Lakers Trends - Moving in the Right Direction, Barely

The Lakers played four games since last week's edition of Lakers Trends and while the results were mixed (going 2-2), the trends have been somewhat positive. They kicked off the week with a thrashing of the Charlotte Bobcats; followed that with an impressive road win in Denver; and then proceeded to lose two winnable games in the final minutes against the Utah Jazz and Philadelphia 76ers. Obviously, losing their last two games, especially when victory was within reach with 5 minutes to play, puts a damper on the week. However, the underlying improvements were present and the general direction of this team was positive, even if the movement wasn't of a significant magnitude. Who knows, maybe I am grasping at straws, but lately there hasn't been much positive news in Lakerland (unless you are in charge of updating Kobe's name on the various milestones list) so any sign of hope is worth clinging to at this point. That is what we have this week, hope.

Check out this week's trend update below the jump...

Effective Field Goal %

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The Lakers' shooting continued to improve this week. This is now two weeks in a row that the Lakers offense has been better than their season average. While their rankings offensively didn't change, their shooting percentage did as they are now an above-average shooting team, primarily because of their inside game. Imagine how much more efficient this team would be if Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, and Metta World Peace could make threes at a rate even close to their career averages. This week's move was in large part due to the game against Charlotte in which the Lakers finished with an eFG% of 63.2.

Defensively, they held the opposition to the same effective field goal percentages as they have all season. Considering that their opponents had been slightly better than average as a group, this is a small victory for the Lakers. They held Charlotte to an incredibly low 36%. They held Denver to 47% shooting, well below their average. Utah shot right on its average of 47%. Philadelphia, meanwhile, shot 52%, just above their season average thanks in large part to the closing 16 to 4 run led by Lou Williams.

In the end, the net eFG% for the Lakers moved from 2.6% to 2.9%, putting the Lakers into 6th place in this statistic. It will be hard for them to move up much higher though as the top 4 teams have quite a gap over the rest of the field. If the Lakers could begin to make shots behind the arc at a steady clip, they could certain close the gap in a hurry.

Turnover %

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The Lakers are making a concerted effort to set the record for the worst turnover disparity in NBA history (I seriously have to look it up because they have to be close). Just look at that chart. There isn't another team anywhere close to the Lakers. Usually when a team is at the bottom, there is no where to go but up. Unfortunately, the Lakers are dead last in the league in net turnovers and are trending down.

The issue lies solely on the defensive end where they are dead last by a mile. Offensively they are fairly average at turnovers. So how bad was this week? Every team outside of the incredibly efficient 76ers turns the ball over on at least 13% of their possessions. The Lakers best game was against Denver in which they forced turnovers on only 12.4% of the possessions. They forced less than 10% against Utah and Charlotte. Against that efficient Philadelphia team, where Dex put the over/under at 6 turnovers, and the Lakers failed to cover forcing only 4.

The Lakers have a 3.2% disadvantage in net turnover percentage. That translates into somewhere around 4 to 5 points that they are spotting the opposition every night. Put another way, the impact of them losing the turnover battle is nearly equivalent to the impact of home and road disparities.

Rebound %

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Last week's Lakers Trends asked the question: "Where has all the rebounding gone?" Apparently the Lakers found it. They hit the glass hard all week on both ends of the floor and saw major gains as a result. They were especially productive on the offensive glass against Utah and Philadelphia, even if the result was still a loss. They pulled down a third of their misses in Utah and nearly half of their misses in Philadelphia. If only they could have turned those additional opportunities into more points.

Defensively they were solid against Charlotte (77% Def. Reb%), great against Philadelphia (81%), and incredible against Denver (88%). Their lone poor game came against Utah in which they allowed the Jazz to grab over 40% of their misses which led to enough second chance points to pull out the victory.

Having more great games than not this week has the Lakers finishing with over twice the rebound advantage they had prior to the beginning of the week. They jumped from 12 to 6 in the rankings and could easily pick up another two spots with another week like the last.

Free Throws to Field Goal Attempts

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Free throws continue to improve each week. The Lakers have firmly settled in at a slightly above average free throw rate, no matter how many non-Lakers fans claim they get all the whistles. Where the Lakers are particularly strong is defensively. They use their size to defend rather than trying to force turnovers by stripping the ball. They are one of the top teams at not putting the opponent on the line for easy points. This is something they must do well since they can't get any easy points of their own via turnovers. A few more weeks of this continued trend could put the Lakers in the number one spot defensively and number two for overall free throw advantage (no one is catching Denver in this category).

Offensive and Defensive Rating

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The culmination of everything above pushed the Lakers' offensive rating up slightly (even though their relative ranking dropped), while their defense was fairly constant. The result was an improved net rating as the Lakers now score 2.4 more points per 100 possessions than their opponent. The movement wasn't a large one, but at least they are pointed further in the red. The biggest reason for the move was the Charlotte game in which the Lakers posted an offensive efficiency of 120.8 and a defensive efficiency of 83.2. The remaining games were something of a mixed bag of results.

In the end the Lakers headed in the right direction for the most part. The rebounding has returned, the threes are beginning to fall for some of the role players (Andrew Goudelock and Troy Murphy), and the Lakers continue to improve on their free throw advantage. Unfortunately, the turnovers (or the lack thereof defensively) still plague this team as they don't get enough easy transition baskets. They must continue to improve on their strengths to offset their weaknesses. That, or try to play teams like the Bobcats more often. Since the Lakers have played the hardest schedule to date, that second option may become reality in the future as the schedules even themselves out. We can hope, right? After all, that is all we have at this point.

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