How To “Fix” Lakers’ Inability To Close Games, By Using Pau Gasol

First off, I’m no X’s and O’s expert. Shoot, I’ve never even played organized basketball at any level.

But, I am a fan of the game and know what I’ve seen from the Lakers in the past, and what they’re doing so wrong in the present.

Obviously, the Lakers are in turmoil right now with Dwight Howard apparently upset at his lack of shot attempts, and Kobe Bryant insisting he’s tried to help Dwight throughout his struggles.

Forget all of that for a second.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Bryant had this to say after the Lakers’ 95-83 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Monday night:

“We need to go back to basics. We need to put guys in positions to do what they do best. We need to strip it down. Steve is best in pick-and-roll. Pau is best in the post. I’m best from the free-throw line extended down. Let’s go back to basics.

We’ve got to evaluate what’s going on. Management is looking at it. The players are looking at it. I’m looking at myself. I’m shooting a low percentage right now, and I’ve got to look at that. It’s on me to make shots, but I’m having to make tough shots, getting the ball 30 feet from the basket and [expletive] like that.

Originally, teams would have to play our pick-and-roll coverage, which left me open on the back side quite a bit. But they’ve made adjustments, and they’ve decided to stay home on Kobe no matter what. So I’m trying to space the floor. I’m trying to do my job the best I can. I try to create opportunities. But most of them are trying to take the ball to the basket with four or five seconds left on the [shot] clock, trying to manufacture tough shots.”

Well, alright, maybe the proposal I’m about to make isn’t exactly original since Kobe pretty much said it, but I’m going to try and elaborate on it a bit:

Obviously, the defense has been the main culprit for the Lakers all season long, and that has to improve if they want a shot at making the playoffs this season.

However, for many players–especially star players–they play with better effort and consistency when the offense is running smoothly, balanced, and consistently.

So, let’s delve in to the offense a bit, starting with Kobe.

Kobe Bryant

First of all, Kobe’s exactly right about where each player needs to be.Kobe Bryant

The Black Mamba has–over the years–transitioned his game into that of a post player, much like Michael Jordan.

He’s been most effective down there, and won his two most recent championships by operating there. It’s also part of the reason he was shooting such a high percentage early on this season.

However, after Mike Brown was fired and Mike D’Antoni was hired, Kobe gradually moved away from the basket and had to run mainly screen-and-rolls due to the absence of Steve Nash.

Compared with last season, Kobe has averaged more shot attempts from three-point land (6.1 compared with 4.9), but also more shots at the rim (5.4 compared with 3.5). I attribute Kobe’s rim attacking more to his increased conditioning this season more than as a compliment to the offense, however.

Anyway, back to Kobe’s shot distribution. Bryant (compared with last season, again) is averaging less shots in the 3-9 foot range (2.8 compared with 3.0), the 10-15 foot range (2.1 shots compared with 3.8), and 16-23 foot range (5.2 shots compared with 7.7).

What range is Kobe most efficient in besides at the rim? Between 10-15 feet, where he is shooting 51.3 percent.

So, I think we can all agree that Kobe needs to operate a bit more in the mid-range area. Additionally, it will allow Kobe to facilitate better when it comes to his “bigs.”

I don’t think anyone–not even D’Antoni–can argue with that.

Pau Gasol

As for Pau Gasol, let’s compare this season with the 2009-2010 championship season, since Gasol has struggled since then.

Gasol averages 3.2 attempts at the rim compared with 5.8 attempts in 2010 (this number has steadily decreased since then), where he currently shoots 65 percent from the field. He also shoots less in the 3-9 foot range (1.9 shots compared with 3.7, although he’s shooting a weirdly low 25 percent from that range compared with 45 percent in 2010), and 10-15 foot range (0.8  shots compared with 1.8). He’s shooting more from the 16-23 foot range (4.2 attempts compared with 1.6) to the surprise of nobody.

I’m sure I didn’t need to pull up all those stats to point that out, but I did anyway.

Bottom line: Pau Gasol is most effective in the post.

Let’s now take a look at exactly what’s not been working for the Lakers’ offense this season, and how it can (hopefully) be fixed.

Next Page: Breaking Down What’s Wrong With The Offense

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