David Thorpe on Laker O woes

January, 25, 2012
1/25/12
4:25
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
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The Lakers have top-five offensive players at shooting guard, power forward and center, and yet have the 17th-most efficient offense to date.

Something is wrong.

The idea is that the Laker offense is bad either because Mike Brown changed everything, or because guys like Derek Fisher and Matt Barnes can't hit shots, which leaves Kobe Bryant trying to bail everybody out.

Now that Gasol has piped up about when and where he's getting his touches, a lot of the focus is on Coach Brown.

David Thorpe just watched a ton of Laker video, and thinks that's misguided. The main issue, he says, is that Bryant is taking a lot of long 2-pointers. Far more than last year. Those are the least efficient shots in basketball. And most importantly, while Bryant is launching them, he is very often ignoring Gasol and others in great scoring position.

Thorpe writes (Insider):
It seems clear that it's not the system that has to change, but rather Bryant's shot selection, for Gasol to get more of the kind of touches he prefers.

The most telling statistic of all: Gasol has taken 1.2 fewer shots per game near the rim than he did last season, and replaced those with 1.1 shots per game from 16-23 feet. As a result, Gasol also is taking 1.2 fewer free throws per game (though in general, the league is taking fewer foul shots).

Bryant, however, is getting 0.1 fewer shots near the rim, 0.9 shots more per game from 10-15 feet, and 3.6 more shots per game from 16-23 feet.

It is obvious that Gasol is not hunting for paint touches or left-block post-ups in quite the same way he has in seasons past. And Bryant is definitely looking for his shot far more than last season, especially from the perimeter. Why? Only Bryant and Gasol know, but this is certainly not what Mike Brown wants. Perhaps he is hoping that over time he can persuade Bryant to get the ball inside more to Gasol, or Andrew Bynum (who, incidentally, is getting more paint touches this season).

Blowing up the team by trading Gasol or changing Brown's offense won't help in the short term because the players must get together and try to make their own changes first. The Miami Heat had to go through the same change last season, and communicated and evolved with each other. The Lakers are certainly capable of doing the same.

You can dig around some more with who takes shots from where on Hoopdata. Bryant is shooting 9.5 times per game from 16-23 feet. (He's also hitting a lot of them, making 46 percent, which is amazing for his age and this dense schedule, and would be his best rate in the last five years.) By comparison, LeBron James attempts 7.4 shots per game from 16-23 feet, Carmelo Anthony 6.6, Kevin Durant 5.2, Russell Westbrook 4.5 and Derrick Rose 2.6.

Henry Abbott | email

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