Playing small in Lakerland

In today’s excellent PER Diem (Insider) on how new head coach Mike D’Antoni will impact the Lakers, John Hollinger notes that D’Antoni’s basketball philosophy will favor different players (shooters!) than Brown:

We'll probably see a lot more of Jodie Meeks, and Antawn Jamison may see more minutes as a floor-spacing 4 rather than a fish-out-of-water 3. We may even see Steve Blake playing off the ball as a 2.

What Hollinger hints at here is that under Mike Brown, the Lakers had a tendency to “play big.” According to lineup data form the NBA, the Lakers’ five most-used lineups all featured Metta World Peace as a 260-pound small forward -- often next to essentially two centers, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. World Peace’s size isn’t an issue, but his lack of quickness as a slasher and mediocre shooting were certainly problematic. Ditto Antawn Jamison, who is slow for a power forward yet often played small forward next to Jordan Hill and either Howard or Gasol.

With D’Antoni, the Lakers will have more reason to play smaller with certain lineups to get more shooters on the court. Instead of moving down a position (power forward to small forward), a few Lakers will jump up a spot.

We should expect to see Kobe Bryant get minutes as a “small forward” in three-guard lineups with Steve Nash and another guard, for instance. Bryant’s strength will allow him to contend inside with most 3’s and moving him out of the backcourt -- at least nominally -- opens up minutes for Jodie Meeks, the one great spot-up shooter amongst the Laker role players.

The relatively mediocre 3-point shooting of World Peace and Jamison (both are career 34 percent shooters from deep) becomes a better asset if it pulls a bigger defender from the paint.

If history serves as any guide, D’Antoni will design his lineups to create more space in the middle of the court so that pick-and-rolls between the Lakers superstars can be more effective.

There’s a possibility that the Lakers have more moves to make -- perhaps a Gasol trade that can bring back much-needed shooters and depth. But D’Antoni can extract more offensive value out of this current roster if he continues his career-long trend of favoring shooting over size and quickness over power.