Laker Film Room Classic: Kobe Locks Up Iverson

In a recent article for The Players’ Tribune, Kobe Bryant discussed his obsession with Allen Iverson, particularly after he dropped 41 on him in a previous game. Kobe studied his every move to gain an advantage. At halftime of the Lakers’ visit to Philadelphia on February 20th, 2000, Iverson had 16 points in the first half while mostly being defended by Derek Fisher, with Kobe in foul trouble.

Phil Jackson gave Kobe the assignment to shut down AI. In this debut episode of Laker Film Room Classic, I take a look at what happened next.

Jayson Tatum Scouting Report

By: Mike Garcia

Source: http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Jayson-Tatum-7249/ ©DraftExpress

Size comparison: Aaron Gordon.

Aaron Gordon was listed at 6’8.75” with shoes, 220 lbs, with a 6’11.75” wingspan and an 8’9” standing reach at the 2014 NBA draft combine. While Gordon was roughly 15 lbs. heavier at the time of measurement, they do have similar frames, wingspan, and standing reach.

General Athleticism: I like to breakdown athleticism into multiple categories: directional quickness (first step), lateral quickness, sprint speed, vertical ability, reflexes/timing, and strength.

In terms of athleticism, Jayson Tatum is a slightly above average athlete. He doesn’t have breakaway speed or quickness. When he attacks the basket off the dribble, the defender is right there at his hip. Whether it was a PF or SF matchup in the half court, he uses a skill move to gain an advantage on the defender, instead of relying on a great first step. In terms of explosiveness, it only shows in breakaway space, as Tatum is the classic “smooth” athlete in the open floor, but also quick in tight spaces when it comes to using jab steps or a combination of triple threat/isolation fundamentals.

Tatum does have good lateral agility, and it shows when he switches onto wings defensively. However, because his footwork and stance aren’t consistent, he is still prone to being beaten off the dribble by quicker wings.

His footwork and coordination are underrated aspects of his athleticism, and while that, unfortunately, doesn’t show on the defensive end, to his credit, he doesn’t trip over his own feet when using his best skill on offense: creating shots in isolation.

Tatum has solid speed in the open court. He is able to explode up for a dunk when he sets his mind to it and chops up his steps. When he uses longer strides, whether it’s in transition or the half court, he loses a lot of ability to generate explosiveness, but perhaps that could be helped with NBA training.

His strength is average at best. He does get pushed around a touch by NCAA power forwards, and that’ll be further exposed at the NBA level. Still, Tatum does have a frame that should be able to support added weight fairly easily.


 


Offensive Skill Set

Per Game Table
Season FG% 3P% FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PTS
2016-17 .452 .342 .849 7.3 2.1 1.3 1.1 2.6 16.8
Career .452 .342 .849 7.3 2.1 1.3 1.1 2.6 16.8

Painted Area: Despite Tatum’s lack of “elite” athletic ability, one-third of his total shots are at the rim, where he converts at a 62% rate. Only 29.3% of his shots at the rim are assisted, which gives an indication about his shot creating ability.

He tends to finesse shots at the rim, especially considering that his attacks come from different angles, not straight lines down the middle to the hoop.

Mid-range to Long 2: This is where Tatum excels. If there is one absolute NBA translatable skill in his arsenal, it’s his Isolation footwork to create a shot. 34.8% of his total shots are from 3’ to 21’. While it’s regarded as a low PPP shot, he shot better than fellow Duke guards Grayson Allen and Frank Jackson from this range, converting on 39.4%. Perhaps even more impressively, only 12% of these shots are assisted.

While those are good numbers to think about, what is even more impressive is how he creates those shots. These aren’t typical catch and shoot or pull-up shots off the dribble. Jayson Tatum finished in the top 99th percentile at the NCAA level for post scoring. His operating spaces on the floor are the exact same spaces where Kobe Bryant used to operate. The midrange areas along the baselines, the corners, and around the top of the key, all look like his go-to spots.

Two games stick out for me when it comes to Jayson Tatum. There’s his game against Florida, where we see a snippet of some great footwork with a midrange fadeaway jumper against Canyon Barry, and another shimmy, left-hand dribble, pull up shot from midrange. This is Tatum out of high school for a December 6, 2016 game.

 

Then, there’s his game against Virginia. Here he played a more modern style of basketball with more catch and shoot opportunities behind the arc. He hit 6 of 7. But, when Duke needed him to create shots behind the arc, he was their #1 option, and hit 2 dagger shots off of Iso creation.

 

 

3-point Range: Right now, he is a streaky shooter. For roughly about a month, from February into March, he was getting different looks at the hoop, especially in terms of catch and shoot volume. At one point, his 3-point percentage rocketed from 34% to 39% in a short string of games. Unfortunately, he finished at 34.1% for the season. Like I said, he’s streaky, but if free throw percentage is a future predictor of 3-point shooting, he has great potential. He has a high release point, a comfortable shot form, and shot 84.9% for the season.
Playmaking: Earlier in the season, Tatum played as if there were no other teammates on the floor. It was only Jayson Tatum and the hoop. As the season progressed, Tatum added subtle playmaking skills, usually in the form of 1-2 dribble drives to draw in the defense, and kick out to Luke Kennard or Grayson Allen.  In January, he averaged 1.75 assists on 3.375 turnovers per game. In February, it jumped up to 2.8 assists to 2.25 turnovers per game. While it’s not the most outstanding number, it is a reflection of how his style of play adapted midseason, and he showed tremendous improvement with it.

Advanced Table
Season School PER
TS% eFG% 3PAr FTr ORB% DRB% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG% OBPM DBPM BPM
2016-17 Duke 22.0 .566 .507 .321 .381 4.8 19.7 12.6 12.4 2.3 3.2 15.0 26.2 3.5 4.1 7.5


Defensive Skill Set

Right now, he’s getting by on physical tools and some fundamentals. Defending post players is a bit out of the question, especially at his listed 204lb. weight. Unlike Aaron Gordon, he doesn’t compensate with great footwork or defensive motor.

When Tatum switches onto other wings or guards, especially on pick and rolls, it seems like there’s a 50/50 chance he’ll be successful. He has the athleticism to contest shots, but that athleticism goes to waste if he doesn’t play as engaged, carries an upright stance, or properly moves his feet laterally.

What catches players off guard is his ability to contest jump shots. Down the line, he may be a bit more foul prone, as he is surprisingly adept at blocking a few shots from the perimeter, and in the paint. He’s not the most disciplined defender, and like most young basketball players plays defense with his wingspan and reach instead of position and footwork.

Considering his athletic tools, he is capable of being a solid team defender. He may surprise with the occasional steal or blocked shot, but it doesn’t come naturally to him. What is critical is the foot speed to keep up with small forwards and some strength to keep up with some power forwards, while maintaining the ability to switch defensively on pick and roll. That would be enough to keep him on the floor without being a total liability.


Rebounding: In terms of rebounding, he is solid at best. He’s not the type to chase down rebounds, however, much like Julius Randle, he has a solid defensive rebound rate (19.7% to 24.7%), and loves to push into early transition after a rebound. His offensive rebound rate is below average, at just 4.8%. Some of that has to do with his isolation shot creation, and some has to do with shot selection, with 1/3rd of his shots coming behind the arc, and another 1/3rd from midrange.


Conclusion

When I watch Jayson Tatum, I think of three words, “Paul George touches.” When I watch PG13 highlights against Tatum’s highlights, I can’t help but see the similarity in shot creation and shot selection. George is certainly smoother off the dribble and a better finisher at the hoop, while Tatum is just more advanced in terms of footwork. Ideally, he would become a legitimate scoring option, a go-to-guy, as he has shown for Duke throughout the season.

There are some issues that he’s a tweener, and that he lacks a degree of athleticism to play small forward. He’s still young, and while he lacks tremendous twitch, he is able to make plays on both ends of the floor. That’s a testament to his skill level and IQ. He’s certainly not a slouch, and frankly, I don’t see how his athleticism is too far different from Caron Butler in his heyday or Trevor Ariza now. The difference is, there’s still room to grow.

Some may think of him as Markieff Morris or Tobias Harris. These comparisons surprise me, but while I see some similarity in terms of athletic ability and size, I don’t recall either guy being a great shot creator. Markieff Morris shot insanely as a junior; 62.5% 2-point and 40.4% 3-point at Kansas. Tobias Harris, on the other hand, never really showed off-the-dribble Isolation shooting or step-back fadeaways during his tenure at the University of Tennessee. If anything, I think these are worst-case scenarios.

So, what is the best-case scenario? Tatum could be a 4/3 that could defend pick and roll solidly, provide a limited level of rim protection and defensive rebounding, but become an absolute nightmare on the offensive end. He can push into early offense off of a defensive rebound. He can spot up behind the arc off of guard creation. He can go to his corners and create a solid percentage look in isolation. His offensive abilities lean-to a guy that should be a 20-point per game scorer for his career. His most underrated ability is the guard-like skill of shooting off the dribble at a frontline position. The fact that he showed success in a modern NBA style while being a 2nd or even a 3rd option on offense behind Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard shows that his talent can be flexible into different styles as well.

There’s tremendous value in a 20 ppg player at a front-line position who can score at all three levels.

2016-2017 in Review: A Tale of Two Teams

By: VP Sinha

 

Question: Can You Guess Who These Players Are?

 

Player 1 – 13 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists per 36 minutes, on 53% TS% (39% from 3).

Player 2 – 6.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists per 36 minutes, on 35% TS% (17% from 3).

 

As you may have guessed, this is a trick question. Player 1 and Player 2 are the same player – Luol Deng. That first stat line isn’t from his time in Miami; it’s what Deng put up playing without Jordan Clarkson in 872 minutes this season. The latter encapsulates Deng’s pitiful performance next to Clarkson in 614 minutes this season, and the trend holds steady no matter the month. Deng struggled in November (44.7% TS% without Clarkson), was excellent in December (62.9% TS%), and was decent in 2017 through his deactivation (53.0% TS%). But consistently, Deng played considerably worse next to Clarkson. He posted TS% of 33.3%, 38.2%, 34.5%, respectively, while sharing the court with JC. The stability of these numbers through Deng’s peaks and valleys suggests a fundamental incompatibility of these two players.

Jordan Clarkson Luol Deng

If you look at the breakdown, you’ll note that Deng’s usage drops to a laughably low 11.9% next to Clarkson.

Who the hell is going to stay in a rhythm when you’re hardly touching the ball?

 


 

If we extrapolate from Clarkson’s play style, we could infer Deng doesn’t work well with Clarkson’s heavy ball-pounding ways. Deng prefers to spot up and maybe attack the closeout, but the weak side might as well not exist to Clarkson. This means Deng can’t get into a rhythm, so the shots that he gets end up bricking, which reinforces Clarkson’s do-it-all mentality

Compare these numbers to Deng’s numbers playing with Lou Williams instead of Jordan Clarkson. Williams was also a ball pounder, but he was a far more dangerous scorer who commanded more attention from defenses, and he had better vision in kicking out to shooters. In relatively limited minutes (109) with Williams and without Clarkson, Deng’s usage actually rose to 15.2% from 14.2% on the season, and his TS% was a scorching 72.1%. That number would go down in a larger sample size, of course. But because Williams would at least spoon feed Deng good looks, his ball-pounding didn’t have quite the same deleterious effects on Deng’s shooting percentages.

This contrast highlights an essential truth that people too often gloss over about the NBA: fit matters.

It matters a lot. Deng has been ostensibly terrible nearly all season, and yet it turns out he’s actually been more or less the guy we wanted, even as he’s played at a suboptimal position all season (he’s a 4, not a 3). Deng is not close to a star, but he plays solid defense, he is a passable shooter (especially at the 4 and if we discount his horrible November), and more importantly, he understands how to play offense and defense. He doesn’t muck things up, and that has its own value, but he needs to be spoon fed shots in rhythm. It turns out Clarkson doesn’t do that in his freeform style of play, so Deng is flat out terrible next to Clarkson. This brings me to the main point.

 


 

The Lakers’ 2016-2017 woes boiled down to a fundamental incongruity in roster construction.

The unit of D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young, Luol Deng, Julius Randle, and Timofey Mozgov posted +6.0 net rating in 406 minutes.

Starting Lineup Data

 

You know that Trail Blazers team that looked revitalized after acquiring Jusuf Nurkic (13-3 in March)? Their starting unit with Nurkic posted a +6.2 net rating in 229 minutes, and this is later in the season when opposing teams have begun resting or blatantly tanking. There are caveats with the Lakers’ +6.0 net rating – most notably, when they weren’t playing well, Luke would pull at least one of their starters, and so you can argue the starters have an artificially bloated net rating, but that’s beside the point. A +6.0 net rating is on par with a starting lineup that helped the Blazers go 13-3 in March, and even if it’s bloated by a few points or so, that’s incredible for the starting lineup of a roster that won 26 games.

The original bench unit of Clarkson, Williams, Ingram, Larry Nance, Jr., and Black was even better, putting up a +7.9 net rating in 196 minutes together. However, that lineup played a completely different style compared to the structured offense and defense that the starters played. Offensively, they ran far more early offense sets or just high ball screens to get Williams and Clarkson looks on offense, with Nance and Black running cleanup duty. Defensively, the frontcourt supplied plenty of speed and length to cover up mistakes from the backcourt. In response, the backcourt opportunistically jumped passing lanes or otherwise picked pockets at elite rates: Clarkson’s 3.3% STL% and Williams’ 2.5% would outpace a duo of, say, Chris Paul (3.0%) and Kawhi Leonard (2.7%) on that front.  We get the sense of a far more improvisational unit than the methodical starters, which worked well for that group’s talents.

But therein lies the problem. The minute these two units mixed they were disastrous, with few exceptions. For example, replace Ingram for Deng on the starters and you get a -32 net rating in 63 minutes.

When you are essentially running two different systems on the same team, is it a surprise the mixed units fared poorly? 

The Lakers lost quite a few games in November because these mixed lineups were horrible, especially the Nance/ Randle small ball lineup (-11.2 net rating on the season).

When injuries struck in December and these units were forced to intermingle, the Lakers plummeted in the standings. In Luke Walton’s defense, he recognized this shortcoming. People might remember his desperate attempts in December to preserve that bench 5 together even as the starters faced injuries to Russell and Young. This included starting Calderon and Huertas or starting Ingram and letting him play nearly 40 mpg to play with both units. Some were calling for his head for not starting Clarkson earlier, but the lineup data suggests it was the right move. 

 


 

The Lakers picked Walton to install a modern offense, specifically one in the vein of Golden State, San Antonio, and Utah, as opposed to the fast-paced, gunning style of Mike D’Antoni. They overpaid veterans to help implement the offensive and defensive systems – and the plan worked! Russell has the poise and feel of a veteran, and Young, Deng, and Mozgov are, for all their warts, experienced players. People bag on the Deng and Mozgov signings, and I get that their contracts are terrible and that their individual production was underwhelming. But it is also true that they, especially Deng, were crucial components to a core group that outperformed other starting units at a pretty significant rate, and that this unit only improved as the season went on. The starting 5 posted a +3.2 through November, +6.5 in December, and +9.5 in 2017.

What’s more intriguing is the four-man unit of Russell-Young-Deng-Mozgov was quite good no matter who the fifth guy was, except when it’s Clarkson. Russell’s steady play with this group of veterans particularly merits notice: in 494 minutes, he averaged, per-36 minutes, 21.8 points (on 57% TS%), 5.3 rebounds, and 7.6 assists (to 3.7 turnovers) while solely orchestrating the offense. The unit played even better if we replace Randle with anyone besides Clarkson. Those lineups were +16.1 net rating in 89 minutes, with an elite defensive rating of 95.6. The only time this unit crashed was using Clarkson as the fifth guy, where in 15 minutes they put up a -82.4 net rating. Yes, that’s a small sample size, but it’s not trivial given how hugely negative that net rating is. But again, given Clarkson’s play style, is it a surprise that the structured starters would be so ineffective with him?

As we look back on the data from the 2016-2017 season and look forward to the type of system that Luke looks to install, we can see clearly that trading Williams was undoubtedly the right move. Lou was brilliant for us, but he was almost too good. He ended up breaking Luke’s system and running a lot of high ball screen type actions instead, and he inspired some selfishness in Clarkson’s game as well. The Lakers should look to form a coherent roster, where all the players run mostly the same system and there aren’t huge stylistic shifts as one player is substituted for another. In this regard, Deng and Mozgov are necessarily the liabilities people think they are, at least on the court. Yes, they aren’t world beaters, but they can play supporting roles in absolutely functional lineups. (A digression, but this is why I’m skeptical of Brewer and Nwaba as rotation players on the team next season. They might be thriving in these energetic, defense-leads-to-offense type lineups, but their inability to shoot from the 2 or 3 will sabotage attempts to run Luke’s playbook.)

 

Williams was the biggest culprit in terms of stylistic conflicts, and while he was our best player, he also masked some roster construction issues that need to be fixed. With Lou gone, we can build a proper lineup for Walton.

 

But there is still a glaring question to be answered.

 

What Should The Lakers Do With The 2014 Draft Class? 

 

First, there’s Clarkson. I have to confess that I’ve grown skeptical of where Clarkson fits in on the Lakers moving forward. His absolute best stretch of games was two years ago now, where he thrived running simplified high pick and rolls.

Can that translate into the sets and principles that Walton is trying to establish in LA?

His decision making has improved as he’s gotten away from Lou’s shadow, reflected by his ATR as a starter rising to 1.5, from 1.2 as a reserve, though he was abysmal scoring the ball (16.1 points per 36 on 49.5% TS%). His 3-point stroke is inconsistent and subpar for a guard, and he forces shots near the rim because he misses the reads. Stylistically, he’s a bench 2, which is complicated by the fact that defensively, he’s probably best guarding the 1.

Can he rein in his shot-happy tendencies? Can the Lakers find an appropriate backcourt partner for him on the bench?

A more nuanced question awaits Randle. Randle is an interesting spot where the starters were pretty good with him, and the original bench lineup was pretty good with him. He has shown plenty of improvement this season, and a consistent 3-ball might be a game changer. But both the starters and the bench were better with other players, which explains why he’s at #67 on ESPN’s RPM for power forwards (for comparison’s sake, Nance is at #23). Small ball lineups with Randle at the 5, or with Nance and Randle together, have mostly been terrible. His defensive awareness is perhaps the worst on the roster, and lurking in the background is his looming contract extension. Randle is not a league average starter yet, but he stuffs the box score and someone is going to pay him a lot because of it. Will Randle be able to outperform the contract he earns next summer?

As the Lakers’ Front Office looks to evaluate the state of the roster, I can only hope that they identify these positive takeaways in the midst of all the negatives. Smart management means amplifying the good and mitigating the bad. This season was as much a consequence of intra-roster incoherence as an indictment on the performance of our individual players per se. That isn’t to say that we don’t need more talent – we certainly need more talent – but you can see the foundations of an overachieving team hidden somewhere in the rubble of this past season. Despite question marks about Randle and especially Clarkson, we can see how some of the major core pieces of the Lakers’ roster fit together, even the much-maligned and overpaid 2016 free agent acquisitions. Perhaps Magic and Pelinka should consider staying the course set out this season and making incremental changes with an eye on roster coherence, instead of effecting sweeping changes.

Post All-Star Game Offensive Numbers

By: Cranjis McBasketball

 


Closing the Season Strong

In a season without too many W’s in games, the Lakers most important wins this season have come in player development. The young players have made strides under Luke Walton and his staff, and it’s paid off with 3 wins in a row.

To take a look at exactly how the young guys have played since the All-Star break, I’ve listed their offensive points per possession (PPP) and the percentile that PPP places them versus the rest of the NBA for both before and after the break, so we can see the trend each player has taken.

Note: If a player is in the 70th percentile, that means that he’s performed better than 70% of the NBA

As an added bonus, I’ve also included a player comparison that has had that same PPP for this season.


Ivica Zubac

Trend: More Up than Larry on a Dunk

Pre ASG

PPP: 0.900

Percentile: 35th

Comparable Player: Anthony Brown (!?!)

Post ASG

PPP: 1.027

Percentile: 77th

Comparable Player: Paul George


Larry Nance

Trend: Down

Pre ASG

PPP: 0.988

Percentile: 67th

Comparable Player: Kristaps Porzingis

Post ASG

PPP: 0.955

Percentile: 55th

Comparable Player: Jeff Teague


Brandon Ingram

Trend: Up, Up, and Away

Pre ASG

PPP: 0.794

Percentile: 14th

Comparable Player: Chandler Parsons

Post ASG

PPP: 0.953

Percentile: 54th

Comparable Player: Joel Embiid


Julius Randle

Trend: Up

Pre ASG

PPP: 0.878

Percentile: 29th

Comparable Player: D’Angelo Russell

Post ASG

PPP: 0.930

Percentile: 46th

Comparable Player: Russell Westbrook


D’Angelo Russell

Trend: Up

Pre ASG

PPP: 0.864

Percentile: 28th

Comparable Player: Dario Saric

Post ASG

PPP: 0.921

Percentile: 43rd

Comparable Player: Jamal Crawford


Jordan Clarkson

Trend: Slightly Down

Pre ASG

PPP: 0.927

Percentile: 45th

Comparable Player: Devin Booker

Post ASG

PPP: 0.910

Percentile: 38th

Comparable Player: John Wall


Largest PPP Jumps

  1. Brandon Ingram: +0.159
  2. Ivica Zubac: +0.127
  3. D’Angelo Russell: +0.057
  4. Julius Randle: +0.052
  5. Jordan Clarkson: -0.017
  6. Larry Nance: -0.033

 

I’d put the six players into three tiers. Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac have made substantial jumps in efficiency since the All-Star break. D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle have made solid improvements. Unfortunately, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance, Jr. have regressed.

Let’s hope we can see continued improvement to close the season and this summer. Next season’s record should be vastly improved if next year these young Laker players can build on the progress they’ve made this year.

If each of these six players can perform next season like the better version of themselves between pre and post ASG, we can have a full year of players with the offensive efficiencies of Paul George, Kristaps Porzingis, Joel Embiid, Russell Westbrook, Jamal Crawford, and Devin Booker. That’d be fun.

Are We There Yet?

Pete & Darius discuss how Lonzo Ball or Markelle Fultz would fit into the Lakers roster, the many possibilities for the pick, and take questions from LFR fans.