Offseason Power Rankings: Suns, Lakers emerge in West – - Techy Hunters


Monday, August 30, 2021

Offseason Power Rankings: Suns, Lakers emerge in West –

2020-21 record: 42-30
Pace: 98.8 (21), OffRtg: 109.8 (24), DefRtg: 106.8 (1), NetRtg: +2.9 (8)

Key addition(s): Russell Westbrook, Malik Monk, Kendrick Nunn, the 35-and-older crowd
Key departure(s): Almost everybody

Three numbers to know…

• There were 201 players who attempted at least 200 shots from outside the paint last season. Among them, James (48.4%), Westbrook (41.9%) and Davis (36.4%) ranked 159th, 193rd and 201st in effective field goal percentage on those shots. They’re three of the 12 players who shot worse than 40% on at least 150 mid-range attempts. The Lakers have had the league’s biggest differential between their field goal percentage in the paint and their effective field goal percentage on shots from outside the paint in each of the last two seasons.

• The Lakers were 11.1 points per 100 possessions better with James on the floor (+9.2) than they were with him off the floor (-1.9) last season. That was the tied for the fifth biggest differential among 233 players who played at least 1,000 minutes for a single team. The Lakers outscored their opponents by 11.2 points per 100 possessions in 601 minutes with both James and Davis on the floor, better than their mark of +8.0 (in more than twice as many minutes) in 2019-20.

• Only four players from last season’s Lakers, representing just 28% of their regular season minutes, remain on the roster. Every other team is returning at least seven players at at least 43% of last season’s minutes.

Key question: How do Westbrook and James work together?

If the Lakers aren’t back to being the best team in the West (and maybe they are), they’re at least back to being one of the league’s most fascinating experiments. Looking back at Westbrook’s single season playing alongside James Harden in Houston … his touches and time of possession were down, but his usage rate was still high, and his true shooting percentage (53.6%) was his highest mark of the last four years, in part because he got to the basket more, with 47% of his field goal attempts (a career-high mark) coming in the restricted area. If the Lakers can get him to the basket that much, they’ll be in great shape.

Russell Westbrook possession and usage, last 5 seasons

Season Touch/36 TOP/G TOP% USG% TS%
2016-17 98.7 9.21 27% 40.2% 55.4%
2017-18 94.8 9.15 25% 32.6% 52.4%
2018-19 91.1 7.71 21% 30.1% 50.1%
2019-20 76.9 5.75 16% 33.0% 53.6%
2020-21 94.1 8.46 23% 29.5% 50.9%

Touch/36 = Touches per 36 minutes
TOP/G = Time of possession (minutes) per game
TOP% = Time of possession / Total minutes on the floor
USG% = Percentage of team’s possessions used (via field goal attempts, turnovers and trips to the line) while on the floor
TS% = PTS / (2 * (FGA + (0.44 * FTA)))

Layups and dunks come easiest in transition, and transition starts with defense. In the last 25 years, only seven teams have repeated as the No. 1 defense in the league, but one of those seven was Frank Vogel’s Pacers (2012-13 and 2013-14) and the Lakers still ranked fourth defensively over the four-plus weeks in which both James and Davis were out last season. Now, Vogel’s defensive culture faces the challenge of a major roster overhaul, with several of the guys who helped build that culture having been sent away, replaced by some lesser (or older) defenders.

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