Don’t blame Princeton.
National pundits and Lakers fans are hammering Lakers coach Mike Brown and the Princeton offense — Charles Barkley said he wants his accountants from Princeton, not his offense. It’s to the point Brown’s job could be threatened if the Lakers don’t have a strong home stand. All this even though it was Kobe Bryant who urged Brown to consider the Princeton offense
But the thing is the Princeton offense has really worked when they run it right. Don’t believe me? There’s proof (in the admittedly small sample sizes).
So far this season, Kobe has taken 50 percent of his shots inside the restricted area, right at the rim — that is double last season’s percentage (a great post at Forum Blue & Gold breaks down Kobe’s scoring this season). As should be obvious, even Kobe scores more shooting at the rim than he does 20 feet away. Rather than setting up in isolation plays where he gets the ball 22 feet from the basket and the defense sets for him, he is cutting and working off the ball and the result is better shots. The result is Kobe is shooting 56 percent this season, up from 43 percent last season.
Then there is Dwight Howard. Still bothered by a back not fully recovered from off-season surgery, he is averaging 22.4 points a game on 67.8 percent shooting. He is getting good looks. And so it goes down the line — the Lakers are getting good shots and actually scoring plenty.
The Lakers are averaging 104.6 points per 100 possessions, sixth best in the NBA according to NBA.com’s official stats.
That despite turning the ball over like a junior high team.
Just watching them the Lakers clearly not comfortable yet with their new offense and the resulting miscommunications have led to the Lakers turning the ball over on a league-leading 20 percent of their possessions — one in five trips down the floor they cough it up.
The result — opposing teams are getting 14.1 percent of their offense against the Lakers in transition and they are shooting 65.5 percent in that mode (according to Synergy Sports). Transition is the second most common offensive attack against the Lakers and when teams do that and score at a high rate you are in trouble.
The Lakers are currently 23rd in the NBA in defense, giving up 103.1 points per 100 possessions.
Let’s be honest, it’s not just transition defense — the Lakers handling of the pick-and-roll has been ugly as well. Pick-and-roll ball handlers and roll men account for 20.4 percent of the shots against the Lakers and teams are shooting 48.4 percent against the Lakers on that play.
This was something Dwight Howard was supposed to help solve — when healthy he is the best pick-and-roll defending big man in the NBA. But he is not moving like that guy right now, Steve Nash can’t help much even when he gets on the court and the Lakers rotations have been nonexistent.
And yes, the Lakers bench has been a non-factor.
But it still comes back to the turnovers — cut those out and you both increase your offensive output and you take away some of that ugly transition defense the Lakers are playing. Los Angeles is older and they are not going to be a running team. They are going to slow it down most of the season (even with Nash back — did you see him push the pace the first couple games only to look up and see nobody ran with him?). When they turn the ball over it plays right into their greatest weakness.
Take care of the ball and Mike Brown’s job is safe.
Well, at least until next summer if they don’t win it all.