Lakers Quarter Season Check-In
Twenty games into the 2017-18 season, the Lakers sit at 8-12, which has them a single game out of the eighth playoff spot (Utah, 9-11). That feels a bit worse, though, since they’re about to hit the roughest patch of the season, with Golden State on the schedule three times in the next 10 games, not to mention Houston (twice) and Cleveland.
Sure, Luke Walton and his coaches may feel like they “could” or “should” be at .500, having lost close games in which they held late fourth-quarter leads at Portland in early November, or at the Clippers on Monday. Of course, you “could” have been in the NBA if you one foot taller, right? (Or is that just me?)
Part of why the Lakers struggled in crunch time in those games is because of their inexperience. Not only are they playing a ton of young guys – three rookies and 20-year-old Brandon Ingram are key rotation pieces – but they’ve rarely been in games close enough to figure out what they want to do and how they want to do it.
Case in point: out of 20 games, only three final scores have been under a five-point margin (Oct. 20 @ PHX, 132-130; Oct. 25 vs. WAS, 102-99; Nov. 2 @ POR, 113-110). As such, it’s little surprise that the Lakers looked disjointed last night in crunch time.
To get a better sense of where the Lakers are, overall, 20 games into the season, we took a look at where they rank compared to the rest of the NBA on both ends of the spectrum, and had Joey Ramirez offer an individual advanced stat for each player currently in the rotation.
1st) Points in the Paint: 54.6
1st) Opponent 3-Point Percentage: 32.6%
1st) Contested Shots: 71.3
2nd) Fastbreak Points: 15.2
3rd) Blocks: 5.9
4th) Bench Points Per Game: 41.1
6th) Defensive Efficiency: 101.6
7th) Second Quarter Points Per Game: 28.8
12th) Assists: 22.8
12th) Steals: 8.2
17th) Rebound Rate: 50.0%*
22nd) Effective Field Goal Percentage: 50.3%
23rd) First Quarter Points Per Game: 25.1
25th) Net Rating: -3.54
26th) Assist-to-Turnover Ratio: 1.323
28th) Offensive Efficiency: 99.6
29th) Turnovers: 17.2
29th) 3-Pointers Made Per Game: 8.2
30th) Free throw Percentage: 70.3%
30th) 3-Point Percentage: 31.3%
*The Lakers are actually fourth in total rebounds per game, but rebound rate reflects the number of available rebounds collected.
PLAYER ADVANCED STATS
Lonzo Ball: Ranks fourth in the NBA in passes made (63.7).
• We knew before Ball played his first NBA game that he was an exceptional passer who’d likely be amongst the league’s assists leaders, and he’s 7th thus far with his 7.1 per game. That doesn’t account for the effect his willingness to pass has on teammates, which L.A.’s coaches say has just as big of an impact. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: Comes in seventh in the NBA in deflections (3.1) and 10th in fast-break scoring (3.6).
• These two stats are, of course, related, as KCP’s ability to get his hands on passes results in transition opportunities going the other way. He loves to pull up in transition for 3’s, for which Luke Walton has granted him a green light.
• Ingram’s really developed his driving game, and resulting drive-and-kick game that works when teams over-help on said drives (partly responsible for his 4.2 assists per game over the past two weeks). His combination of length, handle and ability to read the defense has helped him get all the way to the hoop an increasing amount, and his improved strength from his rookie year has helped him finish through contact. Larry Nance Jr.: Leads team in true shooting percentage (63.8).
• While this is a good stat for Nance, Jr., it also shows L.A.’s shooting woes in general, as true shooting percentage incorporates field goals, 3’s and free throws. Nance, Jr. is hitting 60.9 percent of his shots and 72.7 percent of his free throws, while missing his only two 3-pointers. Kuzma, Randle and Clarkson are 2-3-4 on that list. Brook Lopez: Contests a league-high 14.9 shots per game.
• Lopez is a key reason why the Lakers rank third in the NBA in blocks and first in contested shots through 20 games. Julius Randle: In the NBA’s 92nd percentile of pick-and-roll roll men, converting 26-of-39 attempts towards 1.38 points per possession.
• Randle has been excellent in these situations (often paired with both Lonzo Ball and Jordan Clarkson), ranking 2nd out of 28 eligible players behind only Clint Capela. Opponents are typically forced to either foul Randle or see him finish typically going to his left, though he is good for at least one charge per game. Kyle Kuzma: Has shot 26/37 on drives, including 16/19 on driving layups.
• Kuzma has a wide variety of floaters, hooks, leaners and runners that he deploys en route to the hoop, most of which have been going in this season, a nice cap on an already complete offensive arsenal for a 22-year-old rookie.
• Clarkson’s improved considerably from last season on his pull-up J’s, as he shot 55 percent in 2016-17. He’s up to 66.7 percent thus far, making him dangerous from all over the court. Josh Hart: Has shot 11-for-16 within five feet of the hoop (but 5/25 from the rest of the floor).
• Hart is a really good cutter off the ball, and many of those 11 makes have come off baseline darts to the rim. And while he’s struggled to make shots from elsewhere, the sample size is so small that KCP took more shots against the Clippers on Monday (28).
• Brewer only plays at one pace, and that’s crazy fast. He’s constantly flying around on both ends of the floor, which is selectively helpful depending on the opponent and whether or not he’s able to infect his team with said pace. Andrew Bogut: Leads team in defensive rating (96.0).
• Bogut was acquired for his defense, and he remains a daunting presence at the rim who also clears a ton of space for clean rebounds. Teams haven’t really tried to target him directly in screen/roll situations to get him out of the paint in his limited minutes (106 total).