The Los Angeles Lakers are using this preseason to get a better feel for their players—both new and old—to try and determine what roles will best suit them in the upcoming season.
If you scour the box score, you can find performances which instill hope in the team's future, as well as those that hint at forthcoming frustration.
The numbers don't tell the entire story—Steve Blake probably won't have a two-game stretch this year where he shoots 1-for-21 like he has in his past two games—but they are a strong indicator of a player's abilities.
Here are the three most intriguing stat lines from L.A.'s preseason games thus far.
Xavier Henry vs. the Golden State Warriors (10/5)
The Line: 9-15 FG, 2-4 3-PT, 9-11 FT, 29 points, seven rebounds, two steals in 26 minutes
Xavier Henry was a revelation in his first preseason game in purple and gold.
The former lottery pick exploded off the bench for a game-high 29 points in 26 minutes, on just 15 shots.
Henry showed a strong handle and excellent attacking instincts out of the pick-and-roll. He relentlessly drove to the basket, using the ever-popular Eurostep to either finish at the rim or draw fouls.
Racking up trips to the free-throw line has been Henry's biggest strength on offense. He was in the top-three in the league among perimeter players in free-throw rate last season, and he displayed his knack for getting to the line here.
It was encouraging to see him knock down a high percentage of his freebies as well. It doesn't mean much to repeatedly get to the line if you can't make the defense pay for sending you there. Henry—a career 62 percent foul shooter—connected on more than 80 percent of his attempts in this game and has kept up a decent clip throughout the preseason.
What's most intriguing about Henry's performance though is his ability to penetrate the defense. Without Kobe Bryant, the Lakers don't really have a perimeter player who can get into the lane at will and cause havoc.
Take a look at Henry's shot chart in this game. Nine of his 15 attempts come within the restricted area. Only one is in the dreaded "long two" range. A shot distribution like that will keep efficiency high, especially for a guy who struggles with his outside shot as much as Henry does.
The only quibble with his stat line is that he didn't manage to pick up an assist. Henry can elevate his game even more if he learns to get his teammates high-quality looks out of the pick-and-roll instead of putting his head down and driving every time.
The Line: 6-9 FG, 1-1 FT, 13 points, five rebounds, five assists, one turnover in 22 minutes
It doesn't get much more efficient than this.
Pau Gasol put on an offensive clinic against the Kings, making two-thirds of his field goals (three-fourths if you discount his one three-point try) with ease and dishing out five assists against just one turnover in less than a half of play.
This was a classic Gasol stat line, highlighting the versatility and well-roundedness that makes him a joy to watch.
The Lakers should be running their offense through Gasol much more frequently this year, especially while Bryant is out. He can function as a go-to scorer down on the low block, as well as a facilitator out of the high post.
It looks like L.A. will continue to employ the 4-5 screen-and-roll which they used to great effect last season (as seen in the video below), this time with Chris Kaman in Dwight Howard's place as the screener.
Defenses don't prepare for a center-power forward pick-and-roll combination. Gasol's passing acumen and his ability to hit an open 15-foot jump shot at a high clip makes this play deadly.
Gasol is in line for a big bounce-back campaign. Expect to see several nights this year where he puts up a triple-double or near-triple-double numbers.
Chris Kaman vs. the Warriors (10/15)
The Line: 7-7 FG, 0-0 FT, 14 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, one block, two turnovers in 22 minutes
Chris Kaman shooting 7-of-7 from the field qualifies as a statistical anomaly, but it's refreshing to see a Lakers center able to knock down an outside shot after watching Dwight Howard brick seemingly all of his attempts outside the paint a year ago.
The Kaman-Gasol frontcourt pairing has operated seamlessly thus far in the preseason.
We already discussed how they can pull off a pick-and-roll among themselves. Additionally, their ability to hit open mid-range jumpers also spaces the floor for each other, as their defenders can't leave one of them to help in the paint when the other is posting up.
Kaman isn't nearly the passer Gasol is (he finished 35th among 46 qualified centers in assist rate last season), but perhaps just being around Gasol every day has alerted him to looking for his teammates more often.
Three assists in just 22 minutes is a rarity for Kaman, who failed to record a single assist in half of his games in 2013.
The 10 rebounds is more his style. Kaman has always been a consistent presence on the glass, averaging 10 boards per 36 minutes for his career. Here are his per-36 minute rebound averages since 2009: 9.7, 9.7, 9.7, 9.6, 9.8.
You know what you're getting out of him in terms of cleaning up the glass, especially on the defensive end.
One blocked shot may not be that impressive, but rim protection will be a key factor for Kaman. With Howard gone, L.A. no longer has a reliable anchor for their back line.
For his career, Kaman has been a more valuable player on defense (21.3 career defensive win shares) than on offense (-0.5 career offensive win shares), per Basketball-Reference.
His career block percentage would have ranked just outside the top-20 in the NBA last year. The Lakers hope that between Kaman and Gasol, they can replace the paint protection provided by Howard.
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