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What the Lakers Should Really be Worried About


We ranted, we argued, we said the Lakers should have parted ways with Kobe. When it was still possible we thought they should have amnestied him. Well, that ship has sailed. It's not worth worrying about Kobe any more now that he's signed to the worst and most untradable contract in the NBA. In terms of looking to the future, the pragmatic route on the Lakers is to worry about other things.

The Books

Let's start with how the Lakers financial wise. Next season they only have four players on the books:

Player Salary
Kobe Bryant $23,500,500
Steve Nash $9,701,000
Nick Young $1,227,985
Robert Sacre $915,243

With the salary cap likely to be close to $60,000,000, that gives the Lakers a little under $25,000,000 to restock at least another eight players. Actually given Kobe and Nash's age and injury concerns and the terrible play of Nick Young, the Lakers really need a whole new team. Sacre may be a bright spot as he's young, he's a big man, and he's been productive so far.

But even if the Lakers "win" the draft lottery, their cupboard is bare next season. And although the Lakers typically enjoy the edge of being able to massively overpay players, the issue is going to be how. When you sign new players, they have to fit under the cap, or fit under very cheap contracts. It will be hard to get two or three good players on the free agent market. That brings up the real issue.

Jordan Hill

No, seriously, where did this guy come from? Until his super fast "foul out" against Memphis, Hill had yet to play a bad game this season. He's had sporadic minutes, but currently holds the third highest Wins per 48 minutes among all players with 500+ minutes. This puts the Lakers in an interesting position. Hill may be a star that can help get this franchise back on track. He may just be on a hot streak. Either way, the problem is that he's on a contract year.

The good news is that Hill's limited minutes currently have his points per game below ten. But anyone that can extrapolate out his numbers can see with starters minutes he's a 16 point and 13 rebound a night guy. Next season he'll just be entering his prime. This makes the Lakers situation difficult. Let's say they keep his minutes low. That might deflate his contract value, but savvy stats teams will realize this (remember Daryl Morey giving Omer Asik "too much" money?). The Spurs, Mavericks, and 76ers all easily have the money to offer up a "value contract". The Lakers can only hope to keep Hill on a cheap contract if he wants to play on a terrible Lakers team led by Kobe. Kobe has a history of keeping top bigs in L.A....right?

Let's say instead that Hill's minutes go up and he looks like a star. The Lakers either lose him (like I said, the Mavericks and 76ers look to have bright futures and tons of cap space) or offer him a good deal. If that happens, they'll be left with Sacre and Hill and not much else. Although filling out your starting bigs is a great place to start, $5-$10 million in cap space and a few exceptions won't get you a solid rotation.

Go Long!

I'll be honest, until the Lakers let Dwight walk, amnestied Metta World Peace, and gave Kobe that stupid contract, they were in alright shape. Even now, they're actually not too bad off. If they keep Sacre and Hill, let Kobe and Nash "fade" away, and start grabbing smart cheap pieces, then in two or three years they should be contending again. The problem is that this thinking requires taking a "long term" approach. Based on their current history, I'd still be a little worried.

I doubt the lakers can find free agent gems but in general, you would be surprised how many guys can produce in the NBA. I'm not one of those guys that believes that the NBA has all the talent. The lakers need to hire me.
If the salary cap is 60 million, then the lakers have about 24 million to spend from my math. How did you get 19?
NDGinja,
Just a math error! Thanks for the catch.
Off topic but: Any geeks posted anything on the NBA's PIE statistic? Is it useful/reliable?
Capholds - Lakers would have 8 cap holds at ~ half a mil, so they'd have $4 mil less, which is closer to $20.
Hill started showing signs of becoming a productive player 2 years ago, improved further last year (until injured), and is breaking out this year. He's somewhat limited because of his style though. He's productive in part because he plays a high energy style of basketball (like the Manimal). The problem is, pretty much no one has the motor to play at that pace for 36 or more minutes. So as the minutes go up, it's likely the productivity per minute in those exara minutes will start declining.
Hill is not conventionally effective, and so has been significantly underrated. The Lakers took a flyer on him as filler when he was basically out of the league. I think like Udonis Haslem, he took less money that he could have out of loyalty. He'll always be "raw" without refined basketball skills, but that doesn't mean he can outplay people for 36 minutes a game.

I'm also wondering about PIE. I can't even find how it is calculated.
PIE is just pace adjusted PER. Divide each player's PER by the (minute weighted) total PER of every player in the game and you get their PIE.

There's also a term in there for fouls that wasn't there before.

On the whole not a big change; whatever you thought about PER is probably the same for PIE.
In case anyone is wary of Jordan Hill boosting his numbers with "meaningless" rebounds, I ran Sport-Vu contested rebounds and potential assists through Win Score (and Alternate Win Score), and Jordan Hill came out as a Top-5 player in both metrics (position adjusted).

http://hoopdon.weebly.com/1/post/2013/12/revamping-win-scores-with-sportvu.html

The only issue with him is the potentially horrendous defense he plays, but I'm not sure about that yet. Regardless, he's in his prime (age-wise), and the Lakers need to hold onto him.
"and start grabbing smart cheap pieces"

Between Hill, Xavier Henry, Johnson and Farmar this season, I actually have some faith in the Lakers to get these kinds of pieces. This was the team predicted as last place and worst in the league by this site and they have turned some castaways into gems. It is the expensive pieces they seem to go after that have me worried about their future.
As lovethoseknicks points out, Hill has been good for most of his Lakers career, just underutilized (Season 1) or hurt (Season 2). I'd love to see the Lakers keep him.

And as a guy who doesn't need to shoot to win games, he's a good complement to Kobe.
Your model overvalues Hill. He's a great player who does a lot of things really well but his limited range means he probably has to be a center in this league.
Hill isn't really a good defender. He isn't scaring anyone away from attacking the rim and even if he did he doesnt know when to rotate to alter a shot.
This is the same problem your model faces when evaluating players like deandre and drummond. Both put up great numbers but are completely lost on the defensive end.

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