Before we get to this week in tanking, everyone just take a moment to remember the tank operators the Lakers sent into the All-Star Break may not be the same ones who return. To those who have moved on, we salute you.
Tank Play of the Week
Jeremy Lin shot clock violation into an OJ Mayo three-pointer
The LakeTank™ found a way to snatch several defeats from the jaws of victory over the last week and a half, but perhaps none more winnable than their loss to a lethargic Bucks team. After allowing the Bucks to make a late comeback, the Lakers had the ball with a three point lead, and Jeremy Lin did this:
Then on the other end, OJ Mayo took advantage of the Lakers lack of defensive communication to hit a game tying three:
The Bucks would go on to win convincingly in over time, sending the tank on to its next destination, lucky to still be intact.
Returning to claim his rightful spot in the commander's seat of the tank is two-time champion Byron Scott! Scott earned this title through his rotation decisions, especially his insistance in starting Ryan Kelly at small forward. As anyone who has ever watched him play basketball knows, Kelly is not a small forward. Even according to this quote from Scott in early January, Kelly is a power forward (emphasis mine):
"I know I can find minutes for Ryan because I like the way Ryan plays," Scott said. "He gives us something that we don't have. He's a stretch-four, very intelligent basketball player. So I know I'll find minutes for him."
So if Scott knows that Kelly is a "stretch-four", why is he starting him at the three?
At least on its face, it appears that Scott is assuming that Kelly can play the three, simply because he shoots threes. But when matched up against wings, Kelly loses many of his advantages. Instead of blowing by plodding big men to draw fouls and finish at the rim, or creating space for teammates by pulling bigs out of the paint, Kelly is often stuck camped out on the perimeter as Robert Sacre and Tarik Black clog driving lanes for Jordan Clarkson. This naturally makes it much more difficult for the Lakers to get any kind of cohesive offense going, and on the other end Kelly regularly gets lit up by opposing wings, whom he is to slow to cover.
As if starting at a disadvantage with the over-matched Kelly at the three was not enough, we have to give special recognition to Byron's decision to sub in an ice-cold Jeremy Lin off the bench for Clarkson with 1:10 left in the Nuggets game. Lin promptly committed a turnover on which Ty Lawson scored a transition layup, missed a jumper, allowed Lawson to score again, and missed another three.
For all these moves and more, Byron Scott is your Tank Commander of the Week.
Let's all pour one out for the Booz Cruise, who fans surely thought would be recognized as tank commander by now, but has instead been shockingly decent this year, especially since being moved into a bench role. Boozer may have additionally bristled at this demotion, but since he started coming off of the pine in early December, his play has shined as bright as his bald head, averaging 12.3 points and 7.2 rebounds on 52.2% shooting in 23.9 minutes per game.
But it is on the other end of the floor where Boozer has been an enormous letdown for pro-tankers. Not to say Boozer has been great as a defender, but since December first, his defensive rating of 106 has only been a tenth of a point per 100 possessions worse than the Lakers average of 105.9 over that span.
Boozer has played well enough in this role that it's suddenly feasible he would have some trade value were he eligible to be moved. Alas, his contract being claimed off of amnesty clause waivers in it's last year makes him untradeable, and the best that tank race fans can hope for is that the front office buys him out and allows Boozer to scream "HOLDAT" all the way to a playoff contender. Hopefully this happens before he derails the tank one more time, or worse, teaches yet another of the Lakers' young big men the art of the push-off offensive foul.
Ty Lawson gets some love here for helping the tank barely roll over a Denver Nuggets team that might have a more dysfunctional coaching situation than the Lakers do. Take it away Rachel Nichols!
Despite all that weirdness, Ty Lawson demonstrated that he was by far the best player on the floor on Tuesday night, scoring 32 points (including 16 to pull away in the fourth quarter) and dishing 16 assists to brutally pick apart the hapless Lakers' defense. After the game, Jordan Clarkson called Lawson his toughest test yet, and after watching him work it was not difficult to see why.
Also coming to the aid of the Lakers' tank since last Tank Watch are the Philadelphia 76ers and Minnesota Timberwolves, both playing .400 ball over their last 10 games while the Lakers went 1-9 over the same sample size.
There is still a long way for the tank to travel, but if those two teams can continue to hold that pace while the Lakers keep losing, their is reason to hope the Lakers could rise above their current 4th spot.
A look at the bottom-five teams, the odds of the Lakers' keeping their pick, and a weekly sim. Courtesy of Tankathon.