Preseason is over for the Los Angeles Lakers, who ended exhibition play with a 3-5 record. Two of those losses were gut punches caused by late-game collapses and missed free-throws, but in the end the wins and losses don't count anyway. What matters is how the team, and players, performed.
Here's the Lakers' preseason stats:
And some parting thoughts on preseason before the regular season begins:
- Kobe Bryant's field goal percentage was low, and his shot attempts were high, but it definitely felt like the team missing players and learning how to play together on offense was at the heart of it. There were many instances of passing the ball to Kobe and watching/waiting. Overall, his preseason and return were promising signs for the regular season.
- Hello, Ed Davis. He shot an incredible 73 percent from the field through exhibition play along with two blocks in 20.3 minutes per game. He was very effective for the Lakers and it remains astonishing that he signed with Los Angeles on a veteran's minimum contract. Davis looks like a very valuable player and is clearly the best rim protector on the roster.
- Wayne Ellington, three-point specialist, didn't go so well. It's strange that a career 38 percent three-point shooter would plummet down to 20 percent. The most reasonable explanation is the Lakers' offense just didn't generate the kind of open looks a spot-up shooter needs to be effective. That's a silver lining for Ellington and a problem for the Lakers to figure out.
- Jordan Hill is a monster on the boards. News flash, I know. Still, he pulled down 8.2 boards in 23.6 minutes per game. That's 12.5 rebounds Per-36. Still, he was out-shined by Davis defensively and offensively. That's always seemed to be the case for Hill: Phenomenal rebounder and hustle player, questionable skills otherwise.
- There really wasn't much to look at for the training camp invitees. Roscoe Smith, Keith Appling, Jabari Brown and Jeremy Tyler weren't much else besides bodies. Smith, however, showed he has a pretty good motor and managed to pluck 3.1 rebounds in 14.9 minutes per game. If forced to pick one player out of that group to assign to the D-fenders, I'd pick Smith.
- Wesley Johnson had some (many) problems handling the ball (2.1 turnovers per game, not listed above) but he shot 46.2 percent from beyond the arc. That's not a sustainable mark, but if he continued honing his three-point shooting skills over the summer (shot a career-best 36 percent last season), he's a legitimate role player and great complementary player in the starting lineup.
- Julius Randle's play was very up-and-down, which should be expected from a 19-year-old rookie. He finished his preseason strong, though, and certainly looks well-worth being drafted seventh-overall. Just to throw a nugget out there, Marcus Smart shot 31 percent from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc through preseason. Randle averaged 8.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in 20.9 minutes per game, and 15.1 points and 10 rebounds (rounding up 9.99) Per-36 minutes for the rookie. Everything projects out that Randle will be a double-double machine early in his career, and his game against the Portland Trail Blazers was a glimpse of how good he can be.
- Jeremy Lin was clearly the best point guard for the Lakers through preseason, but there's other factors still in play for Byron Scott and his lineups. 40 percent shooting from three-point range, very good pick-and-roll play, and a few chances to showcase his quick first step when he's driving to the rim were all positive signs from Lin regardless of role. Also, shooting 50 percent overall as a point guard? Well done. Lin will be thrust into the starting lineup sooner than later, but with Nick Young and Xavier Henry out, he's an important piece in managing the bench players. It also comes down to Ronnie Price's status, which hasn't been updated besides having a "sore right knee."
Overall it felt many of the Lakers' problems were schematic miscues on offense and defense, or struggles due to lack of depth. That's to be expected with a group of players that have never played together, and rookies who are still trying to adjust to playing in the NBA. There were some promising signs throughout the roster individually, though, and some chemistry is already growing, like the pick-and-roll fest between Jeremy Lin and Ed Davis.
The regular season gets underway on Oct. 28, and the preseason is going to get washed away and forgotten almost immediately. Still, it's worth reflecting on what we saw, especially from an individual player standpoint. What stood out to you?