BY EHRAN KAHN FOR THE BLEACHER REPORT
One of the most enjoyable exercises of the early season is to look at surprising statistics.
The Los Angeles Lakersare chock-full of quirky metrics, both on a team and individual level.
Kobe Bryant is thriving from his favorite spot on the floor but at the cost of a stagnant offense. The defense has been awful, yet Ed Davis has been a standout on that end.
Many of the eyebrow-raising numbers are purely a result of an extremely small sample size but getting to know the outliers brings to one’s attention trends which are worth watching as the year rolls along.
Here are five of the most startling statistics of L.A.’s season to date.
Note: All statistics courtesy ofNBA.com/Stats, as of games played through November 20
No Ball Movement
Too often the Lakers bring the ball up the floor, put it into Kobe Bryant’s hands and then become passive spectators.
Only two teams average fewer passesper game than the Lakers.
Los Angeles is also 29th in the league in secondary assists, 28th in passes leading to free throws and 27th in points created by assists per game.
The ball needs to start zipping around the court to keep defenses off balance. Players like Jeremy Lin have to assert more creative control over the process of generating shots.
Now that Nick Young is back in the lineup the Lakers have another dynamic scoring option. Maybe now the offense will finally start to open up.
Kobe Bryant’s Long-Two Percentage
The ball is stopping in Bryant’s hands as he attempts to take his defender one-on-one on virtually every possession.
Bryant’s shooting woes are well documented. He’s shooting a career-worst 38.6 percent from the field on a career-high attempts per minute—but the misses aren’t coming from where you would think.
In fact, Bryant is knocking down over 50 percent of his shots between 16 and 24 feet, one of only four players in the NBA to pull that off while attempting at least four such shots per game.
It’s from everywhere else that he has been miserable.
Kobe has been inefficient from the floor overall but ultra-efficient from the least efficient spot on the court.
Wrap your brain around that for a minute.
The numbers should regress to the mean somewhat as his percentages on long twos go down, but his percentages closer to the hoop rise.
Defensive Shot Locations
Analytics dictate that the best ways to score in basketball are from layups, three-pointers and free throws.
Thus, modern-day NBA defenses are designed to take those chances away and force opponents to shoot as many mid-range jumpers as possible.
The Lakers are as far away from that formula as possible.
No team forces fewer mid-range shotsthan L.A.
They also allow the most made three-pointers, the third-most points in the paint and the third-most free-throw attempts.
That’s a recipe for disaster, and it’s the reason why the Lakers sport the worst defense in the league in terms of points allowed per possession.
As a matter of fact, L.A.’s current defensive rating would be the worst in NBA.com’s database, which goes back nearly two decades.
Ed Davis’s Stingy D
And yet, despite L.A.’s historic struggles on the defensive side of the ball, Ed Davis shines as a beacon of hope.
The young big man has been the only player on the entire roster to have made any significant impact defensively.
Opposing players are shooting 4.3 percent worse than normal when Davis is guarding them. And he’s been even better on the interior, holding opponents 10.2 percent below their typical average on shots inside of six feet.
He leads L.A. in blocked shots and defensive rebounding percentage, and the team gives up nine fewer points per 100 possessions when he is on the court.
It’s scary to think how bad the Lakers’ defense would be without Davis. If there’s an argument for Byron Scott to increase his playing time, this is it.
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