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Friday, February 24, 2023

A Way Too Early Assessment of the New Look Lakers

The L.A. Lakers have played five games since trading Russell Westbrook to the Utah Jazz. The Jazz bought out Westbrook, who was just signed by the L.A. Clippers. Westbrook is scheduled to make his Clippers debut tonight versus the Sacramento Kings. It is way to early too make a meaningful and objective evaluation of the new look Lakers, and there is no data yet about how the new look Clippers will perform--but that does not stop media members from making bold proclamations about how great the Lakers will be and how Westbrook will "ruin" the Clippers, so let's dive in and join the fun!

Below are two paragraphs. Every stated fact/statistic in both paragraphs is accurate, but one paragraph uses facts/statistics out of context while the other paragraph places facts/statistics in context. You can think about this as the difference between writing for the "Galaxy's Leader in Sports" versus writing for an independent website that is not beholden to a particular agenda or particular interests.

Paragraph #1:

"Since trading Russell Westbrook, the L.A. Lakers--who have languished below the .500 mark all season--have gone 3-2, including two wins versus the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors. The Lakers' winning percentage sans Westbrook and projected over 82 games indicates that the Lakers are now a 50 win caliber team. Last night, the Lakers routed the Warriors 124-111 while shooting 16-30 from three point range despite LeBron James scoring just 13 points on 5-20 field goal shooting. Malik Beasley, one of the players acquired in the Westbrook trade, led the Lakers with 25 points. Beasley shot 9-16 from the field, including 7-11 from three point range. The Lakers have made at least 10 three point field goals in each of their past three games."

Paragraph #2:

"Since trading Russell Westbrook, the L.A. Lakers have gone 3-2. In the Lakers' first game without Westbrook, LeBron James did not play, nor did the players acquired for Westbrook, and the Lakers lost to Milwaukee, 115-106. James also missed each of the Lakers' next two games, a win versus the Golden State Warriors (sans Stephen Curry) and a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. James returned to action as the Lakers beat the New Orleans Pelicans (sans Zion Williamson) and the Golden State Warriors (sans both Curry and Andrew Wiggins). Overall, in the past five games the Lakers are scoring 114.8 ppg while giving up 111.6 ppg; their season averages are 117.1 ppg scored and 118.1 ppg allowed, but this five game sample size is not only small but it includes two games against a Warriors team that is now 29-30 plus a game versus a Pelicans team that is 30-30 but just 13-18 this season without Williamson. The Lakers have shot 53-147 (.361) from three point range since trading Westbrook, a slight increase from their season three point shooting percentage (.340)--but that five game sample includes three games without James, who leads the team in three point field goal attempts per game (6.9) despite shooting just .310 from beyond the arc this season. The Lakers now go on the road to face Dallas, Memphis, and Oklahoma City, three games that will provide a better measuring stick of how good the new look Lakers are than games against struggling teams who are missing their best player."

Read both paragraphs again to consider how it is possible to state facts yet not tell the truth (a tactic frequently used by propagandists in a variety of fields, not just sports media).

The stretch run will be very interesting. If the Lakers demonstrate sustained improvement, it will be mostly because of better defense, and the most significant factor for the Lakers' defense is not the newly acquired players but rather the health and productivity of Anthony Davis, who anchors the defense in the paint and who finishes defensive possessions by grabbing rebounds. The Clippers have been a solid team this season despite Kawhi Leonard and Paul George each missing a significant number of games. Westbrook can provide paint scoring, rebounding, and playmaking while enabling the Clippers to push the pace and get easy transition baskets. If Leonard and George can stay healthy, the Leonard-George-Westbrook trio could be very formidable.

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posted by David Friedman @ 7:08 PM



At Friday, February 24, 2023 9:45:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Lakers are much better since the trade 3-1 since they played 2-0 since lebron

D'Angelo Russell a better 3 point shooter than russ, mid range free throw and better defender

Malike Beasley is a big wing player who a great 3 point shooter and good defender

Vanderbilt was sought out by many teams for his good role player play

Extra effort
Good rebounder
Great defender pain presence

Lakers can compete for west

Ad a good defender when motivated but Lakers don't look this good without trade


Can't shoot
Or defend

At this point in career

Beverly can't shoot

Or defend

Nunn a gunner

Who can't defend

Thomas bryant good offensive player but can't defenders in trade and better shooting

Mobamba a good pickup as well

My Lakers got a chance

Lakers got good defenders in

At Friday, February 24, 2023 10:48:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


We'll see. The Lakers' record in this small sample size versus weak teams does not mean much, as I noted in my article. D'Angelo Russell has been a poor teammate who contributes little to team success throughout his career. The other guys are role players who will not have a major impact.

Westbrook is a first ballot Hall of Famer who still scores, rebounds, and passes at a high level. If the Lakers are unable or unwilling to utilize his talents, then it is not likely that they are going to get more production out of less talented players.

This Lakers' season was about LeBron breaking Kareem's record. That mission has been accomplished, and it remains to be seen how committed LeBron or his teammates are to fighting to make the Play-In Tournament.

When you say "My Lakers got a chance" I would ask "A chance for what?" If you mean a chance to move up from 13th to 10th to make the Play-In Tournament then I agree they have a chance (they also had a chance to do that with Westbrook if LeBron and Davis decided to actually play every game and care about winning). If you mean a chance to advance past the first round, you are very optimistic, to put it mildly.

At Saturday, February 25, 2023 2:27:00 AM, Anonymous Dus said...

The Lakers are 1st round fodder at best. They don't defend well enough to be championship threats.

At Saturday, February 25, 2023 10:03:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I agree.

At Saturday, February 25, 2023 6:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The Lakers can beat anyone with our current team

We a much better shooting team and defensive team

Than before and won't turn the ball over as much without russ

We going deep into the playoffs

Dus talking bout we fodder to who?

No one scared of Memphis Denver gs pelicans Minnesota OKC etc

Only teams that can beat the Lakers in 7 games series in west is


And we got a shot vs anyone else

Bron haters can say what they want

At Saturday, February 25, 2023 6:52:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


So far, your current team has beaten the injury-depleted Warriors and the injury-depleted Pelicans. You are very confident for someone whose team is struggling just to qualify for the Play-In Tournament, and whose last meaningful accomplishment is winning the Orlando Bubble title three years ago.

Teams that have played well all season, that play defense consistently, and that have developed good chemistry--three things that are demonstrably not true of the Lakers--are certainly not afraid of the Lakers (assuming that the Lakers even make the playoffs, which is far from certain).

This is not about "hating" LeBron (or anyone else). I just analyze the Lakers the same way that I analyze the rest of the league. The Lakers have been a worse than mediocre team all season long, and it is difficult to see how adding D'Angelo Russell and a bunch of role players while subtracting a future first ballot Hall of Famer makes them much better.

At Sunday, February 26, 2023 11:19:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Russ has won 1 playoff series in 7 years while kd won 2 titles and harden made conference finals etc

He played on 4 teams the last 4 years

Him being a hof player means nothing cause he doesn't impact winning and never has he just stat pads

Hence why the Lakers traded him to gain players who fit better in they system and impact winning

Russ is a 3 option at best on a title

As long as he play makes

Doesn't turn it over

Try on defense

He could have value on a team

But he been inconsistent in those regards the last few year

And that why he moved around so much

It's not about if laker role players had better careers than russ it's about them fitting better.

That why they made the move

At Sunday, February 26, 2023 10:47:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Westbrook was the second best player (and at times the best player) on an OKC team that reached the Western Conference Finals four times and reached the NBA Finals once. He demonstrably impacts winning, as can also be seen by the fact that every team that has traded him became worse (OKC, Houston, Washington).

There is a whole section about Westbrook on this site in which I discuss him in depth, so I will not repeat that analysis here.

Durant won two titles playing for a stacked GS team that won one title before he arrived and won another title after he left. Durant is a great player, but the comparison you made is not valid and not relevant to discussing the 2023 Lakers.

Harden may be the worst playoff choker among perennial All-Stars in pro basketball history.

The notion that the new Laker players will fit in better than Westbrook and make the Lakers a better team is, as yet, unproven. Speaking of playoff resumes, since LeBron arrived in L.A. his resume shows one "Orlando Bubble Title" and little else. The Lakers have to pass several teams just to make the Play-In Tournament this season, and that will be a difficult task.

Today, the Lakers fell behind by 27 versus Dallas and were outplayed for most of the game before rallying late. Are the "real" Lakers the team that was outplayed for 36 minutes, or the team that played well for 12 minutes? We'll find out soon enough.

Supposedly, the Lakers' problem this season was a lack of shooting, but if you look at today's Lakers game the Lakers won despite shooting 6-34 (.176) from three point range. The Lakers won because of their defense and rebounding, anchored by Anthony Davis. Vanderbilt also had the game of his life. It will be very interesting to see if Vanderbilt's performance is an aberration or a sign of things to come.

You always believe in LeBron no matter what, but his career Finals record is 4-6, he quit in the playoffs several times, and he might not have the 2020 title on his resume if he had not had all of the COVID-19 time off to rest plus the luxury of not having to play any road games during the playoffs. He is an all-time great, but not quite as great as you like to believe. He has said that the next 20 or so games are the most important games of his career. Why weren't the first 60 games of the season important? Why are these games more important than the playoff games during his first title run after his embarrassing failure in the 2011 Finals? That is just a weird thing for him to say.

The stretch run will be interesting, to say the least.


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