands niche role) Weaknesses: Aging, Burned by quicker guards defensively, Increasingly streaky three point shooter, Not a playmaker, Terrible finisher
Fisher has had a horrible start of the season and on most other teams, he would already have lost his starting spot by now, and possibly be buried as a third string PG in someone’s bench. His career numbers are sinking with his play, with five elements of his game that are waning and nothing that is really increasing, and he’s in the bottom 13 among PGs in 8 different categories this season. But with the cache he has with the Lakers, and with Mike Brown thinking he needs a steadying hand (the Lakers offensive impact is better when he’s on the court this season, despite everything I will write below), Fisher has still maintained his spot in the lineup.
Let’s start with Fisher’s offensive picture: despite the fact that he increasing stays out of the way in offense and is asked to shoot catch-and-shoot jumpers, even that is a terrible proposition nowadays—only Jason Kidd plays a similar amount of minutes and shoots that poorly from the field, judging by the TS%. A large reason for this is Fisher’s horrendous three point shooting, and considering he’s never been going to draw fouls or shoot well at the basket that makes his value nil. I keep saying that if you’re going to have a usage rate that low, you need to be a defensive stopper or you need to very high efficiency on offense. Fisher is not even close in either one, and has never been. That’s why there’s little hope that he can ever have value, especially at this stage of his career.
Even though Fisher has a solid assist ratio due to his lack of usage, even that is a misnomer—PGs who use the ball that little tend to have a sky high assist rate, and the ones who don’t are often relegated to the bench (Mike Bibby and Ronnie Price, for example, play half as many minutes as Fisher despite similar comparables). Fisher is a nonexistent rebounder as well. All in all, he’s been awfully useless offensively.
Fisher is still adequate at making defensive plays, largely due to his ability to draw charges and sacrifice his body. In a Laker team that suffers to get steals, the fact that he’s an above average stealer is also notable. In man-to-man matchups he’s slightly above average overall, but obviously he’s always being outplayed since he does nothing offensively. He’s neutral in team defense. The point is, he needs to be a lockdown type defensively to justify the awfulness offensively. Being slightly above average to average doesn’t really cut it at all.
Pau Gasol: Position: PF/C Height: 7’0” Weight: 250 Age: 30 Contract: $17,822,187 (’10-11); $18,714,150 ('11-'12); $19,000,000 ('12-'13); $19,285,850 ('13-'14) Nickname: Gastrong, KaPau, Big Bird Years With Team: 3 Years With League: 9 Previous Teams: Memphis Acquired: Trade involving Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Marc Gasol, Aaron McKie, rights to Donte Greene and rights to Greivis Vasquez (Feb '08)
Strengths: Diverse/efficient offense, Extremely high basketball IQ/skill level, Combination of height and length, Passing ability/team-oriented, reacts and rotates well defensively/some shotblocking instincts, quiet killer instinct Weaknesses: Some rebounding concerns, some concerns of softness defensively
The Lakers have run quite a bit of offense through Pau in the absence of Kobe, as he hasn't had a usage rate this year since his last years in Memphis. Pau, as always, is incredibly unselfish and has elite passing skill for his position, and the Lakers have ran quite a bit of offense through him when he's perched up top. As always, he has very good handles as well, and that is what is frustrating--running extended plays through your 7-footer is just an absolutely unique attribute in this league, but there are starting to be diminishing returns if Pau keeps settling for low percentage jumpers, as delineated below. And he's doing this as the Lakers' center the majority of the time. Already, the Lakers nearly 7 points worse with him on the court in offense, so he's bogging it down.
The problem with Pau's offense is that he is going through a linear decay in effectiveness in all of his primary shots: at-rim, short mid-range and long mid-range. Through his early to mid-years with the Lakers, he was reliable for low 40s type shooting on long range shots, mid 40s on short rangers and mid 60s directly at the rim. Now? Long rangers are at 36%, short rangers are at 41%, and at rim shots are at 62%. Last year, those percentages were more or less similar, which might point to how he is being used as the problem. And indeed, the past two years, Pau has been playing under the D'Antoni offense, where we already noticed problems (see last scouting report). Primarily, Pau is being moved more and more out towards the perimeter--Pau's rate of at-rim shots sharply decreased from the previous season, and now only a little over a fifth of his attempts come directly at the rim. Not surprisingly, his free throw rate has also dropped like a rock, as has his offensive rebounding rate, which comes with aging. In fact, what's damning is that Pau is now taking nearly half of his shots as long mid-range jumpers, which is an awful proposition given the diminishing returns of that sort of shot. While we can also attribute this to Pau's aging, lack of physicality, and his tendency to settle and not be aggressive, the offense also places him there, so the D'Antoni structure deserves quite a bit of blame as well. Pau needs easy shots to get going from mid-range, and he's not going to help his percentages any by settling for long jumpers all the time--for a time, he had the worst two-point percentage among qualified centers early this season.
Pau's hemorrhaging also applies to defense, unfortunately. First, the good news: Pau is putting up a monster defensive rebound rate this year, fifth best in the league, and something that this Laker team sorely needs. However, it reeks of a massive fluke, as career-wise, that rate has been around average. And even then, the rebounding had diminishing returns, because Pau's defense has been awful this year. Matched up against opposing centers, those centers had a tendency to out-rebound Pau, and were also more efficient from the floor. Ironically, Pau tends to get most of his rebounds within the Lakers' larger lineups where he acts as power forward. Pau's team defense has also been awful this year--he's late to rotate with slow footspeed, and while he is an OK shotblocker who really knows how to leverage his length and avoid fouls, as usual, he just lacks quickness to rotate and the strength to be effective against starting centers. In fact, while his ability to avoid fouls was once a virtue, if he's playing awful defense he's just perceived as soft. In the end, a Pau who plays a broad-based rebounding and defense game, like he did in past seasons, is far superior to one who just rebounds but plays no defense, as he is doing this season.
So while Pau still has his interesting quirks on both ends of the court--a 7 footer who you can continually run an offense through, and a rebounder this season who does not foul--he taketh away more than he giveth this season, and it is really, really starting to affect the bottom line on both ends of the court. In the past, one could make counterarguments against the "soft" accusations more easily, but this year--with his tendency to settle for long jumpers on offense and his inability to rotate or guard centers while not fouling--it's far easier to relent to those accusations. While height and shooting are usually good indicators for aging, Pau is heading the opposite direction, and while some of that has to go with the D'Antoni structure, Pau needs to take blame here too, as he is starting to lack aggressiveness. In retrospect, maybe there was a reason Mitch tried to trade him in the now-defunct trade for Chris Paul a year ago.
Pau is an relatively average to slightly below average defender this season, ranking 136th-143rd out of 270 NBA prospects, and relatively average within the Lakers' defensive schemes. He's relatively average everywhere but he really struggles defending above the break threes--granted, most big men, let alone 7-footers, are unable to step out that far to the basket, but Pau was the major culprit for the Lakers for this zone this year. He also had quite a few mid-range shots hit against him this year as well. Pau's just a cut above average in defensive rebounding (31st out of 67 PFs) and is a good shotblocker (15th), but is a subpar overall defensive playmaker (45th) because he's poor in the other categories. Also, he never fouls for a big (6th best foul rate out of 67 PFs), so he can stay on the floor. Ultimately, Pau's probably slightly above average on this end of the floor: he blocks shots and doesn't foul, but the major nuances, such as rebounding and defense, are more or less average.
On offense, Pau is a hybrid with a reasonable usage (27th out of 67 power forwards, and utilizes them to take mid-range J's (13th out of 67 power forwards) and low post shots from 3-9 feet (15th). Here's the problem for Pau's mid-range J's: while he's still 32nd out of 67th among PFs in conversion rate, he's just average from here, and he hasn't shot this badly from mid-range since 2008, when he was still in Memphis. And he's mostly a spot-up mid-range jumpshooter. And Pau's even worse from 3-9 feet, where he's 40th in conversion rate. For a power forward, he's also more willing than most to space the floor from deep (20th). As he's aging, however, Pau doesn't take many shots directly at the rim anymore (45th) and doesn't o-board (48th), but his ability to draw fouls alleviates that problem somewhat (elevates up to 35th). In fact, this is what's frustrating: Pau's hotspot (at the rim, where he's 24th in conversion) is the zone he takes the least shots in, and with his ability to draw fouls, that only makes playing at the rim a better proposition to his other shots.
Again, Pau's misses from mid-range and at the low block are flukes, since career-wise he's been excellent at both zones, but this year's shot selection reeks of identity crisis, since he's far better playing at the rim than anywhere else. Still, where Pau has always been underrated is that he's a 7-footer with great handles: no other PF in this list is 7-feet, and on top of that he's an excellent passer (6th out of 67 PFs in assist rate)--that excellent/excellent ballhandling/passing is an EXTREMELY rare combination to find in this league. One could argue at this point Pau's offensive know-how makes him incredibly invaluable, even in spite of his shot distribution problems which as mentioned are flukes and can seemingly be corrected. Still, one could argue fewer shots at the rim and slightly-below-the-cut defense mean that age is taking a bit of toll.
Offense: Gasol was sixth in offensive efficiency among centers, and unlike the majority of them above him he actually took a third of his shots as jumpers. His offense is diverse and unpredictable—his great touch allows him to distribute shots equally from the left, right, and straight on, and he hits all of them at high efficiency, particularly from straight-on; this in particular makes him a fine pick-and-roll option. Around the basket area, Gasol’s high skill level does the rest—operating out of the high or low post, he has an array of moves and countermoves, such as head fakes and spin moves, and he seals, reads, and baits defenses well. He also gets his points here in many other ways; he’s reasonable at grabbing offensive rebounds for putbacks, can take bigger players off the dribble, and can run the floor in transition. His height and length advantage gives him an advantage in finishing, as he finishes and gets to the line well, accrues dunks and layups at a high rate, and if that is taken away he has the touch to convert short mid-range J’s. He's also very good at drawing fouls, and can finish through contact--only two PFs had higher free throw and AND-1 rates than he did. And this stellar offense is combined with passing that is just as good; he is highly unselfish and is third in pure point rating among centers, sensing cutters well. Overall, he plays one of the most mistake free games on the offensive end of the court, plays a team-oriented game, and converts his chances with high efficiency.
Defense: Gasol is a slightly above average defender—the Lakers were 5.2 ppg better with him on the court. He possesses a good combination of height, length and mobility; the Lakers matched him up against both frontcourt positions, and he played reasonable defense against both types of players. However, in both cases the opposition outrebounded him, and shot reasonably well against him. Gasol’s basketball IQ enhances his defense—he knows how to prevent angles of entry to post players, and when posted up against he can read and react well to the moves of the opposition. Notably he developed a stronger base from the past year, and held his own more, although he can still get overpowered at times. Gasol is also a good rotation defender with his mobility, and can switch off to smaller players if necessary. Interestingly he cut his rate of blocks sharply from last season, and started a transition to playing more fundamental defense—he's reasonable at drawing charges and boxes out to draw some loose ball fouls, and although his rebound rate leaves something to be desired, he plays relatively foul-free defense, a plus for a big man.
Intangibles: His skill level and maintenance of high level of play is a testament to his work ethic over the years, and he is highly dedicated to his country in international competition as well. He has adapted to the Triangle offense well, and he has quelled many of the doubters questioning his toughness with superb play during the 2008-2009 season. Has a quiet fire to him, and is well-liked by teammates.
Future: Gasol is an extremely critical piece for the Lakers, and with his height, shooting ability and skill level, he will age well and continue to play at a high level. He’s still on the right side of 30. So far, there’s only a minor concern about whether his mileage might lead to some injuries.
Projection: Gasol will once again split time between PF and C, even if Andrew Bynum maintains his health over the course of the season; this is because Lamar Odom will most likely have to accrue most of his minutes playing PF. If Bynum has health issues, Gasol might once again be forced to play more minutes, particularly at the center slot. When all is said and done he might get an equal distribution of minutes between both positions, and play about 35 minutes per game for 75+ games.
D.J. Mbenga: Position: C Height: 7’0” Weight: 255 Age: 29 Contract: N/A Nickname: Dacos Years With Team: 3 Years With League: 6 Previous Teams: Dallas, Golden State Acquired: Free Agent '08 Strengths: High energy player, Power dunker, Shotblocking instincts, Good frame for a center, Developing range/shooting touch, Fan favorite Weaknesses: Pathetic rebounder, Poor defender/Foul maniac defensively/plays only for the block, Extremely limited offensively/raw, Turnover prone
Offense: Mbenga has moved his game toward the mid-range area, and he’s actually shown surprisingly decent results—surprising in that even dating to the prior year, he had shown little touch and would sometimes bang the ball hard against the backboard on his shots. Offensively, he has some mechanical pivot moves to free him up for awkward-looking jumpers, and he also has the energy and leaping ability to throw down power dunks. Unfortunately, that’s the only aspect he’s changed or improved on; he still has no low post game, can’t put the ball on the floor and is completely nonelusive, so those are his only two semi-reliable skills offensively. His rawness also leaves him in trouble when put in precarious positions, and a major source of his turnovers comes from offensive fouls or ballhandling problems.
Defense: Mbenga is athletic and long, and attempts to swat anything around him, so he accrued an extremely high rate of blocks in his limited playing time. However, in his attempt to do so, he was also a foul maniac, explaining why he couldn’t stay on the court for long periods of time. That also came with an absence of meat-and-potatoes defensive plays; Mbenga lacks the basketball IQ, even at age 28, to read and react to defenders appropriately, and opponents shot extremely well when matched up against him. More importantly, opponents rebounded extremely well against him—nearly double of Mbenga’s rebound rate, an embarrassment for an athletic 7-footer. He goes for the block every time and doesn’t box out, usually neglecting the rebound. The Lakers were ultimately 9.3 ppg better with him off the court. Intangibles: Mbenga plays an energetic style of game, and his power dunks and constant blocks have endeared himself to many fans. He gives his all on the court by playing his style of game.
Future: Mbenga acts as the Lakers 3rd string center behind Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol (whenever he plays there), and that doesn’t look to change. He’s a good energy player, has a good frame for a center, and blocks shots well, but hasn’t gained any traction in the league because at age 28, his offense is still extremely raw and he only plays for the block on defense. He’ll get spot minutes occasionally but should see most of his time in garbage time, or be on the IR.
Projection: Mbenga's minutes might be cut even further entering this season, if Andrew Bynum is healthy; if that's the case, he might spend most of his time in the IR and only get garbage time minutes on rare occasions. If Bynum has health issues, he might get 7-10 minutes like last year making up at the center slot, but it's unlikely his skillset will garner him any more than that.
Adam Morrison: Position: SF Height: 6’8” Weight: 205 Age: 26 Contract: N/A Nickname: Ammo Years With Team: 2 Years With League: 3 Previous Teams: Charlotte Acquired: Trade involving Vladimir Radmanovic (Feb '09) Strengths: Floater Weaknesses: No real offensive strength/hasn't shown that he can shoot well at the NBA level, Injury problems, Liability defensively, Slow/unathletic, Aloof
Offense: Morrison is a jumpshooter—85% of shots are jumpers—but he needs a definite strength for him to succeed in this role. In terms of his jumpshooting this year, he’s just been an OK mid-range shooter and a passable three point shooter, and looking deeper it seems like he might have some potential in developing the corner three point shot as strength. Will create his own shot from time to time, and can get the shot off without turning the ball over, although hitting that shot is a different question. Morrison is one of the slowest and least athletic SFs in the league, and he struggles to finish around the basket in his rare ventures there; to his credit, he does have a nice floater. Much like his jumpshooting, he’s just a mediocre ballhandler and appears to have just decent court vision.
Defense: Morrison didn’t really play enough to make any sort of impact defensively with the Lakers, but with the Bobcats he’s shown himself to be a real liability on this end; both SFs and PFs have shot and scored well against him with superior rebound rates. He lacks the mentality, footspeed and athleticism to make a difference on this end, and to boot he can’t get into passing lanes either, although he has good height for the position. He’s not the best team defender either--his teams have always been worse with him on the court.
Intangibles: Morrison appears to have an aloof personality, and reports have said that he prefers meddling with the coaching staff instead of with fellow teammates—this might have affected him in an adverse way in the court as well. He was well known for his emotion, work ethic and desire to win in college, and he has been a bit passive with the Lakers, so there has to be some concern about his psyche.
Future: Morrison has a lot going against him—he missed the bulk of last season with injuries, his athleticism is underwhelming, and so far, he hasn’t even proven that he can be one-dimensional in production. His aloof character doesn’t help matters much either. While he may never become an all-around player or dependable defender, there’s some hope that he can develop as a shooter, but that’s just another hurdle; he has been a scorer all through his career, so it might be hard for him to switch his game up from his scoring exploits.
Projection: Morrison will likely fight with Sasha Vujacic for 20 minutes of backup SG and SF minutes, and like Farmar he's also in a contract year. Vujacic, with his familiarity of the Triangle offense and better body of work than Morrison, has the upper hand entering the season. Laker brass seems intent on giving Morrison a chance to play himself into minutes, and if he finds a niche in the offense he could potentially get minutes in the mid-teens. On the other hand, if he doesn't carve a niche for himself, or if he's outplayed by Vujacic, he could just well find himself with single digit minutes and with his decent expiring contract, could find himself trade bait by the deadline.
Lamar Odom Position: PF Height: 6’10” Weight: 230 Age: 30 Contract: $8,200,000 (’10-11); $8,900,000 (’11-12); $8,200,000 (’12-13) (Team Option) Nickname: The Candy Man Yrs With Team: 6 Yrs With League: 11 Previous Teams: L.A. Clippers, Miami Acquired: Trade involving Shaquille O'Neal (July '04) Strengths: Combination of height/mobility/skill level, Overall versatility, Face-up offensive skills/finishing/passing, Rebounding ability, Active/versatile defender, Excellent super-role player Weaknesses: Unpredictable accuracy in perimeter shooting, Some decision-making issues
Offense: Odom is a swiss-knife on offense, with the ability to face up and take players off the dribble with his long strides and good ballhandling ability for his size. Once around the basket, he’s an excellent finisher, and because he’s more rangy than athletic he prefers the running layup to the dunk. However, offensive fouls and bad passes comprise most of his turnovers, so when defenders make him think twice decision making might be an issue. He’s also in the fray for offensive rebounds and will look to score on put-backs as well, and can also run out in transition. He shows above average ability to draw fouls, and finishes through contact extremely well. In terms of perimeter shooting, the left hander is quite unpredictable; he was a mediocre mid-range shooter and passable three point shooter this season, but surprisingly effective from downtown in the playoffs—he makes enough shots to encourage him to keep shooting, but fortunately he realizes that his real strengths are around the basket area. Odom’s passing, for a player his size, is stellar; he’s in the top five in assist ratio and top ten of PFs in pure point rating, and with his ballhandling skills he can bring the ball upcourt and coordinate an offense.
Defense: Odom’s defense is extremely underrated—he was not only in the top 10 of PFs in steals and blocks per game, and the Lakers were an impressive 17.8 ppg better with him on the court. In between that, amongst all Lakers, he was also first in loose ball fouls drawn and second in offensive fouls drawn, although he himself was first in shooting fouls, loose ball fouls and illegal defense violations among Lakers--so he was actively involved in the defense and subsequent rebounding of the play, which he often completed with a defensive rebound rate in the upper half of PFs. Last season, he made the most defensive plays for the Lakers. His swiss-knife game also extends to defense—although the Lakers exclusively used him as a PF, he has the length and lateral quickness to match up against some SFs and more mobile PFs, and his height and base allow him to play good position defense against some post players; he’s also a good team defender, generally outplaying his matchup all across the board.
Intangibles: Well-liked by teammates, and has a laid-back demeanor—seems to have put his past problems well behind him. Never one to really complain, and despite his talents and versatility is willing to put his body in the fray and do the dirty work for the team. In particular, was the one Laker to have to put his ego aside by playing off the bench for the majority of the past season. Has never quite developed into the star some were hoping for, but has adjusted into a fine role player.
Future: Odom’s development is pretty much complete, and he will get the backup minutes behind Ron Artest and Pau Gasol, playing both forward positions, at the start of the season. He has the talent to pretty much start for most other teams, so there’s a small concern about whether he’ll insist for that role down the line. But for now, the primary concern: can he keep up the solid shooting numbers he’s been posting as of late? But even if that doesn’t really hold up, his rebounding, defense, passing and ability to finish shots make him a real asset.
Projection: Odom's skills assure himself of at least half of the backup PF minutes, and even if Andrew Bynum stays healthy, he could still earn 30 mpg in this fashion. If Bynum takes any injury breaks, he could potentially earn more PF minutes as Pau Gasol shifts to center. He'll play 75+ games.
Josh Powell: Position: PF/C Height: 6’9” Weight: 240 Age: 27 Contract: Not on team anymore (Atlanta) Nickname: N/A Years With Team: 2 Years With League: 5 Previous Teams: Dallas, Golden State, Indiana, L.A. Clippers Acquired: Free Agent '08 Strengths: Nice perimeter touch/pick-and-pop weapon, Offensive rebounding/hustle player Weaknesses: Can't put the ball on the floor/lacks low post game, Shot gets altered/blocked around basket frequently, Poor defense/Lacks defensive IQ/ideal build defensively, Handles/forces passes
Offense: Powell equalizes his shot attempts between the basket and the mid-range, and displays great touch on both his short and long mid-range shots, but his offensive efficiency is held back by his finishing ability and turnover problems. Overall, Powell is largely a spot-up player, as all his shots are assisted far more than the average power forward--he excels in this role as well, as he has severe limitations in his low post game and can't put the ball on the floor. Career-wise, his body of work has always suggested that he's a reasonable to good 10-23 foot shooter; in particular, he takes more shots and has shown a very good shooting ability from 10-15 feet, relative to other PFs. His consistently reasonable shooting numbers from long mid-range shots suggests that he can add the three pointer in his arsenal, if he so chooses. His perimeter stroke allows him to be a good weapon in pick-and-pop situations as well. Where Powell struggles somewhat more is with his finishing ability--overall, he's not that bad, but he's always been below the career norms in finishing relative to other PFs. It's quite important because he takes over a third of his shots in the paint, and his problems are several-fold: he's willing, but inconsistent, in his touch from 5-10 feet, so that doesn't optimize his finishing ability. In addition, last year he got blocked extremely often around the basket, and he got he doesn't appear to get to the line very well, or even finish through contact. Aesthetically, he tends to really affected by longer or bigger players, and can end up with some horribly missed shots. To his credit he really hustles hard around the basket—his offensive rebound rate is in the upper half of PFs. Turnovers also tend to be a problem--when forced to put the ball in the floor, he often thinks faster than the play, resulting in strips—he gets many ball-handling turnovers here. He also has a limited view of the court, and tends to force bad passes. Qualitatively, Powell is mobile and athletic, but his girth and height hold him down to a degree, and his decision making leaves a lot to be desired. With his inability to put the ball on the floor and lack of low post game, he needs to be put into positions to succeed by his teammates; otherwise, his offensive game appears to be clumsy. That being said, he's a good cog player, as he's a very good spot-up shooter for a big man, and is active in offensive rebounding.
Defense: Powell often appears overmatched defensively—the Lakers were a whopping 21.8 ppg better with him off the court, and opposing PFs shot a scintillating 55.1% eFG against him, with high scoring and free throw rates. While Powell is mobile and possesses good length and athleticism, he’s not a shotblocker, he’s a bit undersized as a PF (and definitely at center when the Lakers chose to play him there), and he lacks the basketball IQ to tackle more skilled players and the strength and height against power players. In particular, he has a bad habit in jumping at pump fakes, allowing opponents to get him out of position or draw the foul against him. He would be wise to give up his body and draw charges, but of all Lakers, he has the lowest rate in this category--it's not surprising that he made the least defensive plays per 40 minutes last season with the Lakers. However, he does give good effort and is in the thick of it after missed shots; he can box out and draw loose ball fouls on the opposition, but due to the aforementioned limitations he's only an ordinary rebounder.
Intangibles: Powell gives his all on the court when he steps out, even if the limitations are sometimes exposed. He has been praised in practice for his hustle, and works hard.
Future: Powell will get some minutes playing behind Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom at PF, and he’ll also get some situational minutes at center if the need arises. His game is that of a 3rd string center, with his perimeter stroke and offensive rebounding being the primary pluses. He has most likely peaked, but at age 26 with his hustle he’s definitely not a bad stopgap option.
Projection: If the frontcourt stays healthy, Powell will only play garbage time minutes and suffer a decrease in minutes from last season; if Bynum takes an injury break, he might get 7-10 minutes of PF/C utility duty, similar to last year.
Sasha Vujacic Position: SG Height: 6’7” Weight: 205 Age: 26 Contract: $5,475,113 (’10-11) (not with team anymore--New Jersey) Nickname: The Machine Yrs With Team: 6 Yrs With League: 6 Previous Teams: N/A Acquired: 2004 Draft Round 1 (#27) Strengths: Solid to good overall shooting ability with potential to become better, Very willing three point shooter, Eagerness in defensive hounding/drawing notoriety, Motivated/Doesn't back down/exerts effort, Man-to-man defense against SGs, Has adjusted better to being a role player Weaknesses: Very poor team defender/poor overall defensive impact, Streaky shooter/will he ever be a great long range shooter?, Very emotional player/bases his game on effort rather than basketball IQ, Emotion-tied inconsistencies on the court/some spats with own teammates + Nat'l Team
Offense: Vujacic, in less playing time, slightly restructured his offensive game this season, taking more shots off the dribble than usual and shaving off threes in favor for more long twos. Vujacic still lives and dies by the jumper--90% of his shots are jumpers. However, by taking more 16-23 footers off the dribble as opposed to spot up threes, Vujacic has ended up hurting his offensive efficiency--he has proven that he operates best when he takes over half of his shots from three point land, which has happened every year until this year. Vujacic continually splashes hints of very good shooting ability--he's shot well on his mid-rangers over the past three years (including this year), he never misses from the charity stripe, and has teased before with his three point percentage (43.7% in 2007-2008 on a large sample of attempts). If he ever exhibits greater patience, as he's notable for rushing his shot and not always making the best decisions for when to shoot--he can still blossom as a sharpshooter. As it stands, Vujacic is a good spot-up shooter trying to define himself as a spot-up sharpshooter, and while it's not completely necessary given that he's less one-dimensional than most shooters (see defense below), it would a great boost to take his three point shooting to the next level, considering his huge dependence on his jumpshot. With the fact that he's only breached the 40% three point shooting mark only once in his six seasons with the Lakers, his overall shooting has become magnified, as he's shot below 41% in five of his six seasons with the Lakers. In the past, Vujacic has been known for missing a few wide open shots that would lead to momentum shifts for the other team. As with most "sharpshooters", Vujacic rarely ventures within 15 feet of the basket, and while he seems to be a decent finisher (he even slashed off the dribble more this season), he also seems to lack a tear-drop game from 5-15 feet. Over the past two years, Vujacic has helped his cause as a role player by toning his game down—he’s using fewer possessions and has become more unselfish, which is quasi-useful because as a jumpshooter he virtually never turns the ball over. If this patience translates to his shooting, he should be even more useful.
Defense: Vujacic exerts a lot of effort on the defensive side of the court, and his pesky mentality, willingness to move his feet and in-your-face approach can get into the heads of some opposing players. His defensive impact, however, is ultimately quite poor, however, as he's best classified as an "eager beaver" who puts in the effort but doesn't always utilize basketball IQ here. There's potential when he's clicking; last year he actually was quite a good defender, but when unfocused he lapses back into bad defender, even though he's much more of an individual defender-type than team defender. There are pluses, however: his overaggressive approach allows him to steal the ball better than most two-guards, and he's also relatively willing in drawing charges, so he proves capable in making a decent number of defensive plays. Moreover, he's appears to be a very decent man-to-man defender against opposing SGs, being capable of holding down their shooting percentages while increasing their turnovers. He's also capable of playing PG at a pinch here, but with more mixed results. But the major cons are that he ultimately lacks the athleticism and strength to defend the more dynamic wings in the league, and the quickness to defend PGs. Because of that lack of physical tools and his effort-based mentality, he resorts to fouling like a hack often--he's excessively foul prone for a guard, and he's prone to fouling in the backcourt far away from the basket. Finally, he's always struggled severely as a team defender--the Lakers, throughout his career, have almost always been worse defensively with him on the court--and this really drags down his defensive impact severely and illustrates his lack of instincts/fundamentals here. Vujacic is also gaining notoriety for his defensive hounding, as his exaggerated flops, hard fouls and general aggressiveness have made him involved in incidents with higher level players such as Shane Battier, Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, and Rafer Alston--to the point that this reputation may supercede any impact he has on this end of the court. A plus is that Vujacic definitely has more toughness than your prototypical shooter, and while those results can be disputed, he also does hold his own in rebounding among SGs.
Intangibles: Really wants to please the coach and do the right thing, as seen by his effort on the defensive end, but it's becoming increasingly clear that he's not developing in terms of basketball IQ and improving his fundamentals defensively, so his work ethic is actually questionable. He's a highly emotional player who wears his heart on his sleeve, for better or for worse. That same emotion has made him involved with a slew of problems already: he didn't take too well to his decreased minutes this season, he has been involved with opposing teams' players and even intentionally walked into an opposing team's huddle, he has had albeit minor spats with even some Lakers members (DJ Mbenga, Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza) and he has issues in which he was unable to play for Slovenia's National Team despite being one of their better players there. Based on this history, it probably would be better for him to tone it down to adjust to the stresses of a long NBA season. So Vujacic's intangibles are like a paradox; while he's emotional and motivated and that's half the battle, his emotions often get the better of him and he doesn't especially use good decision-making at times on the court because of it.
Future: Sasha so far has been an interesting case of a style over substance player—people who watch him practice say he can shoot, but he has yet to do it with any consistency at all in the league, and his hard working defense can irritate and produce steals, but he hasn’t turned into meaningful team results. A plus is that Vujacic has made inroads with the team concept--he's shooting less and passing more, and it helps that he doesn't turn the ball over either. However, Vujacic is already 26, so at this point his emotions and shooting inconsistency are understood to be a part of his game. He still does have potential to be a useful niche player in the league, as an emotional shooter/man-to-man hound type, a prototype of player that's actually not that common in the league, as most shooters are as one-dimensional as they come. But as stated, he has flaws in both aspects and is not quite there yet in either one, and his emotional inconsistencies/abrasiveness can be a turn off. Vujacic trades off the shooter's awareness/IQ in favor of an emotional, aggressive-based game, for good and for bad. While Vujacic's set shooting and aggressiveness help the Lakers on both ends, his emotional style of game prevents him from making the reads and IQ-requiring plays that the Triangle demands on both ends of the court, and the results show. Overall, The Lakers appear to believe that Vujacic's emotional style of game is problematic as his minutes will be further decreased this season, and between his relatively interesting pros but his more problematic cons, he seems to be an 8th-10th man, depending on his focus.
Projection: Despite his tenure with the Lakers, Vujacic will only scrap for minutes playing as the third string 2-guard behind Shannon Brown, and he'll also scrap for leftover minutes (if any) behind PG Steve Blake. Ultimately, it's hard to see him get playing time, since he only averaged 9 mpg last season already despite not having Blake on the roster, and the Lakers are far more deep this season. Ultimately the Lakers will probably seat him at the IR or DNP him most nights, and as they've aggressively done this summer, try to shop his decent-sized expiring contract by the trade deadline.
Luke Walton: Position: SF Height: 6’8” Weight: 235 Age: 30 Contract: $5,260,000 (’10-11); $5,680,000 (’11-12); $5,800,000 (’12-13) Nickname: Luuuuke Years With Team: 7 Years With League: 7 Previous Teams: N/A Acquired: 2003 NBA Draft Round 2 (#32) Strengths: Court vision/passing ability/unselfishness Weakness: Injury concerns, Deteriorating athleticism/quickness starting to limit his overall game on both ends, Not a scorer/lacks scoring instincts/inconsistent jumper, Individual defensive concerns
Offense: Walton is perhaps the Laker who most personifies the phrase "team player" especially on the offensive end: despite commanding a low usage rate for a small forward, pretty much all of his shots are assisted by another Laker, and he's very active in orchestrating the offense, garnering a high assist ratio for himself. Walton doesn’t look to score, but when he does, he mostly plays from the mid-range in, distributing 80% of his attempts between the paint and mid-range area. Where Walton differentiates himself from other SFs is that he's far more willing in taking shots from 5-15 feet, where he spots up and is a decent shooter from that distance. His percentages start to grow more questionable further out, however, and he'll rarely take three pointers, as he's not effective from long distance with a slow release and consistency problems. Throughout his career with the Lakers, he has been a reliable finisher as well, optimizing this area of his game through his ability to read defenses and make opportunistic cuts, and knowledge of how to use his body--his shots here are assisted far more frequently than the usual SF. However, there's obvious flaws--he'll rarely ever dunk, and he's completely anemic at getting to the free throw line in this fashion. In occasional smallball matchups, Walton tries to be assertive by making post ups against smaller players, where he can use spin moves to get open for protected layups, or make the necessary pass. Walton historically has only shot the ball at a last resort--he's more of a player that tries to blend into the offense by passing first and second before taking the shot. That same passing ability makes him incredibly unique for a 6'8" player; he’s first in assist ratio among SFs, and third in pure point rating. While he doesn’t use many possessions, he’s highly unselfish, willing to orchestrate the Triangle and has good court vision; he often looks for open players or cutters before taking the shot. However, while has reasonable ballhandling ability, but is prone to forcing bad passes in traffic. Walton's offensive punch is starting to become something to monitor--his injuries have affected what little athleticism he already had, as he's taken hits in his finishing ability, usage rate and free throw rate. He's starting to resort more to shooting his ineffective jumper, particularly starting to take more of his very ineffective three pointers. If this continues, his passing ability will be completely negated as he's starting to become more useless on the offensive side of the ball.
Defense: When healthy, Walton's defense is middling, but with his recent back problems (see "Intangibles" below) it's really starting to erode. In the past, he was a decent team defender and while he struggled to keep the scoring rates of opponents down, was passable in man-to-man situations. With declining quickness due to his chronic injuries Walton has seen more time at PF in recent years; while has the strength to play certain PFs, he’s giving up quite a bit of height and athleticism; likewise, against SFs, he can move his feet but lacks the lateral quickness to really play SFs well. He's becoming more of a tweener type defensively as he doesn't match up well at either position, but to his credit he has some willingness to draw charges and is decent at getting into passing lanes.
Intangibles: Of the current roster, Walton has one of the longest tenures with the Lakers, and he understands his niche role well of orchestrating the Triangle and when healthy, he's capable of playing reasonable team defense. He’s well-liked among his teammates as well and with his height and versatility, is extremely favored by coach Phil Jackson, who even jokingly called him "my son" earlier this season. The major concern is the "health" though: he's only played 29 games all of last season, and has had chronic back problems which even led to speculations of retirement, at only age 30. Even if the injuries don't take him out, it's massively affected his overall athleticism, from his aforementioned offensive athletic markers to also a declining rebounding and shotblocking rate, so if the injuries don't take him out his game might, as his offensive and defensive game are shifting towards benchwarmer/12th man type material.
Future: How quickly things change: just a year ago I wrote that Walton was on the right side of 30 and understands his niche role, and his passing ability would help him retain value as a bench player. However, with the injury hit and the reduction in whatever limited athleticism he once had, he's deviating toward his weaknesses by launching ineffective jumpshots. He's still under contract for a while and definitely not worth the money considering his problems and how few minutes he's starting to receive, but can take more of a veteran/leadership role in the sidelines in helping the young Lakers learn the offense.
Projection: Walton is a favorite of Phil Jackson, as mentioned, and will receive some minutes due to Phil's trust in him in keeping the Triangle offense in order, but it's increasingly harder to justify giving minutes to him with his injury proneness and its subsequent affectations to his game. With Matt Barnes in the fold, he'll probably have to play some more PF minutes, especially with the Lakers in a bind for big man minutes, but largely with his ineffectiveness he'll most likely be relegated to garbagetime or be in the IR most of the time.
Excellent report, thanks for taking the time to write out all of this great analysis
"When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it." - Frederic Bastiat
Artest: it's nice to see someone pointing out his passing. He's really an all-around skilled player. He may not dribble as well as Odom, but he's a better decision-maker and a solid passer. Defensively, his numbers were VERY good compared to SF defenders when he was off the court. He basically outperformed other Rockets at SF in every way imaginable. My favorite stats were that opponents shot 3% lower eFG% and their AST/TO ratio vs. Artest was 2.6/2.7 compared to 3.2/2.6 overall. Artest really takes people out of their game.
Its like Dr. Buss is guarding the Celtic rim this second half. Nothings dropping
Mickael Gelabale: (CUT) Position: SF Height: 6’7” Weight: 215 Age: 26 Contract: Make-good contract (money dependent on making the team) Nickname: JellyBelly Years With Team: 0 Years With League: 2 Previous Teams: Seattle/Oklahoma City Acquired: Free Agent '09 Strengths: Solid defense, Improving shot, Finishing ability Weaknesses: Injuries have massively affected overall athleticism, Questionable shooting ability/range, Durability
Offense: Gelabale's game went through a total makeover as a result of his injuries (see "Intangibles" comment below)--in his second season in Seattle, he became more of a jumpshooter. The problem is he's probably not good enough to live this way--he appears to lack deep range of his jumper, thus precluding him from shooting more threes, and is a poor to mediocre mid-range shooter, at best. That being said, he did improve his jumper that second season, making some gains in his mid-range shooting and surprisingly even hitting 43% of his threes, albeit in a small sample space; two things here are in his favor: that year he also created his own shot more, and he's a good free throw shooter, so there's more confidence in his improvement because of that. Gelabale's offensive bread-and-butter is his finishing ability, with his athleticism and length; the problem is, this part of his game has suffered the most with his injuries, as he's sharply reduced his slashes, shot a worse percentage around the basket, and will pretty much never get to the line anymore. This has forced him to play with and improve the less effective parts of his offensive arsenal, but he appears to lack both a good shot and good range; there's hope that his shot can improve further after the gains in the 2nd season, though. Offensively he's merely a decent offensive roleplayer, at best; he only carries an average scoring rate for a wingman, his passing is more in line with SFs, and he struggles to handle the ball, as ballhandling problems are the root of his turnovers.
Defense: Gelabale logs minutes guarding shooting guards and small forwards defensively, and it appears that he's better defending small forwards. He's a decent, but not great, defender, as he's quite average in holding down the shooting of opponents, but he's also reasonable in holding down the rebound rates of fellow wing players; he plays contain defense and rarely gambles, as his steal rate is extremely low for a wing player, although he's a decent shotblocker for his size. His rebounding is more in line with SGs, but a positive indicator for him is that the Sonics/Thunder have been better with him on the court.
Intangibles: Seems to have a laid-back demeanor, and innocuous in the locker room. Seems to have a competitive edge, playing for the French national team and saying the right things in fighting for a roster spot in Laker training camp. However, he appears to have some injury problems, suffering through an ACL tear in the 2007-2008 season with the Thunder, which was most likely the reason why he wasn't in the league last season; this has really affected his game as he's relied far less on his athleticism by diverting into jumpshooting--his rebound rate and free throw rate sank like a stone in his second year, and he exhibited similar problems during his tenure with the Lakers' farm team, the D-Fenders, when trying to make his comeback in 2009.
Future: Gelabale is starting to lose some of his intrigue--he's still relatively young and is not too far removed from showing glimpses of his past athleticism, but if his second year with Seattle is any indication about how severe the injuries have dampened that athleticism, then he's probably only an end-of-bench type NBA player, at best. With his best offensive attribute of finishing taken away from him, he's shown slight ability to possibly become a shooter, but those numbers on the other hand might also be a fluke, given his career three point shooting numbers. His height and now-smooth athleticism coupled with solid defense at this point might carry more intrigue than his offense, but again, he's not great enough in this area to really make a living off it. Most importantly is the issue of his injuries--he really lost quite a few athletic markers, as noted above, and became even more of a jumpshooter in the aftermath, and that really lessens the intrigue surrounding his athleticism; in addition, the potential for more injuries might occur as well.
Projection: Gelabale is fighting for what will ultimately end up as the 13th roster spot on the Laker roster; however, the odds are quite slim that he'll make the roster, as the Laker backup swings have long and/or big contracts so if Gelebale impresses the Lakers, Laker brass would have to resort to a potential trade. He's reasonably talented enough to make the roster spot, but there are many question marks; most likely he'll goad other Laker swings to play better to maintain their hierarchy in the roster.
Thanks for the report on Gelabale. Although I tend to disagree about whether or not he makes the team. Keep in mind this guy was a starter before his injury, and he (like Trevor, Shannon and now Artest) has said that his focus is defense when coming to LA. He seems to fit the mold of the last two role players the Lakers have made great use of in Shannon and Trevor. I hope he does make the squad and can show that decent three point shot.
If he can show improvement at the three and a pension for defense, he could edge out Sasha for a spot on the team. Especially if Sasha continues to struggle.
When it comes down to it, at the very least : He's cheap, he would be a decent pickup against injuries and he seems to have the willingness to push meaning others would have to step up as well.
therealdeal wrote:Thanks for the report on Gelabale. Although I tend to disagree about whether or not he makes the team. Keep in mind this guy was a starter before his injury, and he (like Trevor, Shannon and now Artest) has said that his focus is defense when coming to LA. He seems to fit the mold of the last two role players the Lakers have made great use of in Shannon and Trevor. I hope he does make the squad and can show that decent three point shot.
If he can show improvement at the three and a pension for defense, he could edge out Sasha for a spot on the team. Especially if Sasha continues to struggle.
When it comes down to it, at the very least : He's cheap, he would be a decent pickup against injuries and he seems to have the willingness to push meaning others would have to step up as well.