When the Lakers Lose Don’t Blame Pau Gasol

When the Lakers Lose Don’t Blame Pau Gasol

We’ve all become familiar with the turmoil surrounding the Lakers’ Big Three – Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, and Pau Gasol. Amidst the constant swirl of trade rumors involving Gasol, Andrew Bynum’s recent string of strong performances make it appear that Gasol is even more expendable in search of upgrades at the Point Guard position. Going through the stats, however, paints such a shockingly different picture.

Kobe Bryant Andew Bynum and Pau Gasol (Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant Andew Bynum and Pau Gasol (Getty Images)

We decided to look at the Lakers Wins/Losses splits to see if we could spot a trend in terms of what is and isn’t working. The Lakers’ consistency has been remarkable, indicating they are well prepared and well coached. Mike Brown’s defensive schemes have proved valuable, vaulting them to the 7th best defense in the NBA, according to Synergy Sports. However, it’s their offense that undergoes some shifts in key categories:

2011-2012 LA Lakers Offense Split Stats through March 14th
2011-2012 LA Lakers Offense Split Stats through March 14th

In the losses, it is natural to expect many categories to go down, but where it gets problematic for the Lakers is the large difference in some very key categories. Based on their erratic offensive play all year, it is clear that the Lakers go astray when their field goal percentage drops – primarily from the volume of bad shots taken. We can see by the decline in assists that they get less good shots in the flow of their offense.

Focusing on the Big Three, let’s look at Kobe Bryant’s splits to see what kind of affect he is having on his team’s fortunes:

2011-2012 Kobe Bryant Split Stats through March 14th
2011-2012 Kobe Bryant Split Stats through March 14th

For the most part Kobe’s numbers are the same in wins and losses outside of his shooting percentage. Unfortunately, given the sheer volume of shots, the large drops in field-goal percentage (5.7%) and three-point percentage (6.6%) substantially contribute to the Lakers’ overall decline in shooting, as well as decrease their chances of winning the game.
Looking at center Andrew Bynum, his numbers remain relatively consistent, in line with the position he plays:

2011-2012 Andrew Bynum Split Stats through March 14th
2011-2012 Andrew Bynum Split Stats through March 14th

Outside of a 5.6% drop in field-goal shooting, Bynum’s performance remains the same in both wins and losses. Since his numbers swing much less, his affect on the bottom line is less profound.

It’s time to get to the shocking part – Pau Gasol’s numbers in wins vs. losses. Look at them carefully, because you don’t want to miss the truth of the situation:

2011-2012 Pau Gasol Split Stats through March 14th
2011-2012 Pau Gasol Split Stats through March 14th

Outside of a slight drop in field-goal percentage, Gasol plays better in losses as points, rebounds, and free-throws improve. Of the big three, only Gasol commits significantly fewer turnovers in losses. This remarkable, since one would expect all of the Big Three’s numbers to drop.

The biggest factor in Lakers’ losses is a decline in shooting mainly attributable to Bryant. A variety of factors can explain the team’s decline in shooting in losses- new system, age, poor perimeter shooters, offense stalling at end of shot clock, etc. Whatever you choose, it is clear that Pau Gasol is doing everything in his power to help the team win and in spite of his better play, he is brought down by the poor play of Kobe Bryant and to a lesser degree Andrew Bynum. While trading Kobe is not on the table, one wonders how the Lakers fortunes would change without such a high volume/low percentage shooter on their team.

Written by Arun and Coach Nick

All statistics culled from:
Basketball-Reference.com
Synergy Sports

About The Author

Coach Nick is the founder of BballBreakdown, coached the Triangle Offense at the high school level, and counts Tex Winter and Pete Newell as mentors. For more of our conversation, follow him @BBALLBREAKDOWN.

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10 Comments

  1. Sedov00

    You don’t like Bryant, don’t you? :). I really doubt if a 5,6% can be considered as a major impact on losses. This certainly counts as one of the factors, but the major problem with the Laker offense is that: firstly, it has, more often than not, poor spacing and, secondly, Mike Brown’s Xs and Os don’t focus on making the best use of his players and their abilities. That’s the main issue that the Lakers need to focus on. Without Bryant this team would be literally horse poo.

    1. Dodgson

       Without Bryant they still have the best C/PF (or more accurately C/C) in the league.  The problem is the volume of shots Kobe gets.  If he would just pound the ball inside to Gasol/Bynum more, the team would be better.

  2. The Dane

    First of all, I love the stuff on this site and check in daily.

    I do not necessarily disagree with your conclusions, but I think the arguments are too simplistic 
    in this piece though .
    Kobe’s drop in shooting percentage could also be explained by the addition of desperation heaves if the team is struggling, which would not necessarily say much about his play.The drop in assists could also be the result of bad shooting nights, which in turn undermines the argument that the Lakers play less within the flow of the offense. We cannot not tell which one it is just from looking at the stats.That Pau’s numbers are stable or better in losses, does not mean that he is less expendable, it could as well mean that he is less important to the outcome. That the Lakers depend more on others having a good night than Pau.Just skimming these stats don’t really tell much I think, and I am quite fond of Pau’s game myself, and believe him to be extremely valuable to the Lakers, just think the arguments above are to run of the mill.

    1. Arun

      Kobe’s stats are troubling but, as you point out, they’re not entirely his fault. In any event, the Lakers could probably benefit from an increase in Kobe’s field-goal percentage. You’re correct that the stats do not definitively conclude that losses are entirely Kobe’s fault or that Pau is without some fault. But just from merely looking at stats it is hard to imagine that trading Pau would prevent more losses.

    2. Dodgson

       I think the Lakers biggest problem is that Kobe is shooting about 30 times a game.  Bynum and Gasol are so much more efficient than him (and Gasol actually facilitates ball movement incredibly well) that his jacking up those shots hurts the team.  I think he is just a selfish player who has some bad habits (he’s been driving less as he gets older when holding the ball on the perimeter, which means he doesn’t do anything to break down the defense.  He might score a lot but that isn’t helping the team overall).

  3. Enjowu

    As I know, THIS year laker fans are satisfied with Pau Gasol, 
    feel frustrated for their pooring bench, PG&SF.If you use this title at LAST year’s playoff might be more interesting.Bias might blind eyes and brains, although you are smart people.

  4. stoyadiji

    Gasol is shooting more than Bynum? That’s weird. The common criticism of him is that he isn’t aggressive enough and I would agree with that. It would be good to see some stats of Gasol’s shooting at the rim, within 5 ft, 6 -10 ft etc, because even though he has a pretty good mid range jumper, he either passes way too much or takes too long in back to the basket situations.

    1. Enjowu

      it’s not weird. 
      Although DH12 is the franchise player of Magic, his FGA is no more than Bynum(suspend 5 games, less FTA)less range(and shooting skills), less shoots.

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