Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s Shooting Improvement in the Portland Series

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been with the Los Angeles Lakers since 2017 and the majority of his time in the purple and gold has been heavily criticized. Mainly due to questionable performances individually, coupled with poor team performance.

However, in the 2019-20 season, despite a poor start, Caldwell-Pope has really turned it around to deliver some of his best performances in a Laker uniform yet. Through 69 regular season games, the 27-year-old averaged 9.3 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.6 assists. On 46.7% shooting from the field and 38.5% from beyond the arc.

As the NBA season resumed in Orlando, Caldwell-Pope struggled to re-discover form, converting just five 3-pointers in 6 games heading into the postseason. Although, it is worth noting that the team as a whole struggled during this period, going 3-5 for the remainder of the regular season.

Disaster then struck in Game 1 of the 1st round of the playoffs, against the Portland Trail Blazers. As the Lakers fell 0-1 in disappointing fashion, all eyes were set on Caldwell-Pope with his 1 point on 0-9 shooting, in 29 minutes.

The purple and gold did regroup to win 4 straight and eliminate the Trail Blazers in 5 games (4-1). Along with the team regrouping, KCP was a focal point to the Lakers’ success, finding his scoring touch and staying active on defense.

Photos: Lakers vs Trail Blazers Game 1 (8/18/2020) | Los Angeles Lakers
(Image/Joe Murphy/NBA.com)

Over the course of the series, the 6-foot-5 guard’s averages bumped up to 11.2 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1 steal, in 26 minutes per game. Whilst he shot at a below average 39.5%, he did convert at a 39.7% rate from downtown. Which gets him off the hook, as his primary role is to space the floor and knock down corner looks.

On the catch-and-shoot, which accumulate a large bulk of his scoring, Caldwell-Pope shot 52% and when wide open he converted at a 40.9% rate. He was the 5th-highest on the team in plus-minus (7.8), sitting behind Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Danny Green, and Alex Caruso.

He had impressive outings in Game 2 and 5, where he scored 16 points and 14 points, respectively. Knocking down four 3-pointers in both. In the latter, he tallied 3 steals, as the Lakers rounded out the series.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope may be averaging the second lowest averages of his career in points per game and rebounds, but he is arguably playing the best basketball of his career to date. His shooting numbers are at a career-high in both field goal and 3-point percentage, as he is actively contributing on a championship contender.

If he can keep up his shooting from range in round 2, and beyond, he will be a huge piece for the Lakers in chasing championship number 17.

Cover image credit: Associated Press.


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Lets Take a Look the Future of the NBA

(Image/NBC Los Angeles)

The League has been teasing major rule changes for years, and now it has a perfect opportunity.

The novel coronavirus has shut down the NBA (as well as all other major sports leagues and industrialized nations) for several weeks now. The NBA has been adamant about its intention to finish the season and crown a champion, with such restrictions on attendance as the public health situation makes necessary.

The suddenness of the disruption came as a shock to everyone. It’s exact duration and severity remain unclear. But this total, grinding halt to sports activity has also given the NBA a golden opportunity to have a dialogue about the rule book without the distractions of current play.

Already this year, the NBA proposed a change to the regular-season format with its mid-season tournament idea. Commissioner Adam Silver has also floated the notion of potentially pushing back the start date of the season permanently to accommodate the delays the virus has created. These conversations have naturally opened the door to additional potential changes.

(Image/Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

With that in mind, what will the NBA of 2025-2030 look like?

The Schedule:

For a number of years, the NBA has had a regular season problem. On one hand, players are unhappy with the high number of games and back-to-backs, arguing that more rest and fewer games would result in fewer injuries and more consistently exciting play. On the other hand, in spite of the high number of games, viewer interest in the regular season is handicapped by the ad nauseam repetition by both players and commentators that only the playoffs really matter.

Late last year, Silver floated a draft solution that would take four games off of the regular season and introduce a mid-season tournament. It is clear what he hoped to accomplish; reduce the workload for players and increase rest while trying to find a creative way to compensate owners for the revenue lost as a result.

(Image/Getty Images)

The mid-season tournament may help to promote viewer interest during the grind of the regular season, yet it has met with unenthusiastic reviews from media and owners alike. It runs the risk of becoming gimmicky, but a highlight of the NBA throughout its history has been a willingness to adapt based on feedback.

With significantly lower revenues being projected into the future as the economic reverberations of the coronavirus unfold, the odds of the players winning a more dramatic reduction in games (some have proposed a 65-70 game season) currently seem remote.

A potentially more interesting – and more profitable – opportunity may have been unintentionally afforded by the suspension of play due to coronavirus. The Association’s determination to finish the season when conditions allow will severely reduce if not eliminate the usual off-season schedule. The most obvious solution is simply to push back the scheduled beginning of next season to permit, at the very least, a condensed off-season.

Under the current schedule, the NBA begins every year in direct competition with the late-season NFL, which is far and away the most popular sporting competition in the United States. It then competes throughout its season with the NHL, and throughout its playoffs with the beginnings of baseball season.

If, on the other hand, NBA basketball began sometime in December – Christmas recommends itself as a high visibility date – it would both avoid much direct competition with the NFL and place its playoffs in the late summer. The late summer months are notoriously bland ones in American sports, when fan interest tends to wander. The potential for increasing viewership by putting the NBA playoffs in that time frame is vast.

Colin Cowherd, among several other commentators, has pointed out that this league suspension presents an ideal opportunity to craft such a change without disrupting the league any more than it already has been.

Given the exigencies of the moment, and the need for a proper off-season so players can recover, the league will almost be forced either to do something along these lines or to shorten next season as well. As shortening next season would produce another enormous loss of revenue for the NBA, it would be surprising if the league took the latter course. Don’t be surprised if a December-to-August NBA season becomes the new normal.

Development/Eligibility:

For most of its history the NBA, bizarrely, left youth development of its future stars to collegiate programs which played under a very different set of rules than the one it endorsed. That began to change with predecessors of the G-League being established in 2001, and again in 2005 when the late former Commissioner David Stern announced his intention to develop it into a full minor league system. That vision is only just beginning to come to fruition.

(Image/NBA.com/G-League)

This process, along with the myriad problems embedded in the structure of the NCAA, has called into question the future of collegiate sports in the NBA development pipeline. Innovations like the two-way contract and the slow but steady increase in G-League salaries for players are increasing the vibrancy and competitiveness of that league, which is an important development for a league with the expressed goal of producing NBA-caliber players.

For the first time, high level American prospects are choosing to play with professional organizations abroad until they turn 19, rather than play NCAA basketball. Recent big names like Emmanuel Mudiay (China) and LaMelo Ball (Australia) have taken this path without seeing their draft stock suffer.

As legal and public relations problems within NCAA sports continue to mount (not to mention the NCAAs absurd aversion to paying the people who make money for it), the NBA seems likely to find itself in a position where more and more of its elite prospects decide to take themselves abroad to prepare for the draft. In light of that development, it may choose one of two possible courses.

(Image/Getty Images)

The first is to do nothing and encourage certain international leagues to specialize in the development of young talent. This would effectively outsource the development process, permitting the league to focus on other matters. The G-League, in this scenario, would remain what it is today – the realm of second round/undrafted picks looking to prove themselves, reclamation projects, and elite amateur players trying to go pro.

The second, more ambitious route would see either a significant increase across the board in G-League salaries or (more likely) a limited number of exceptions per team permitting higher salaries to prospects. This would enable NBA teams to begin directly developing talent earlier in the kind of immersive environment only a professional organization can provide.

Teams would be able to work at the development level on skills they want their prospects to bring to the major league team, with the larger team picture in mind from the beginning. Indeed, there would be nothing at that point stopping the league from lowering the floor age into the teens and using the G-league as a true talent development league for the NBA, superseding both the NCAA and AAU.

The Game:

For all the controversy surrounding the significant changes in the NBA game in the last ten years, the game has never been prettier or more fluid. There are signs, though, that recent trends may be taking the league to a less pleasant place.

(Image/David J. Phillip/Associated Press)

The gradual spacing revolution in basketball has improved the aesthetic of the game, but as more and more teams adapt to the new reality of the league, the efficiency competition becomes more and more cutthroat. Increasingly elaborate ways of devising foul shots and spot-up threes have been devised.

The hyper-vigilant enforcement of contact rules against perimeter defenders compromises defenses across the league. When dribble penetration inevitably draws help, a spot-up 3 becomes likely.

Players like James Harden have tortured defenses by manipulating not only their coverages, but the referees. He manipulates the field of vision of each referee with surgical precision to manufacture scenes of apparent contact by the defender which he has himself initiated.

That is no knock to Harden: he is one of the most efficient volume scorers and distributors of all time. But the absurd efficiency of foul shots in combination with the ease of drawing fouls on the perimeter produces a perverse incentive for players. When the rule structure creates an incentive to manipulate the referees to the neglect of making a genuine field goal attempt, it requires attention.

The huge gap in physicality permitted in the post as opposed to the perimeter has simply made chasing shooting fouls and spot-ups a more effective strategy than is consistent with an aesthetically diverse game.

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(Image/Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports)

What makes basketball such a marvelous game is the constant interplay between big and small, strength and speed, skill and athleticism. If the NBA continues to privilege perimeter play at the expense of larger players, that aesthetic diversity in the league will eventually be lost under an avalanche of wings taking 60% of their shots per game from 3. It would be an enormous blow for the NBA to lose bigs entirely, and the league will have to act in the next ten years to prevent that from happening.

Overall:

In spite of its recent TV ratings issues, the NBA as a brand is one of the best positioned in all of global sports. It needs to continue to display the forward thinking strategy and willingness to adapt that have characterized it from the beginning. It has major choices to make on each of the above fronts that will affect both the quality and growth of the league.

Additional new sources of change will be opened as well, as the game continues to globalize. The time-honored success of the Euroleague as well as growing leagues in China and Australia – not to mention the upcoming Basketball Africa League – interplay with the NBA and amateur games to make basketball the only plausible rival to association football in terms of global culture.


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3 Ways in Which Kyle Kuzma Can Improve Going into 2020

Oklahoma City Thunder v Los Angeles Lakers
(Image/Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Lakers have started the season on fire and have maintaining the best record in the NBA, one of their key pieces has yet to fully ignite as of yet. With so much at stake going forward, how can Kyle Kuzma step it up going into 2020?

The Los Angeles Lakers have been a juggernaut to start the season, with a league’s best record and team chemistry at an all-time high, things are really looking up for the purple and gold. For fans of the Lakers, this moment in time feels so sweet.

With the memory of Kobe Bryant‘s torn Achilles still etched into the memory of Lakers fans, The Chris Paul trade being vetoed, Dwight Howard leaving for Houston, numerous lottery picks and missing the playoffs year after year. Finally, Lakersnation has a team that makes all of the heartaches of the past feel like a distant memory.

When talking about this team, much of the plaudits must be given to the likes of General Manager Rob Pelinka for assembling the team, Coach Frank Vogel for executing the gameplan on a nightly basis and keeping the team in the top 10 on both ends of the floor and to LeBron James and Anthony Davis who have been incredible so far this season.

With Davis and LeBron both considered MVP candidates, it is easy to see how the Lakers are off to such a fast start.

While the likes of AD and LeBron are playing incredible, one player that huge things were expected of is Kyle Kuzma.

While being the last remaining member of the Laker’s beloved young core, Kuzma was kept in hope that he would reach the next level of his development and become the 3rd defacto star for the purple and gold. As of right now, Kuzma has fallen far short of expectation.

A lot of the blame can be put on the ankle injury which he received whilst playing for Team USA, which in turn forced Kuz to miss training camp and pre-season. In essence, Kuzma has been playing catch up all season.

With the season far from over, there is still plenty of time for Kuzma to find a rich vein of form, if this happens, the Lakers could be an even scarier team then they have shown.

Here are 3 ways in which Kyle Kuzma can improve going forward this season:

Los Angeles Lakers
(Image/Logan Riely/NBAE)

Buy into the Kevin Love role

There is nobility in being the 3rd star on a championship-contending team. For every LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, you have a Chris Bosh, for every Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, you have Lamar Odom and for every LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, you have Kevin Love.

The role of the 3rd star is to sacrifice individually in order for the team to succeed as a unit.

Kevin Love was an absolute monster for the Minnesota Timberwolves. His ability to rebound, shoot from anywhere and be the number one option on the Timberwolves team made him a multiple time all-star and widely considered one of the best power forwards in the NBA.

However, upon Love’s arrival in Cleveland, he realized that his role was going to drastically change.

When you have transcendent talents such as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving on your roster, you do everything in order to put them in the best position to win. Which meant forcing Love into a role he has never done throughout his basketball career. 

The Cavaliers asked Love to grab rebounds and spot up from the 3-point line. For a superstar, swallowing your pride and doing what is best for the team is a humbling experience.

Love did this for the Cavaliers and in return he won a ring.

While Kyle Kuzma isn’t the same caliber of star Kevin Love is, the message remains the same, grab rebounds, outlet the ball to LeBron or AD and wait on the wings for a spot-up 3-point shot.

If Kuzma can hit the 3-point shot at an above-average rate, he has the potential to be a 20ppg scorer. He has the confidence in his shot, he has the ability and if he buys into his role fully, he will be the 3rd star the Los Angeles Lakers need.

Los Angeles Lakers
(Image/Joe Murphy/NBAE)

Continue to work hard on defense

Needless to say, so far in Kyle Kuzma’s career, we can safely say that being an elite defender has not been one of his calling cards.

Kuzma since being drafted has been guilty of getting beat by his opposing player for an easy basket or a pull-up jumper right in his face. This has caused a lot of frustration not just for his coaches and fellow teammates but also for fans of the purple and gold.

The most frustrating aspect for all involved is knowing that Kuzma is a willing defender, who is willing to work hard but his technique on the defensive end left a lot to be desired.

Kuzma’s main problem on defense is his footwork. While some of the best defenders in the NBA slide their feet in order to stay in front of their man, Kuzma would bounce on the soles of his feet, this led to players easily reading Kuzma’s footwork and throwing in hesitations and head fakes in order to get Kuzma off balance allowing the opposing player to get easy buckets.

With the likes of Frank Vogel, Jason Kidd, Lionel Hollins, and Phil Handy on staff, Kuzma has a wealth of knowledge in order to improve as a defender.

The effects of their tutelage have already been seen in Kuzma’s game. While he is still prone occasionally to bounce on the soles of his feet, he has also slowly but surely worked that out of his game and adopted the more conventional slide technique which will allow him to stay in front of his man.

Kuzma has the quickness to stay in front of his man, he has the hard-working mentality to want to get better and he is willing to put the effort in to be the best player he can be on both sides of the ball.

Continued development with the coaching staff could have Kuzma being a defensive stopper of sorts, rather than being a turnstile.

Los Angeles Lakers
(Image/Logan Riely/NBAE)

Become the 2nd Unit leader

Having been a mainstay in the Lakers starting line-up for much of his Laker’s career, it must have come as a surprise to Kyle Kuzma this off-season that he was being asked to come off the bench after being successful in the starting line-up alongside LeBron.

Adding an otherworldly talent in Anthony Davis will force you to make changes.

The Lakers so far have been spot on in moving Kuzma to the bench. With AD and LeBron playing incredibly together, it makes no sense to stick Kuzma into the starting line-up. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

While Kuzma hasn’t exactly been great in the 2nd unit as of yet as he has been working his way back to fitness, the Lakers should be encouraging Kuz to take a larger role in the team and lead the 2nd unit.

Kuzma, while young has the perfect attributes to be a leader of men. In Kyle Kuzma, you have a young man who has grown up in Flint, Michigan, who did not get many Division I offers to play college ball, who was overlooked the majority of his college career. He used people overlooking his talent and skill and turned that into fuel for the fire.

Kuzma is a hard worker who wants to get better at his craft and learn every day, willing to reach out to the titans of the game such as Kobe Bryant in order to learn everything he can in order to be the most well-rounded player he can be. His hard-working demeanor has garnered him respect from teammates significantly older than him. Kuzma has earned his place every step of the way and knows that if he doesn’t work hard it could all disappear.

With a player of his mentality, you need to challenge him to do more. While LeBron James and Anthony Davis are the Superstars, Kuzma can play the role of the leader of the 2nd unit.

This would allow for Kuz to dominate in the second unit and put the pressure on the other teams 2nd unit. This can elongate the Laker’s lead making it much easier to put teams away early on.

Kyle Kuzma’s talent is undeniable, he has the God-given ability to be a superstar. If he can realize this potential, then the purple and gold have another star on their hands.

Here is hoping everything clicks together on time in order for the Lakers to make a deep playoff run.


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3 Superstars the Los Angeles Lakers Could Target Post-LeBron James

(Image/AFP Photo/Sean M. Haffey)

With the Los Angeles Lakers missing out on their main target in superstar forward Kawhi Leonard this past summer, attention must now switch to free agency 2021. Who will the purple and gold target?

With the summer of 2019 finished, the Lakers will look back at the period as somewhat bittersweet. While the Lakers were able to fill the roster with quality depth and solid starting-caliber players to join superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, it will also be remembered as the summer in which they missed out on current NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, to cross-city rivals the Los Angeles Clippers.

The purple and gold have moved on and started the season strongly, however, a plan must be put in place for the future. While 2021 is 2-years away, it is set to be potentially just as talent-filled as this past action-packed free agency was.

Even though we all hate to admit it, LeBron James’ career is closer to the end then it is to the beginning, and the Lakers desperately need to have provisions in place for when he decides to call it a day.

Image result for lebron james bradley beal
(Image/Ned Dishman/NBAE)

With James having a player option in the summer of 2021, it isn’t entirely unlikely that he decides to finish his career back in Cleveland again where it all began. I also wouldn’t rule out him taking a major pay cut to help his team add a 3rd superstar, but let’s go under the assumption that he leaves the Lakers in 2021.

While the Lakers may be in good hands with Anthony Davis on the roster (who is expected to sign long-term), they will need to create a team capable of not only helping LeBron James short term but also help Davis win and become sustainable post-James.

While there will be a lot of talent available in 2021, but there may be only a select few who will be capable of pushing the Lakers over the top to win the Larry O’Brien trophy.

There are players like Kawhi Leonard, Paul GeorgeRudy Gobert and DeMar DeRozan available, but the likes of Leonard and George will more than likely not be options after recently signing with the Clippers. Gobert and Davis do to similar jobs on defense, and DeRozan would be an option at the right price but his terrible 3-point shooting this season leaves cause for concern.

Here are 3 players who will be available in free agency in 2021, who could join Anthony Davis, and make a large impact.

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(Image/Sportscasting.com)

Giannis Antetokounmpo

If you’re going to go after a superstar, you might as well go for the reigning MVP, the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Not since the days of Shaquille O’Neal and prime LeBron James, has the NBA had a more physically dominant player than Antetokounmpo.

With his eye-popping length, his otherworldly athleticism, and his ability to play positions 1 through 5, makes him one of the most unique players in NBA history.

What truly sets Antetokounmpo apart from nearly the entire league is his ability to be elite on both ends of the floor. Don’t dare try and go to the rim when the Greek Freak is in the paint otherwise he is swatting your shot into the stands. Now try and beat him on the perimeter, he is either going to strip the ball, get into your chest, alter your shot, or lull you into the paint only to embarrass you.

His ability to do that makes him a great defender, his ability to do that at every position makes him the elite of the elite. Even though Rudy Gobert won the Defensive Player of the Year this year, I don’t think many people would have raised an eyebrow had Giannis Antetokounmpo won.

On the other side of the ball, Antetokounmpo will physically bully you into submission, while he may not have a consistent 3-point game, he hasn’t needed it so far in his career as he has no problem getting to the rim at will.

If he was to become a knockdown 3-point shooter, then we might be witnessing the dawn of potentially one of the greatest players to ever play the game. While he has a lot left to prove before getting to that stage, he is well on his way to true greatness.

Securing Antetokounmpo alongside Anthony Davis would give the Lakers two of the best and most physically dominant players in the NBA. It would be the ideal time for Davis and Antetokounmpo to take the mantle and push the Lakers forward for years to come.

The purple and gold have laid the groundwork with the hiring of Jason Kidd and the signing his younger brother Kostas Antetokounmpo to a two-way deal. They have 2-years to prepare for Giannis, they better get started on their pitch

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(Image/Getty Images)

Bradley Beal

While Bradley Beal has signed a 2-year, $72 million extension with the Washington Wizards to secure the bag, let’s not completely rule him out of moving elsewhere as the Wizards don’t seem to be going anywhere in a hurry.

While the Lakers were able to address the 3-point issues at the Shooting Suard position this off-season by adding Danny Green, it may only be a short term solution to a problem the team have had for many years. While Green is a sharpshooter and an excellent defender, he is also 32-years of age and has never been known to be a high volume scorer with a career average of 9 points per game.

While I truly believe that Green will have a career year with the purple and gold, the Lakers must have a close eye on the future, so by the time Green’s contract is finished, they have a replacement capable of filling in for him who will be able to score at a high clip each game also.

If you are looking for a Shooting Guard, who will get you 20+ points per game, who can shoot the lights out from anywhere on the floor, and has a career 3-point average of 38.4%, then Bradley Beal is your man. In the absence of All-Star point guard John Wall, Beal has stepped up in a big way and became the leader of the Washington Wizards and over the last two seasons has been an All-Star.

The Lakers could desperately use Beal’s shooting abilities as they haven’t had a consistent knockdown shooter since Kobe Bryant retired. Adding Beal would not only help out the team enormously but I think Beal himself would benefit greatly from the gravity in which LeBron James and Anthony Davis would demand.

Davis will require double teams nearly every time he touches the ball, if you disrespect him by man-marking him, then he is going to dominate his man and get an easy bucket. Beal would be the recipient of countless wide-open shots due to this. Beal would also be a huge part of the offense, being able to facilitate, as well as score.

While Beal signed an extension this season, it wouldn’t shock me if he looked to move elsewhere as the Wizards have had an abysmal Front Office for many years. Also with promoting Tommy Sheppard to General Manager shows that they are struggling to attract any top-level executives. Having Beal on the Lakers would set the franchise up perfectly for numerous title runs moving forward.

Having to trade for Bradley Beal does come with its setbacks, and may cost them a player like Kyle Kuzma, but he is a player who could be worth it, and could have a massive impact on the Lakers long term.

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(Image/Hoops Habit)

Victor Oladipo

A player that has impressed the hell out of me in the last number of years, is Victor Oladipo. He has shown that he is a superstar in this league. Ever since his move to the Indiana Pacers, Oladipo has shown enormous potential on both sides of the ball.

While playing beside Russell Westbrook whilst on the Oklahoma City Thunder, Oladipo was relegated to a catch-and-shoot role and was always waiting on Westbrook to get his shot off and if that wasn’t open, Oladipo would be getting his shots.

As soon as he made the move to the Pacers, he was finally able to become the player he always knew he could be. Whether he is torching you with his speed and ability to get to the rim, he is pulling up from the 3-point line. Oladipo has an extremely well-rounded game that led to him being named the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2018.

While he is currently dealing with a knee injury, he is expected to make a full recovery and will be highly sought after in the summer of 2021. He would certainly offer a long-term solution for the Lakers at Shooting Guard position. His ability to shoot, and to facilitate, would take some of the pressure off Anthony Davis, and would allow for a top-notch secondary scorer.

A Davis and Oladipo pairing would be very hard to stop, and if you add top-notch depth to that roster, rather than chasing a 3rd superstar, then the Lakers would be capable of competing at the very top of the NBA for many years to come.

The Lakers’ job between now and then is to show these potential free agents that they are capable of competing for championships. If they can make some deep playoffs runs then the likelihood of landing the big fish the future increases.

The pressure is on over the next two seasons to put their best foot forward. Here is hoping that happens.

By Jonathan Kiernan (@JonathanKNBA)


Lakers Fanclub UK are proud affiliate partners of Fanatics UK and the NBA Store Europe. We do possess unique promotional codes for both websites that can offer our readers and followers 10% off site-wide through the following weblinks.

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Recap: Taking a Look Back at October

(Image/AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

It has been a breathtaking start to the Los Angeles Lakers’ season. Their early 5-1 record has the team recording their best start to a season since 2010.

The only defeat, thus far, came in the opening game to cross-city rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers on October 23. That game brought a vast amount of attention to the city of Los Angeles, as the whole world was fixated on the heavyweight match-up between two teams who are tipped and favored for the ultimate glory this season.

The sheer goal for the Lakers is to claim and assert their status as the kings of the iconic city of Los Angeles, lifting championship #17 in the process. However, it did not go according to plan in game #1, as there was a consistent problem throughout with their performance. Lack of aggression and a lack of grit on offensive rebounding being some of those issues.

Frank Vogel‘s Lakers only managed nine boards on the offensive end in comparison to Doc Rivers‘ defensive juggernauts who edged it with two more. The main deterrent of the performance was the turnovers. Ball retention was non-existent during certain spells of the game and possession was lost in key offensive plays.

Looking to debutants, two-time NBA champion Danny Green delivered a first class display notching up 28 points. The most by any player in his debut for the purple and gold, ever. Green was also among the focal point on rallying a spirited defensive urgency through the team which transpired halfway through the third quarter, as the Lakers closed out a deficit, to tie the game.

Late on showed elements of a lack of understanding throughout the team, which is to be expected with it practically being a completely newly constructed roster. Unfortunately this caused the game to be dropped, on the big stage, with the world watching.

There are now two relevant teams in Los Angeles which have a real shot at a championship. Kawhi Leonard‘s 30 points urged the Clippers to a huge 112-102 victory, taking part one in the battle of Los Angeles. However, there are many battles within a war.

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(Image/Los Angeles Times)

The Lakers kicked off their home opener against a Quin Synder-led Utah Jazz team. LeBron James erupted for 32 points in this one and dominated the highlight reel with dazzling plays. One of those being a superb overhead lob pass in the paint to find fellow superstar Anthony Davis who dunked it home.

The performance was a much better defensive performance, as the Lakers kept the Jazz under 100 points and were far more aggressive in the rebounding category, putting together 11 offensive rebounds, 8 more than the Jazz.

In addition, Troy Daniels put on a fantastic display, knocking down four 3-pointers for 15 points on his official home Lakers debut. The purple and gold edged this one for a 95-86 win.

Sunday October 27, saw the Lakers rocking their fresh Sunday whites uniforms, as they looked to improve their season record to 2-1. In their way this time, the Charlotte Hornets.

Dwight Howard, who is adamant on gaining full respect and admiration from Lakers fans in his second spell with the franchise, posted a double-double, with 16 points, on 8-8 shooting, and 10 rebounds, along with 4 blocks.

Anthony Davis continued to display his excellence both offensively and defensively, racking up 29 points, 14 rebounds, and 3 assists. Both Davis and Howard were being a nuisance for the Hornets in the paint, who couldn’t cope with the sheer size of the Lakers down low.

An area which was a persistent issue was the amount of fouls given away, leading the Hornets to make 21 of 23 free throws on the night. LeBron James and Co. rallied to blow Charlotte away in the third quarter, which led the Lakers to a routine 120-101 win.

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(Image/The Lake Show Life)

The following home game against the Memphis Grizzlies was a historic night for Anthony Davis, as he became the first Laker player to drop 40 points and 20 boards in 16 years. With the last player achieving this being none-other than Shaquille O’Neal.

Davis also set another record for achieving this in just under 31 minutes as he sat out for the entirety of the fourth quarter, as the Lakers blew out the Grizzlies 120-91 to achieve back-to back blowout wins within a week.

The improvements seemed to come along as Vogel ensured a more solid offensive strategy and rotation, with the Lakers converting 40-86 field goals. The purple and gold also kept the Grizzlies to just 32% shooting. Yet again, the Lakers held a team under 100 points. Solid defense.

It was an extremely positive opening month, which was technically just a week, for everyone involved in the Lakers organisation. The team have most definitely showed character and determination to push until the very end of games.

If it can be kept up and rotations are managed, the purple and gold can certainly make serious noise in a packaged Western Conference.

By Kwadwo ‘Kojo’ Larson (@kwadwo_l)

A Closer Look at the Lakers’ Offense

(Image/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)

The pre-season has ended, the regular season is here, and we now have a reasonable idea of what the Los Angeles Lakers will be running this season, offensively. 

While imperfect, the team’s performances and several of the sets they have run show promising signs that the general judgment of Head Coach Frank Vogel as a weak offensive coach may have been passed too soon.

While any offense featuring LeBron James and Anthony Davis is going to score a lot of points, the margins provided by a well-designed and run offense will make the difference between this Lakers team being simply a good offensive team, or a historically great one. 

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(Image/Adam Pantozzi/NBAE)

The Good:

There was an awful lot to like about how the Lakers played offense this pre-season. The stars absolutely performed in their minutes, and the frankly absurd length and athleticism of the Laker bigs provided access to plenty of offensive rebounds. The new coaching staff impressed by demonstrating offensive concepts that, even at this early juncture, seem more advanced and fundamentally sound than anything seen during the Byron Scott and Luke Walton years. 

The staff already has the players utilizing some off-ball counter actions that attack the defense with purpose and permit James to demonstrate his passing ability, and have also found some intriguing ways to deal with the weaknesses in their personnel.

Zach Norvell Jr also stood out in significant minutes, including for good measure a couple of highlight-reel plays that will haunt Jordan Poole’s nightmares for months to come.

The LeBron James/Anthony Davis Screen and Roll 

From the time of Anthony Davis’ now-infamous trade request last season, analysts have discussed his potential in a screen and roll with LeBron James in hushed, awed tones.

The early evidence suggests that their reverence was well-founded. As neither are elite shooters from distance, a defense may try to go under the screens, gambling that James will have an off night from 3. Unfortunately for the defense, this approach both gives James space off the dribble and a clear view of the defense to make passing reads.

If James’ defender instead follows him over the screen, the defending big has to choose between hedging and giving up the pocket pass to Davis on the roll and permitting James to attack the rim with momentum. If help comes at the rim, James is a deadly mid-range shooter when open and, again, one of basketball history’s most celebrated passers.

If the defense is driven to switch, they place themselves at the mercy of either James or Davis in isolation with a mismatch. There are very few players in the world capable of guarding either in isolation. Switching the James/Davis screen requires two of them to avoid the mismatch, as the latter is a more than capable ball-handler who can receive as well as set the screen.

The final recourse for the defensive coach is to simply stuff the paint with help defenders, but doing so leaves 3-point shooters open, and the Lakers shooters have been hitting their shots at respectable rates. It was widely expected to be a terrifying prospect, but actually seeing the James/Davis screen and roll in action is awe-inspiring. It genuinely seems unfair. There is no obvious way to guard it. Laker fans should expect to see a lot of it during the season.

Offensive Rebounding

LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the shooters surrounding them demand the attention of the defense. Their ability to draw double-teams or help defenders create situations in which the defense is out of position to secure the rebound from a missed shot. The length and athleticism of the Lakers’ front line is perfect for taking advantage of these easy opportunities.

For a defense, this can be morale-breaking. Assuming that a defense navigates all of the challenges of defending a James/Davis screen and roll enumerated above, it finds itself unable to complete the possession for sheer inability to put a big enough body on Davis, JaVale McGee, or Dwight Howard to get the rebound. These kinds of plays can be sneakily important, providing a huge boost to the offensive team on key possessions.

Mover-Blocker Sets for the Bench Unit

Mover-Blocker sets are offensive sets that divide the players into two categories; blockers, who set screens, and movers, who cut and look to score using the screens the blockers set. Sets like this can be identified by the basic “wheel” motion the movers use around the blockers as they try to contort the defense, frequently flowing into a screen and roll if no good shot presents itself.

These sets have the merit of creating a lot of action around the court in a short period of time. They also permit a group of players who have particular skills but lack well-rounded or dominant scorers to get open shots.

When James or Davis are on the floor, the offense will obviously be geared around taking advantage of their superlative talent. The bench lineups, however, lack a dominant ball-handling scorer in the mold of Lou Williams or Eric Gordon. The constant action of mover-blocker sets relieve any individual of having to be the primary creator, and could allow players like Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso to use their passing skills and also get good looks from off-ball movement, which is an area where both excel.

While it may be hoped that Lakers fans see relatively little basketball this season that doesn’t include either LeBron James or Anthony Davis, running mover-blocker sets can help ensure that the offense generates open looks in the absence of their gravity.

Zach Norvell, Jr.

After he was signed to a two-way contract by the Lakers this summer, undrafted two-year Gonzaga guard Zach Norvell, Jr. was given a chance in the preseason to demonstrate what he can do – and he did just that.  He displayed a quick release and willingness to shoot from 3 that is encouraging, while shooting a respectable 35.3% from that distance (a number which was deflated by occasionally questionable shot selection.) He showed a great motor and made a couple of defensive plays. Perhaps most encouraging, he showed frequent glimpses of a passing touch that might see him sneaking into the guard rotation for the Lakers this year.

He also flat-out disrespected Jordan Poole, breaking his ankles on two nights in two different arenas, taking Poole’s embarrassment on tour.

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(Image/Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press)

The Bad:

While the above painted a fairly rosy picture of the Lakers’ offense thus far, that is not to say that they were perfect. Far from it. In particular, Alex Caruso has been frequently misused on offense during the preseason, the guard rotations have been questionable, and Rajon Rondo’s presence on the court has created spacing problems, again.

Alex Caruso’s Utilisation

Caruso has been one of the more perplexing players of this preseason for the Lakers. He played phenomenally at the end of last year and over the summer Lakers Twitter™ was prepared to insert him into the starting lineup. Several strengths from his run last year have indeed carried over to the preseason – he shot about league average from 3 on a small sample, played energetic defense, and again demonstrated his playmaking chops.

That being said, the situations in which he has been used in the preseason have the effect of highlighting his deficiencies from last season, which remain. He likes to go for the big play and has a tendency to over-penetrate and both of those inclinations contribute to his being turnover prone and frequently having his shots blocked. There is something to be said for giving him a chance to display the skills he lacked last year during the preseason, but the early returns in this regard have not been great.

Playing him with such high frequency in screen and roll situations, where he has the ball with momentum heading toward the basket, encourages him to indulge in his worst impulses. He doesn’t yet have a reliable floater or mid range jumper, so defenders chasing him over the screen and off the three point line can funnel him to the defending big at the rim. He rightly trusts his athleticism to help him finish, but he simply isn’t skilled enough to beat multiple defenders or elite rim protectors consistently.

Caruso’s cutting ability, shooting, and skill reading the defense make it ideal to use him mostly off the ball in offensive situations, but the lack of trustworthy ball-handlers on the bench unit have made it difficult to keep the ball out of his hands when he’s on the floor. One of the encouraging things about seeing the Lakers run mover-blocker sets with the bench unit is that it is an offense that would permit Caruso to distribute his time between off-ball actions and making things happen with the ball. Whether it’s through that avenue or simply playing him more frequently alongside Rondo, if the Lakers want Caruso’s best they need to do a better job of putting him in a position to succeed.

Letting Rondo’s Defender Sag

Let this be said for Rajon Rondo: during this preseason he has been significantly better than he was for any three-game stretch last season. He seems less congenitally averse to shooting threes and is making a high percentage of them. Yet defenses continue to sag off of him dramatically, and will continue to do so unless he can sustain his high percentage on high volume for several months. 

In the first game against the Warriors, Vogel had Rondo frequently screening for shooters on the weak side when he didn’t have the ball in the offense. Doing so takes advantage of his defender sagging toward the paint, because when Rondo screens there is no one to switch onto the shooter. While it would be better for Rondo’s defender to be respecting his shot and clearing away from the paint, at least this screening scheme punishes the defense for moving so dramatically away from him.

The Lakers have used Rondo in this way less frequently since that first game, and accordingly the offense is less able to penetrate easily when he is on the floor. His defense at this stage of his career is negligible, so any tactic that reduces his offensive effectiveness so dramatically presents a serious problem for keeping him on the floor at all. Unless or until defenses are forced to respect Rondo’s three point shot, the Lakers need to have him active as a perimeter screener or their offense will run the risk of stagnating.

A Questionable Guard Rotation

Avery Bradley, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Rajon Rondo have all demonstrated that they bring something to the table. There have been problems, though, with playing two of them at the same time. None of them are particularly big and they have difficulty with larger, athletic defenders. Bradley and Caldwell-Pope are relatively poor ball-handlers and inconsistent distributors.

Rondo and Caldwell-Pope play well enough together on offense but are too small to share the floor on defense against NBA size. It is questionable that Rondo and Bradley can space the floor well enough to keep the offense from clogging the paint. 

When there are so many problems with playing these guys together but they collectively take up a large proportion of the guard minutes, that is a problem. Eventually, with guys like Caruso, Norvell, and Quinn Cook nipping at their heels one or both of them will have to find their minutes significantly cut back.

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(Image/Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)

The Verdict:

As is to be expected in preseason, there is a lot the Lakers will need to clean up during the regular season before the playoffs arrive. Some players will need to have their roles or usage adjusted, and Frank Vogel will need to stay creative in his approach as defenses try to adapt to what this team can do.

That being said, the ingredients for an offensive juggernaut are here, and the recipe for utilizing them is fairly straightforward. The Lakers’ gameplan is just easier to execute than many other teams’ because their stars have such compatible skill sets, and lest we forget Kyle Kuzma has yet to play a minute this year. If the problems mentioned above are still problems at the All-Star break, there will be concerns about this team in a playoff setting. If they are addressed, the Lakers will be incredibly difficult to stop.

By Phil Sizemore (@phsizemore)


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Giveaway: Win a Lakers Fanclub UK Bundle

We have a couple of items that we have put together to form a competition giveaway bundle.

These are a white Lakers Fanclub UK logo t-shirt and a pair of Kobe Bryant socks. There will be one winner who can select t-shirt sizes between men’s M-XXL. With the socks, one size fits all.

The t-shirt is courtesy of UK Los Angeles Clippers fan, Dan Coupe, who wanted to support the fan-club by purchasing from our store for it to be used in a giveaway. A huge thank you goes to Dan for this act of kindness.

The competition is available worldwide and will end at 1pm (UK Time) on Wednesday August 28. To enter, retweet and like the below tweet, and follow @lakersfanclubuk on Twitter. Please ensure that you do all of the above otherwise your entry will not be counted. The winner will be drawn at random.

Good luck!

A Conversation With.. Trevor Lane of Lakers Nation

At Lakers Fanclub UK, we have been thinking of ways that the UK fan-base could keep in touch with the opinions and views directly from Los Angeles. Over the past week we have reached out to a few established reporters that cover the Lakers, in an attempt to form a new article series titled “A Conversation With..”.

With that, Trevor Lane of Lakers Nation was the first to get back to us. We are delighted that Trevor agreed to take part, and we hope you enjoy reading his views and opinions below.

Q: First of all, thank you for talking to us Trevor. We are huge fans of your work over at Lakers Nation.

Trevor: “Thanks! I appreciate you reading and listening!”

(Image/@ManUtd Twitter)

Q: We see that on your bio on the Lakers Nation website that you’re a fan of many sports, most notably soccer, where you are a LA Galaxy and US Soccer fan. Do you have a Premier League team?

Trevor: “So not to disappoint, but I only follow the Premier League very casually. I don’t have a team that I support (though my mom is a huge Man U fan) but will absolutely put on any EPL game because I enjoy high-quality soccer. The Lakers take up a lot of my time and I have been caught up in MLS since its inception; as a young player at the time I thought it was so incredible that we would have a domestic league. MLS has come a long way in 20+ years, and while it’s nowhere near the EPL in terms of quality at this stage, there is only so much time in the day. In fact, I’m watching a Galaxy game while I’m typing this!”

Q: We hear that you are a long-time Laker fan, what are your first memories of the Lakers? Also, what is your favourite moment of supporting the team?

Trevor: “Actually, my very first memory is the Lakers. We had a green L-shaped couch in our living room and I can remember climbing up on it with my dad watching the Showtime era. I had a little plastic mini hoop that I used to try to do the sky hook on.”

“Favorite moment is tough; there have been so many. I’m going to cheat and say two: the 2010 championship and Kobe Bryant’s final game. In 2010 the Lakers vs Celtics rivalry was back and I was living and dying with every play. It was an ugly game, but that win was so, so sweet. Bryant’s last game, meanwhile, was unbelievable. It was the greatest send-off ever in a way that only Kobe could have done it.”

(Image/ABC News)

Q: What would be the routine of a typical working day in the life of Trevor Lane?

Trevor: “Not all that different than most people, I suppose. I try to make as much time for family as possible, which usually leads to some late nights writing and recording after my daughter goes to sleep. I’m often writing or podcasting with any free moments.”

Q: Obviously last season did not go as expected, could you round-up your thoughts on the 2018/19 Lakers campaign?

Trevor: “It was a perfect storm of issues that created a disappointing season. Injuries, roster construction, rotations, and trade rumors all played a role in a failed season. That said, it wasn’t as bad as so many have made it out to be. They were, after all, 4th in the West prior to LeBron James’ injury. We also saw Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball both take their games to new heights before injuries ended their seasons. Ingram, in particular, was playing at an All-Star level. That shouldn’t be overlooked in the midst of all the turmoil. Magic Johnson’s abrupt departure only served to intensify the scrutiny, and now the team will have to push back against the sinking ship narrative as they prepare for free agency in July.”

(Image/USA Today Sports)

Q: Last season was obviously a tough one for the young core, who would you say has the highest ceiling out of our young players, and why?

Trevor: “Right now it has to be Ingram. In the weeks before his unfortunate DVT, he was getting to his spots at will and using his length to shoot over defenders. For the first time, he looked so comfortable, as though the game had slowed down for him. Defensively, his endless arms were walling off large sections of the floor…in short, he looked like the player we all hoped he could become when he was selected 2nd overall in 2015.”

Q: With Magic Johnson unexpectedly stepping down a few weeks ago from his role of President of Basketball Operations, what are your views on how the situation unfolded? Can you see an external executive being brought in, or will Rob Pelinka take on the extra responsibility?

Trevor: “It’s strange. I still don’t think we have the entire story, and perhaps we never will. Announcing his resignation prior to the final game and not letting anyone within the Lakers organization know his plans caused Magic to come off really poorly. It’s not the way you want to leave the organization that you love. That said, if he really was the absentee exec that we have heard about, then perhaps the Lakers will be better off in the long run, though they certainly could have used Magic as a closer with free agents.”

“It does appear that Pelinka will simply slide up a role in the organization, which won’t do anything to quiet the negativity about Jeanie Buss and how she runs the franchise. A complete and comprehensive search for the very best should have taken place, but Jeanie trusts Rob, and he will now have an opportunity to prove his doubters wrong or right in July.”

(Image/Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Q: A short time after, Luke Walton parted ways with the team, what direction would you like to see the Lakers go in when finding a suitable candidate to take on the head coaching reigns?

Trevor: “I think the Lakers launched as extensive of an investigation as they could given the pool of available coaches. With Ty Lue all but a lock to become their coach, they will now need to weather the storm of negativity from those who claim that Lue’s hiring is more evidence that James calls the shots. James or not, Lue has a legitimate coaching pedigree and should be given a chance to prove himself.”

Q: Can the Lakers tempt another star free-agent to Los Angeles in the off-season, or do you think they will trade for a second star? Of course, the possibility is there for the Lakers to strike out all together. How disastrous would striking out be, or would it?

Trevor: “At this point I wouldn’t be surprised either way. For all of the turmoil swirling around the team currently, they still have three big things going for them in free agency: LeBron James, cap space, and young talent. I think the real danger is if the Clippers and Knicks both land two stars then that could lead to the Lakers missing out because there are more legitimate landing spots than stars available. Someone is going to be left out, we just have to hope that it isn’t the Lakers.”

“Striking out would certainly be disastrous, though missing out on the top tier of Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, and maybe Jimmy Butler could lead the Lakers to turning to Kemba Walker, DeMarcus Cousins, Nikola Vucevic, Khris Middleton, or another second-tier star. I wouldn’t consider it truly striking out unless they miss on both groups. If that happens, I’d expect to see a frustrated LeBron James.”

Q: Right, that’s that. Once again thank you for answering our questions. We appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule. All the best, Trevor.

Trevor: “Thanks for having me, and sorry it took so long to respond!”

By Matt Evans (@mattyyyevans)