Startling Statistics from L.A. Lakers' Season Thus Far
While the Los Angeles Lakers continue to thrive following the All-Star Break, there are some strange statistics and numbers that correlate with some of the ups and downs they've experienced this season.
This comes as no surprise given the dramatic things we've seen from them this season. From dismissals, surprising acquisitions and Kobe Bryant as the primary facilitator, this season has been a host to a bevy of surprises.
NBA analysts, critics, fans and purists often like to correlate the success of teams to what they see and what they read on the stat sheet. However, with a Lakers squad that has been so enigmatic, there are a few numbers that may come as a surprise.
Though the conventional means of statistical appraising often fall around offensive and defensive numbers such as opponents' field goal percentage and rebounding, this slideshow is going to explore some of the stranger statistics that have defined the Lakers' season thus far.
Statistics are accurate as of March 18.
1. Free-Throw Shooting Anomaly
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Although free-throw shooting has been a constant source of criticism for Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers, there are some statistics that seem to refute the notion that free-throw shooting is the Lakers' bane.
Free throws are the easiest baskets players can generate in their offense.
While there is mounting pressure from the audience, the opponents themselves cannot defend or deter the simple jump shot a player takes at the top of the key during the foul-shooting process.
Despite all common sense leading fans and professionals alike to believe that the more free throws a team makes, the better off that team is, the Lakers have actually lost seven of the 10 games in which they've shot 80.0 percent or better from the free-throw line.
In those 10 games in which the Lakers shot 80.0 percent or better from the charity stripe, the Lakers attempted between only 13 and 32 free throws per game.
In the 10 games in which the Lakers attempted over 35 free throws, the Lakers only won three of those.
These statistics imply that for some reason, the Lakers cannot take advantage of the charity stripe. Whether they shoot efficiently or in abundance, they cannot seem to win with the free-throw.
Upon further inspection, both the efficiency and shot-attempt statistics can be explained by two separate reasons.
In the games that the Lakers shot 80.0 percent or more from the charity stripe, their relatively low number of attempts indicate that the Lakers were being kept out of the paint and were not generating calls and trips to the line.
The Hack-a-Dwight strategy can account for the games in which the Lakers still fail to win games in which they shoot a staggeringly high number of free throws, given Dwight Howard's weaknesses at the line and the relatively low free-throw percentages in the games in which the Lakers shot more than 35 free throws.
2. Three-Point Shooting Specialists
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While critics and analysts are right to show skepticism in terms of Mike D'Antoni's resistance or inability to utilize the post, statistics may show some merit to his tactics.
There is no doubt that statistics such as points in the paint, offensive rebounds and other statistics that favor the big-man and post-oriented offense indicate that utilizing the low post with skilled forwards and centers such as Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard can be conducive to winning basketball games.
However, there is one statistic that indicates that D'Antoni's propensity to stretch the floor and utilize long-range shooters may not be a bad alternative.
The Lakers have won seven of the 10 games in which they've attempted 30 or more three-point shots.
It is common knowledge that teams live and die by the three-point shot; however, the numbers seem to indicate that the Lakers actually perform better when the floor is stretched and the shooters are free to do some damage on the perimeter.
Perhaps counter-intuitively, the Lakers seem to be increasing rather than decreasing their accuracy from three-point range as their attempts increase.
Of the 10 games in which they've shot more than 30 three-point shots, the Lakers shot 35.9 percent or more from long range in all but one of those games.
Although 10 games is a relatively small sample size, the seven victories they garnered show that perhaps an emphasis on floor spacing and the three-point shot may be more compatible with this roster than originally thought.
3. Steve Nash the Scorer
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Steve Nash has always been known as one of the best facilitators and passers in the NBA. His skills driving-and-kicking and his reputation as the premier pick-and-roll player in the league define his career.
However, Nash is also known as one of the most accurate shooters the league has ever seen.
On a team where he no longer has control of the ball the majority of the time, Nash has shown that his scoring prowess may actually be more beneficial to this roster than his greatest strengths.
In the 18 games in which Nash has scored 15 points or more, the Lakers have only lost seven of those. This puts them on pace for a 61.1 winning percentage.
Theoretically, if this percentage is extrapolated, the Lakers would be a 50-win team.
To put things in perspective, these wins in which Nash has contributed heavily on the scoreboard have come against the likes of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the New York Knicks, the Indiana Pacers and other playoff-bound teams.
Nash has also accumulated over 10 assists in only four of those 18 games. This may indicate that Nash's most important contribution to this incarnation of the Lakers may be his scoring and shooting abilities rather than his facilitating skills.
That's not to say his ability to pass isn't important, it just shows that perhaps his scoring is the more important commodity in an offensive system that revolves around Kobe Bryant.
4. Kobe Bryant the Creator
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Kobe Bryant is the Black Mamba. A cold-blooded assassin known for his scoring dominance and his inherent clutch gene, Bryant has been a nightmare for opposing defenders for the entirety of his career.
The numbers he has put up this season, in what should be the twilight of his career, are both the most impressive and the most efficient numbers we've seen from him in many years.
Perhaps the most impressive of these numbers are his assist totals and how they correlate to the success of the Lakers.
In the 18 games in which Bryant has accumulated at least eight assists, the Lakers have only lost five of these.
Bryant seems to have found a balance between scoring and facilitating, which shows in the fact that he has tempered his shooting by scoring over 25 points in only five of those 18 games.
While scoring has always been his most reliable weapon, these numbers show that perhaps his most lethal weapon is his ability to create for others.
Bryant is cementing his reputation as an all-time great by showing that he can indeed make his teammates better through his passing without compromising who he is as a player.
5. Bernie Bickerstaff Was the Man for the Job
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Bernie Bickerstaff may not have been the head coach of the Lakers for a long time; but he managed to generate the highest winning percentage of any Lakers' coach in his five-game tenure.
Leading the Lakers to four wins in his five games a head coach, Bickerstaff coached the Lakers into scoring over 100 points in each of their victories and over 110 points in two of those wins.
While it is hard to determine the merits deserved by this stretch given the fact that their sole loss came to a contender in the San Antonio Spurs and some of their wins were over the likes of the Sacramento Kings and the Phoenix Suns, there is no doubt that he utilized his big men well.
Utilizing a make-shift offense that relied more on individual post-ups and Bryant isolation plays, Bickerstaff made sure to take advantage of the skills and versatility of his roster while searching for the right system to match the roster.
Although Bickerstaff never got the opportunity to implement his own offense and begin a head-coaching regime of his own, it was clear that his ability to maximize his talent and utilize them based on their strengths and weaknesses were the reason for his success.
Their scoring efficiency never dipped below 40.0 percent from the field and the abundance of points they scored proved that he knew how to make the most of the pieces he had available to him.