Lakers: Dwight Howard and MWP Going Opposite Directions, D'Antoni Needs Help

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Lakers: Dwight Howard and MWP Going Opposite Directions, D'Antoni Needs Help
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Metta World Peace and Dwight Howard are the two most polarizing Lakers figures in terms of expectations of them this season.

World Peace has exceeded them.  Howard, on the other hand, has been horrible.

The numbers tell an alarming story, and yes, so does a 13-14 start, which puts the Lakers 11th in the Western Conference standings.

Through 27 games this season, World Peace is averaging highs in every category except assists, blocks and turnovers. In his last six games, he is averaging 16.7 points on 50.3 percent shooting and 42.1 percent from deep, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals.  Also, World Peace recorded his first double-double (19 points and a career-high 16 rebounds) in nearly two years.

As for Howard, the 6'11" center is averaging 17.8 points on 57.4-percent shooting, 11.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks, which are his lowest numbers in the past six seasons.  As horrendous as his free-throw shooting has been (50.9 percent), it’s not his worst.  Last year with the Orlando Magic, he converted free throws at a 49.1-percent clip.

But just how impactful have World Peace and Howard been for the Lakers? 

Using Microsoft Excel, I analyzed World Peace’s and Howard’s impact on the game when each player is in versus when he isn’t.  The numbers were eye-popping.  I reached out to Kelley School of Business analytics professor and author Dr. Wayne Winston, who has consulted for many NBA teams on optimal lineups, to weigh in on my thoughts on World Peace’s impact and Howard’s futility. 

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

 

Winston, who most notably worked for the Dallas Mavericks and was a key cog in their championship run, calculates the effectiveness of a player per 48-minute game by taking the raw plus/minus and adjusting it with the other nine players on the court. His analysis also adjusts for the strength of the opponent.

Here are Winston’s conclusions, proving the importance of World Peace thus far this season:

Point 1

World Peace is the second-most important player on the Lakers roster, and when he is in the game his in/out efficiency ranks as one of the top 10 players in the NBA this season.

Point 2

When World Peace is in, the Lakers play eight points per game better than the average NBA team.  With him out, the Lakers are 13 points per game worse than the average NBA team. His in/out is plus-21. If you’re curious, Bryant is doing great this year, leading his team with an in/out of plus-22.

Point 3

The key is to put Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and World Peace in together. To maximize this opportunity, World Peace needs to be a starter.  When the duo is in the lineup, it helps L.A. score 34 points better than the average NBA team. If you split the two up with World Peace in and Bryant out, the Lakers are one point better than average.  With Bryant in and World Peace out, the Lakers play average (0).

Harry How/Getty Images

 

As for Howard:

Point 1

Howard is not helping the Lakers when he’s playing versus riding the bench.  With Howard in, the Lakers are one point better than the average NBA lineup.  But with Howard out, the Lakers are 10 points better. His in/out is minus-nine points.

Point 2

Lakers forward Pau Gasol (in/out of plus-six) isn’t the problem. When Gasol is in and Howard out, Los Angeles is playing 21 points better than average. With Howard in and Gasol out, the Lakers play two points better than average, but the caveat is both Bryant and World Peace are in.

Point 3

The million-dollar question is if Gasol and Howard can coexist.  Thus far this season when the two are in together, the Lakers are one point worse than the average NBA lineup.

Point 4

The trio of World Peace, Bryant and Gasol are the best for the Lakers.  With those three in the lineup, Los Angeles plays 41 points better than average.

Chris Trotman/Getty Images

So who is to blame for the Lakers' slow start?

Some of it lies with Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni.

 

D’Antoni’s substitutions have been suspect at best. Before Steve Nash’s return, the lineup he most often used with Bryant, Chris Duhon, Gasol, Howard and World Peace was one of the worst.  World Peace, who is arguably playing his best ball since joining the Lakers in 2009, has been coming off the bench the past two games.

Granted, D’Antoni was fiddling around with his lineup and the Bobcats do not feature a Kevin Durant or a LeBron James, but D’Antoni shouldn’t have World Peace come off the bench. At times, D’Antoni has substituted offense for defense by putting in Antawn Jamison (in/out minus-4.6). D’Antoni has even experimented by giving rookie center Robert Sacre extended minutes.

The Lakers lineup selection can be improved greatly,” Winston said. “Let’s leave it at that.” 

So just what is the best lineup for the Lakers?  Before Nash’s return it was Bryant, World Peace, Gasol, Duhon and Jordan Hill.  Here is a look at all the Lakers lineups during Saturday’s 118-115 overtime victory against the Warriors.

Rating

Points

Minutes

Player 1

Player 2

Player 3

Player 4

Player 5

108.22

4

1.83

Hill

Howard

Meeks

Nash

World Peace

66.22

2

1.61

Bryant

Gasol

Morris

Nash

World Peace

55.41

4

3.68

Bryant

Gasol

Howard

Meeks

Nash

51.18

5

5.47

Bryant

Duhon

Hill

Meeks

World Peace

50.66

7

7.15

Bryant

Gasol

Howard

Nash

World Peace

40.71

2

3.03

Bryant

Gasol

Hill

Nash

World Peace

14.15

1

6.63

Duhon

Hill

Howard

Meeks

World Peace

0.74

-1

7.63

Bryant

Gasol

Howard

Morris

Nash

-32.28

-9

11.18

Bryant

Gasol

Meeks

Nash

World Peace

-90.33

-5

2.58

Bryant

Gasol

Hill

Meeks

Nash

-99.62

-2

0.88

Gasol

Howard

Meeks

Nash

World Peace

-122.08

-3

1.15

Bryant

Hill

Howard

Meeks

Nash

-617.03

-2

0.15

Bryant

Howard

Morris

Nash

World Peace

The best ratings lineup includes: Hill, Howard, Meeks, Nash and World Peace. The lineup of Bryant, Gasol, Howard, Nash and World Peace play seven points better than the average NBA team. The lineup that saw the most minutes was Bryant, Gasol, Meeks, Nash and World Peace actually played nine points worse than the average NBA team and has a minus-32 rating (the fifth-worst Los Angeles lineup).

While this is only a one-game sample size and D’Antoni is figuring out the best lineup with Nash, the Lakers' margin for error is narrowing as it looks to play catchup against the likes of the Thunder, Clippers, Spurs and Grizzlies, all teams that have at least a six-game advantage in the Western Conference standings.

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