Posted Jul 23 2012 3:30PM - Updated Jul 23 2012 4:27PM
The Los Angeles Lakers actually won one more playoff game in Mike Brown's first season as head coach than they did in Phil Jackson's last. But really, the Lakers took a big step backward last season.
Though they tied for the league's sixth-best record and won a playoff series, they had just the 13th-best point differential in the regular season. And only three teams regressed more on a per-possession basis from the previous year.
Most regressed per possession from 2010-11
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
The Lakers regressed almost as much as the Hornets, who traded First Team All-NBA point guard Chris Paul and only got nine games out of Eric Gordon, the best player they got back in the trade. The Lakers, of course, got nothing in return for Lamar Odom in a trade that went down three days before the Paul deal.
While Odom was the Lakers' sixth man for the previous three years, they were much better with him on the floor than with him on the bench. And though Andrew Bynum is the bigger presence in the paint, Odom had a bigger defensive impact.
Lakers efficiency with Odom on the floor, 2008-09 through 2010-11
Odom's plus-9.3 NetRtg was the best of any Laker over those three seasons, better than Bynum (plus-6.8), Pau Gasol (plus-8.0) or Kobe Bryant (plus-9.0). And when it came to their three bigs, the Lakers were best offensively (112.2 points scored per 100 possessions) with Odom and Gasol on the floor together, and best defensively (98.4 points allowed per 100 possessions) with Odom and Bynum on the floor.
Odom is long gone, of course, now joining Paul down the hall at Staples Center. And we can only guess about what kind of season he would have had last year had he not been traded. We do know that he was awful in Dallas.
Eight months later, the Lakers used the trade exception they received in the Odom deal to acquire Steve Nash. So basically, if you can forget the 2011-12 season, it was a one-for-one swap.
Nash, we know, will give the Lakers an offensive boost.
From 2001-02 through 2009-10, for nine seasons with two different franchises (Dallas and Phoenix), Nash's team led the league in offensive efficiency. It was an incredible run that included the 2005-06 season, which Amar'e Stoudemire missed, and the 2008-09 season, when Shaquille O'Neal supposedly bogged down the offense.
The Suns ranked ninth offensively in 2010-11 and eighth last year, but they were still much, much better offensively with Nash on the floor (109.1 points scored per 100 possessions) than with him on the bench (99.3) over those two seasons.
Furthermore, in his last eight seasons with the Suns, Nash played at least 600 minutes with 17 different teammates. And 13 of the 17 were more efficient scorers (in regard to true shooting percentage) with Nash on the floor than with Nash on the bench. And three of the five players who had the biggest efficiency boost were shooting guards: Leandro Barbosa (+0.093), Jason Richardson (+0.088) and Vince Carter (+0.073).
*True shooting percentage = Points / (2 * (FGA + (0.44 * FTA)))
That bodes well for Bryant, whose true shooting percentage has dropped pretty dramatically over the last five years, from a career high of 0.580 in 2006-07 to a career low of 0.527 last season. As he's aged, he's become a less-efficient scorer.
Bryant's usage rate has also risen each of the last four seasons. So even though he's been less efficient, the ball has been in his hands more. And the hope for the Lakers is that the addition of Nash both lowers Bryant's usage rate and increases his efficiency.
Of course, Nash isn't likely to help on the other end of the floor. Over the last nine seasons, the highest a Nash team has ranked in defensive efficiency is 13th. The addition of Antawn Jamison isn't going to help the defense either.
Brown is a great defensive coach, who had a top-seven defensive team in three of his last four seasons in Cleveland. But he clearly wasn't able to overcome the loss of Odom last season. In a year when the league's overall efficiency dropped 2.6 points per 100 possessions, the Lakers were one of five teams who actually allowed more points per possession than they did the previous season.
The Lakers ranked 13th defensively last year. And over the last 30 years, only five teams who have ranked 13th or lower in defensive efficiency have made The Finals.
So while Nash will give them a boost offensively, the Lakers also need to find a way to get back to playing top-10 defense, despite the continued absence of the guy who helped them most on that end of the floor.
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