Thursday, October 18, 2018

Los Angeles Lakers: A bold squad structure

We are now less than a day away from Los Angeles Lakers regular season basketball.

The Los Angeles Lakers are set to open the 2018-2019 NBA season on Thursday, October 18th vs. the Portland Trail Blazers in what should be an exciting match-up between two talented teams with post-season aspirations. Lakers are trying to breathe life into a franchise that hasn't reached the post-season since 2013. The new-look front office led by Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka did not rush to pair the biggest free agent in Lakers' history with others stars. They did not hand out massive contracts to players like Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng. Also they stayed away from trading from the young core made of promising youngsters like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart. They have to figure out how best to fill out the roster around LeBron and return to legit title contention. The Lakers‘ plan is to land another one within the next year's free agent class. the rumor mill will be running overtime all season and into next summer. The next best player signing in must be convinced that this team is one awesome player away from being a championship caliber team.

The Goal for this season will be to finish 4th or above in Western conference or win the first round of playoffs.  James, JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo and Michael Beasley were signed to help teach the youngsters. The drag against success are shortcomings at center, defensive issues, injury concerns involving James and the possibility that some veterans will be unhappy with their playing time.Other than James, all are on one-year deals and are expected to leave in free agency and they will need to restock the depth chart. Lakers have made what is likely their final regular season roster with 16 players by waiving forward Johnathan Williams and guard Scott Machado.

It’ll certainly be intriguing to see how the regular season plays out for Lakers. Walton likes stable five-man units that almost always stick together. He also prefers to spread minutes around and come at teams in waves. The team’s younger players have to learn on the fly. Therefore, the following three approaches are key to success.
  1. Veterans in starting lineup but lesser minutes in the first half of season. The expectations will be high from this team. The Ball family circus is not going away. Also playing with LeBron is not easy as he demands the best from his fellow players. It is difficult to play with both the above points running in the head. The younger players need to eased in to the higher level of performance as part of their growth. The hardheaded veterans can demonstrate by example to the immature youngsters; from locker room behavior to game prep and while taking a break on the bench. Luke Walton should keep the Starter and Bench squads playing time almost equal. The target should be 980 minutes for the 10 men by the time of All Star Break. Low playing minutes in the first half  will avoid injuries, spread playing time, keep veterans like LeBron fresh for playoffs and ensure the young players get to practice what they learn.
  2. Fluid rotation of two "Bigman" players for PF and C . Anthony Davis trade rumors were strong till Alvin Gentry stepped in to kill it. Davis is one of the most physically dominant players in the league and has flexibility as a C/PF. If there’s a mid-season trade to make for Lakers, it’s probably at this position. Th reason is that Lakers have four players who have can backup at center but not a legitimate starter. Modern NBA has diminished usefulness of traditional centers. Centers are expected to possess many traditional offensive skills of a Power Forward usually possesses. High value is placed on versatility and the ability to start players at multiple positions on any given night based on need. How about two players playing a combo PF-C role? Besides solving many of the weaknesses mentioned above, this gives the flexibility and versatility to both Offense and Defense. 
  3. Focus on strengths: This team has strength in Ball handlers, Fast breaks. Rather than worry about not having Golden State's pack of 3 shooters, Lakers should focus on playing a team that is strong in what they do. Run, shuttle personnel in and out, drive to the lane followed by kicking to the perimeter and switch roles/positions. The squads below are organized by physique and not necessarily by role. 
So....drumroll....

Starting lineup till mid season:
Bench lineup till mid season:
Starters:

Lakers signed Rondo for the veteran’s ability to be a leader and game-manager. Head coach Luke Walton knows that he’s been one of the best point guards and one of the smartest. While Rondo may eventually be replaced in the starting lineup by Lonzo Ball when he fully recovers from his knee surgery, Lakers need him to start and play the way he did last season in New Orleans. Having Rondo in this group means two seriously threatening ball handlers. Minutes played last season: 1705

Lance Stephenson, the one who blew in LeBron's ear is LA's wild card this season. By teaming up with Lance Stephenson, a man who made it mission until last season to get under LeBron's skin, the latter has shown a Lincoln-like moment. The Lakers went from worst team in the league defensively to No. 12 in defensive rating last year. They can build on that with Lance. While not much of a shooter, he is a crafty ball-handler who possesses the ability to get to the rim and finish in traffic. Minutes played last season: 1850

Inserting LeBron into the mix immediately makes any lineup formidable. We've seen LeBron do plenty with much less. Minutes played last season: 3026

Off the Court, Michael Beasley is interesting anytime he is answering a question. He is a reliable scorer in the post. While he will never be known for his defense, he can score points and help the Lakers improve upon their offense from last season. Although not a three-point shooter, he converted on 39.5 percent of his attempts. Minutes played last season: 1653

Given the lack of experience in center, the most experienced guy can at least bring some consistency on what to expect. He is a legitimate center that can change shots at the rim. McGee going to have the energy to spare and continues to thrive in the role carved out for him last season in Golden State. The risk is of an Injury due to lack of Stamina. Minutes played last season: 615

Bench

One of the most intriguing story-lines will be the development of  Lonzo Ball. Ball comes with a terrific passing and can function as a premier disruptor on the defense. Much of the attention though will be driven by his father; who will complain about the low playing time. Watching and talking to the veterans on and off-court should help him a lot. Minutes played last season: 1780

Outside of LeBron; who led the league, the only other current Laker to rank in the top 40 in total minutes last season was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (39th). A solid ball handler and passer, he is also a consistent shooter staying on the perimeter for defense and offense. If KCP keeps up the 3-point shooting he displayed last season, he would be valuable in the second-unit, especially if Kyle Kuzma suffers a slump. Minutes played last season: 2458

Often overlooked as part of the Lakers’ young core, Hart brings bravado in offense and determination on defense. Hart has developed his three-point shot, plus he is a reliable defender and good with rebounds. His ability to catch and shoot should serve him well–and keep him on the floor in a supporting role. Minutes played last season: 1461

Ingram, is as close as this team has to a player with legitimate all-star capabilities apart from LeBron. He has the length and athleticism that most teams want. Minutes played last season: 1975

Kuzma, is the prototypical big man for the modern NBA offense. He has the athleticism to score in the paint among big bodies and also the skill to capably shoot three-pointers. Minutes played last season: 2401

Ingram and Kuzma are two of the most promising young players in the league and could blossom into one of the top units in the NBA. If both Ingram and Kuzma can emerge as reliable options, Los Angeles can expect to make a strong playoff push.

Whatever happens; good or bad, this team will not be boring.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Regular Season champions of NBA and Streaks

In my previous article, I had talked about my distate for the way Regular season has been devalued by NHL and NBA. Unlike NHL, NBA does not vene give out a trophy for Regular season champions. A lot of articles have been written about the NBA winners. This article tries to shine light on the Regular Season champions in Wikipedia style.Data is from NBA HOOPS ONLINE.



First place by active teams

Latest Team Name
Regular Season Championships
Boston Celtics
18
Los Angeles Lakers
10
Philadelphia 76ers
7
San Antonio Spurs
6
Chicago Bulls
6
Golden State Warriors
5
Sacramento Kings
4
Washington Wizards
3
Detroit Pistons
3
Phoenix Suns
2
Inactive Teams
2
Portland Trail Blazers
2
Cleveland Cavaliers
2
Dallas Mavericks
2
Utah Jazz
2
Milwaukee Bucks
2
Oklahoma City Thunder
1
Indiana Pacers
1
Houston Rockets
1
New York Knicks
1
Miami Heat
1

The Celtics-Lakers domination is even more pronounced. No wonder so many team had to relocate in those years.

  • Hall of Fame goes to Miami Heat, formed in 1988 as an expansion team.
  • Hall of Shame goes to Atlanta Hawks, a team whose origins can be traced to the establishment of the Buffalo Bisons in 1946




NBA Regular Season Champion streaks


Team
Streak
Boston Celtics
9
Chicago Bulls
3
Golden State Warriors
3
Philadelphia 76ers
3
Cleveland Cavaliers
2
Los Angeles Lakers
2
Utah Jazz
2

Golden State and Kevin Durant are enjoying the unfair bounty of sudden increase in Salary cap.




Unlucky teams / The good teams the Playoffs shafted


These are the teams that lost the first round after leading the regular season. One of them, Washington Capitols, folded up. The rest seem to have learnt the lesson as they all have just one appearance in the list.
Team
Season
Oklahoma City Thunder
93-94
Dallas Mavericks
06-07
Chicago Bulls
11-12

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Regular Season champions of NHL and Streaks

NHL and NBA have a flawed system of playoffs. Both leagues have 30 teams in them. They both let 16 teams make the playoffs. That adds up to 53 percent of teams with a shot at capturing the overall crown. This makes the regular season less valuable. Playoffs are supposed to be special to get into, but when a league lets half its teams in, that waters down the honor. It also cheapens the system and devalues the regular season. The MLB by far has the hardest system to qualify for. Of the 30 teams in the league only ten (33 percent) move on. It used to be 27 per cent before Bud Selig decided to bring in one match drama. It is also no wonder that NBA and NHL are the two lowest leagues in terms of revenue. Since a regular season game does not matter much, spectators, (both the ticket paying and the TV watching kind) will not get you the revenue. No amount of playoff drama in the best of seven series will earn more revenue that that lost during regular season matches. Distracting with sellout streaks cannot hide the fact that those people did not pay a lot to get inside.

At least NHL recognized them with From 1938 to 1967 the Prince of Wales Trophy. The Presidents' Trophy is the current award.

Source: Wikipedia

Total Regular season winners
Most recent
Team
Total Cups
Most recent
23
1977–78
Montreal Canadiens
24
1993
18
2007–08
Detroit Red Wings
11
2008
13
2013–14
Boston Bruins
6
2011
9
1927–28
Ottawa Senators (original)
4
1927
6
1962–63
Toronto Maple Leafs
13
1967
4
2012–13
Chicago Blackhawks
6
2015
4
2014–15
New York Rangers
4
1994
3
1986–87
Edmonton Oilers
5
1990
3
1981–82
New York Islanders
4
1983
3
1984–85
Philadelphia Flyers
2
1975
3
2016–17
Washington Capitals
1
2018
2
2000–01
Colorado Avalanche
2
2001
2
1988–89
Calgary Flames
1
1989
2
1998–99
Dallas Stars
1
1999
2
2011-12
Vancouver Canucks
0

2
1912–13
Quebec Bulldogs (NHA)
2
1913
1
2006–07
Buffalo Sabres
0

1
1924–25
Hamilton Tigers
0

1
2017-18
Nashville Predators
0

1
2002–03
Ottawa Senators
0

1
1992–93
Pittsburgh Penguins
5
2017
1
2008–09
San Jose Sharks
0

1
1999–00
St. Louis Blues
0


The decline of the Canadian teams look even more dramatic here.
Hall of Fame goes to Nashville Predators.The club was founded in 1998.
Hall of Shame goes to Los Angeles Kings. The team was founded in 1967.