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Statistically, Lakers have dropped off during Andrew Bynum's absence

Andrew Bynum #1

Somehow the "Lakers playing without Andrew Bynum" mantra doesn't have the same ring to the "Lakers playing without Kobe Bryant" story line. Yet, during Bryant's five-game absence in February, every game story came with analysis on why the Lakers had played so well even though Bryant's valued presence was missing in the lineup.

During the Lakers' five-game stretch since Bynum strained his left Achilles' tendon March 19 against Minnesota, not as much attention has been devoted to the void he's left, beyond the latest: that the team expects his earliest return date to be April 8 against Denver. And ESPN Los Angeles' Brian Kamenetzky recently posted his take on what Bynum brings to the team.

Nonetheless, I think there are justifiable reasons for the difference. First, the Lakers' 4-1 run during Bryant's injury featured better team balance and improved defensive intensity. Those two qualities stood out because the Lakers played pretty inconsistently in those areas all season. Though most never made the leap to suggest the Lakers are better without Bryant (which is just plain absurd), the performances during his absence raised legitimate discussion about why the Lakers didn't always play as sharp with Bryant in the lineup.

Second, the Lakers obviously miss Bynum's inside presence, but the team's problems during its 2-2 trip are ones the Lakers have experienced even with Bynum in the lineup. Those include the team's lack of urgency, poor outside shooting, poor screen-and-roll defense and the bench play. If Bynum had played during this trip, it's conceivable the Lakers could've won more games, but it's also conceivable they could've won had they sharpened the aforementioned problems, with or without Bynum. 

Still, there's no question the Lakers' play has dropped off since Bynum suffered the injury nearly two weeks ago. Consider the discrepancies in the team's statistics during the last five games compared with their season averages. That includes total offense (95 points per game, 102.45), rebounds (42.2, 44.45) and assists (17.2, 21.21). The drop-off in points and assists didn't happen solely because of Bynum's absence. Surely the Lakers' poor shooting contributes to the decreased production, but you also have to figure why the Lakers are taking those shots. And when you do, you realize Bynum's absence has exacerbated problems that had been present when he was in the lineup. 

The reason for the increased outside shooting is because Bynum isn't in the paint, and it relates to the economic term "opportunity costs." For example, if decide to shop somewhere instead of working, you have to equate the lost money from not working and the money you spent buying something. So in Bynum's case, for every Lakers outside shot that didn't go in, you can be assured that some of those possessions wouldn't entailed easy inside points from Bynum had he been in the lineup.

There's never a good time to get injured, but Bynum got hurt just after putting together a month-long average of 15.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks on 56.8% shooting. That included the four-game stretch in which he posted 20 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks on 63.3% shooting. Though injuries are never "timely," Bynum's came just as he and forward Pau Gasol had started to develop chemistry. Though that's something the two have largely struggled to do, their presence alone still presented a threat simply because of matchup issues. The Lakers want both players to complement each other, but, as Bryant has often said, having two talented players to choose from inside is a "good problem" to have. Even though Gasol has maintained his production, with 20.6 points in the last five games, Bynum's absence gives the defense more reason to double-team Gasol, forcing the Lakers to try to correct a weakness in their outside shooting.

That's not the only area where the Lakers have seen a decrease. Lakers forward Lamar Odom has started in Bynum's absence and, with exception of his performance in Monday's 108-100 loss to New Orleans, he averaged 15.6 points on 46.5% shooting along with 11 rebounds during the first three games of the trip. Though Odom has comfortably filled the starting position, the bench has lost his leadership.

The unit has been plagued by inconsistency all season, but Odom's absence exacerbates the problem. Consider how opposing teams' benches outscored the Lakers reserves in three of the last five games: Washington (37-27), San Antonio (23-20) and New Orleans (42-12). Any of the positive aspects, such as Shannon Brown's 13 points against Washington and Jordan Farmar's 14 points against San Antonio and 11 points against Houston, were minimal compared with the problems the bench presented. That included the reserves squandering a fourth-quarter double-digit lead against Washington, Sasha Vujacic arguing with assistant coach Brian Shaw during the Oklahoma City game and the Lakers starters and reserves allowing the Hornets bench to dictate the tempo. 

Clearly, the Lakers in the past have shown their ability to play without Bynum. But his absence continues a never-ending theme this season in which the Lakers have had to reestablish continuity as players shuffle in and out of the lineup because of injuries. Even when Bynum returns, he may have to catch up on his conditioning and reestablish the chemistry he had with Gasol and Bryant before his injury. One thing at least remains clear: with all the problems the Lakers face (lack of urgency, poor screen and roll defense, poor shooting, turnovers), the team can't afford to add yet another item of concern. 

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers center Andrew Bynum hasn't played at all during the team's five-game because of a strained left Achilles' tendon. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

 
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These numbers are too small to be especially significant, but they're interesting to think about:

No Kobe: 4-1
No Artest: 4-1
No Bynum: 7-2

No Gasol: 11-6

Those who rip Gasol and don't think he's essential to this team's success should stare at those numbers a little bit.

You should also realize that, with the possible exception of Gasol, this is a team with talent to burn that has been able to handle its injuries quite well.

"if Jordan was hitting his shots, none of this really matters...Last game, we miss way too many shots.
Thanks to PJ for canceling pratice...
Cheers"
Posted by: Magic Phil | March 31, 2010 at 10:22 AM
Magic Phil,
That really is the elephant in the room. If only Jordan was hitting his shots....
BTW, even if PJ cancels practice, you know Kobe and Powell are in the gym, putting up their shots, trying to stay sharp.
--FEARless
Posted by: FEARless | March 31, 2010 at 12:59 PM


Exactly.
All this complaining about poor defense from the guards and how the speedy opposing guards get by us and a supposedly soft Gasol, etc.
It doesn't matter.
We don't NEED better defense to win these games, we don't NEED a tough Gasol, we just NEED to hit those open shots.
Look back at the great Laker teams of the 80's and the early 2000's that drew double teams on Magic or Kareem and Kobe and Shaq. All those teams had outside shooters who would make the other team pay for leaving them open.
Scott, Cooper, Horry, Fox, Fisher, even J.R.
Last year in the playoffs Ariza especially made them pay as well as Fisher.

So, as I've been saying, if the guys just step up and make those shots we will win. Kobe will get them open looks, they have got to make those shots. That is the key to a repeat right there.
Fisher, Farmar, Brown, Sasha and Ron are the keys to us winning.
They hit their shots consistently and they get brand new shiny rings.
If they don't, then they don't.
Focus!!

Posted by: Art - FL Laker Fan | March 31, 2010 at 01:33 PM

Hey guys,
I'm leaving in about an hour to go get prepped for surgery. I'm starving to death (not allowed to eat) and have a huge headache - but at least the knee will soon be better. I'll prolly miss everything live tonight, but I'll catch up with y'all soon. I again have to thank you for your well wishes - esp your post Rick - thanks. Much love to my great Laker Nation family and a great big shout out to our team - let's hope those Hawks get plucked .... or something like that.... lol!

Justa - Good luck with your surgery. I hope all goes well.

MM

Stay calm Justa. I just whispered another prayer for you. Take care.

Good luck justamambafan!


Nice thread, MM.

You'll be perfectly fine, Justa. My thoughts are with you.

Your friend and sometimes nemesis...

troy

@Art-FL-Laker, I kind of agree wth you. They hit wide open shots they win easily and they don't need to expend energy boxing out to grab oreb. Plus a made shot prevents a fastbreak from the opposing team because they have to inbound the ball.

Let's give Sasha more minutes. We need the machine to make those shots.

Sweet Georgia Brown

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmXbTi5GjDE

Lakers left the bench home. plastic chairs only for Ammo and Sasha. the folding chairs r not working. they r not Unfolding on the court. but no need. we r in Georgia and the Grass is Lush and Green. The Lakers can lay in the grass.

But they did not forgot PJ's throne. and looks like now Brian Shaw has one?

all Peachy in the Lakers land.

I love this article because it convincingly explains why our team has sucked recently, using stats to highlight the elephant in the room that was missing and harder to see (Bynum's absence).

While Bynum screws up on D (failure to: defend pick and roll or the paint, dish out hard fouls, block out) and is one dimensional on O (must be "activated" early in a game by wonder twin powers PJ and Kobe), his replacements (LO, Mbenga and Powell) are much worse as a group on both ends.

The problem is "Quality Shots".

Bynum, Pau, Shannon, Powell (gasp) and Jordan all average about 16.4 to 16.8 shots per 48 minutes.

This is HORRIBLE & MORONIC shot distribution when Pau and esp. Bynum are MUCH more efficient:

Drew & Pau have MUCH higher Points Per Shot (PPS) and Adjusted Field Goal % (AFG%) than all other Lakers (even Kobe):

AFG%:
Drew 57.0%
Pau 52.5%
Farmar 52.2%
Sasha 50%
LO 49.7%
Kobe 49.3%
Artest 49.0%
All other Lakers below 49%

PPS (I don't like this # because it doesn't account for fact that FT's are a possession and this is an equal possession game, but it makes Kobe groupies happier):

Drew: 1.42
Pau: 1.38
Kobe: 1.27
All other Lakers below 1.20

We need Drew back to cut down or eliminate minutes to Mbenga and Powell (and reduce the very good, but less efficient LO), who hurt us almost every time they shoot because they are almost never the best option at the time.

While we're at it, tell Brown to stop jacking it up so much and feed Drew and Pau.

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/teams/stats?team=lal&sort=fga&avg=48&order=true&season=2&seasonYear=2010&split=0

good luck with the surgery Justa. I pray everything goes well.

Justanothermambafan
Hang in there brother. The Lake Show will win tonight for you.

Colorado loves our World Champion Lakers!

JUSTANOTHERMAMBAFAN,

Much luck and love to you Lakers brother! I had knee surgery too. I now play basketball. Hopefully it will all be better.

EVERYONE,

Have we won 8 of the last ten or lost 2 of the last three???? I can't tell.

GOOOoooOOOOO LAKERS !!!

justanothermambafan

GL bro, I'm sure it will go well.

Good luck Justa... then again, I'll be finding out myself tomorrow if I need knee surgery. Possible torn medial meniscus in my left knee.

WARNING: Another loss tonight and the haters will be out howlin in full force... Make sure to stay inside and lock ur doors!

Lots of negative posts lately.. things may not be so hunky dory in lakerland but on the bright side neither is it everywhere else.. Every other team out there got their own set of problems. As long as we're healthy and get bynum back lakers should still be favorites coming out of the west. Only thing that could seriously thwart our road to repeating is the imminent return of luke.

My preview of some possible playoff opponents:

San antonio: aging duncan knees, parker still out.. Too slow old and short.. Plays halfcourt game which suits lakers well. Spurs win one at home cause dfish gives up season high again and phil gives luke major minutes.. lakers 4-1

Dallas: talented with lots of offensive weapons but where's the D?? This is the playoffs not an allstar game.. Lakers 4-2

Utah: same old pieces same ole story.. They win one game at home on pure hearty and hustle.. Lakers 4-1

Oklahoma city: lots of buzz these days but nobody has any playoff experience on that team... Interested to see how durant will play on big stage but overall teams youth and inexperience will show in playoffs.. Lakers 4-1

Portland: always a threat but no inside game anymore. Lakers 4-1

Phoenix: puhlease its playoff time! Lakers 4-0

Denver: lakers biggest threat.. Normally would be very concerned if we didn't have artest cause that wouldve meant ariza and/or luke and even kobe would have to carry the load and guard carmelo but.... Have no fear ron ron is here... He won't shut melo down their biggest scoring threat but will somewhat contain him which should be the difference. Lakers 4-2

EAST:
Boston: still wouldn't count them out in playoffs especially if ray ray decides to punch in and show up again.. Please let this be the year we face them cause if not will never happen. We want payback! Lakers 4-2

Orlando: probably only team out of east capable of taking down cavs but who's their go to guy now?? Vince hahaha... Turkoglu will be sorely missed as vince chokes it up again with pressure on the line. I can already see artest bodying him up hard and vince feigning another injury.. Ouch my shoulder!!... Lakers 4-2

Cavs: the mother of all matchups!! This one is a coin flip only because of evil stern... lebron is a regular season freak but come playoffs he should flame out again like the choker he is and not even stern will save him... Jamison also unproven in playoffs and hopefully shaq will be 400 lbs and out of shape.. Lakers 4-2

So in conclusion I know its extremely hard with dfish and luke in the picture but let's try to stay calm and think positive people!

justanothermambafan,

GOOD LUCK, BRO!!!

Jamie - Thanks for the love

Guys there's a new post up.

MM

MAMBA24, we need a HIT THOSE DARN SHOT BANDWAGON!!!!
Almost game time.

Yellofever,

Far and away my favorite post of the day. Thanks for casting a bright light upon the Lakers blog.

As always, Mamba24: You are the man.

LT: Keep the faith, brother. Bynum might just surprise us this post-season.

Faith: Sasha will hit the game winner in a playoff game. You heard it here first.

DFish: Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blather, blather, blah, blah.

MM: Thanks for rocking the blog. You are both a gentleman and a scholar.

Go Lake Show!

Justa,
Good luck and speedy recovery from surgery!

is it just me, or has john hollinger from espn.com just entered a new level of douche? the guy first says that lebron is the new jordan, and then says the lakers are a long shot in winning the title? wtf is this guy's deal? maybe he shud take his "formula" and go to a sport where his odd ball stats actually matter...like BASEBALL!!

So yellofever, if I understand you correctly, you project the Lakers to do better in every single series this year than they managed last year against a depleted Houston team, even though the Lakers were playing significantly better last year. I would add 1-2 more losses to every one of your projections except for San Antonio, Boston, and possibly Utah. (plus Denver if K-Mart and Karl aren't back)

And Lebron will "flame out in the playoffs"? Compare Lebron's postseason stats to Kobe's. And yes, Cleveland lost to Orlando last year (no fault of Lebron, who had a monster series and some clutch late-game play), but that is the only time in Lebron's career that he's ever lost a playoff series when his team was favored.


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