(Photo: Victor Decolongon via Getty Images)
Those that have watched the first 8 games of the Los Angeles Lakers this season have seen some of the worst basketball played in the history of this franchise and that is saying a lot considering this team is coming off a season where they finished 27-55.
While 1st year head coach, Byron Scott, has preached defense since his arrival, the Lakers have done anything but that, ranking at the bottom of the league in almost every defensive category. The following is the Lakers ranking in a few important defensive categories prior to Friday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs.
A bright spot has been seeing the return of Kobe Bryant on the court after two devastating injuries that many believed would end his career or at the very least reduce him to a shell of his former self. So far, he’s proved the doubters wrong, moving on the court much like he did pre-Achilles tear and like the Kobe of old, is lighting up the score board. Bryant is currently leading the league in scoring at 27.5 points per game, but even he is not without some criticism for the current poor start due to his woeful 38.8 percent shooting from the field and shooting at a rate of 24.5 shots per game, by far the most in the league.
The only player on the current Lakers team that has been both playing well and difficult to pin any blame on is big man Ed Davis who was picked up late in the free agent season for a minimum contract.
In his back up role Davis has been averaging 23.7 minutes per game and making the most of his time on the court. Davis is shooting a highly efficient 68.8 percent from the field which ranks 3rd in the NBA; he is also leading the team in blocks at 1.6 per game and 2nd in rebounding at 7.1 rebounds per game despite playing back up minutes.
What really stands out with Davis is how much better the Lakers perform with him on the court versus with him off of it. We take a look at the on/off numbers of the Lakers big men.
With Davis on the court the Lakers are a plus 10 points on offense and give up 6 less points on defense which equates to a minus 1.7 overall. The numbers are starkly different when looking fellow front court mates Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill. To be fair, with Boozer and Hill starting they do get a big chunk of their time against the other teams starters. Still, the difference in the numbers are staggering and noteworthy.
We take a look at how the front court of the Lakers performs with the different combinations.
The Davis-Boozer pairing is the most potent offensively but the most atrocious on the defensive end, giving up 124.1 on a per 100 possessions basis. The Davis-Hill combo has proven thus far to be the most successful by having balance both offensively and defensively which results in the least scoring differential of minus 3.5 points, faring much better than the Lakers current overall point differential of minus 9.8 points.
The sample size of data is small but with the Lakers already digging a huge hole of a 1 and 7 record in a very difficult Western conference they don’t have much time to keep waiting to see if the status quo will turn itself around. What we have seen from Davis is apparent which is a highly efficient low post scorer who can rebound and protect the paint better than what the Lakers currently have available on the roster. The results have so far shown that the Lakers play better with him on the court.
So if moving Davis to the starting line-up or increasing his playing time considerably is the next move, whose spot does he take in the starting line? If you keep Davis on the bench but a significant increase in playing time is the move, whose minutes does he take? Even though the numbers say that Davis and Hill have performed better, their combination of skill set does not seem to mesh well if spacing is important, which it is. Jordan Hill hasn’t played horribly to warrant losing his starting job or major minutes, but he hasn’t shown to be the defensive presence in the middle that the Lakers desperately need and what Davis can provide, at least more than Hill.
The answer as to who Davis replaces is difficult but the question to if is not. The answer of course is now, the numbers bare it out which confirm what we see with our eyes. Now seems like the perfect time, before the season gets away from the Lakers, if it hasn’t already.