With Pau Gasol out, the Laker squad has no natural playmakers on the offensive end.
Allow me to elaborate on what playmaking is. It’s a quality that natural point guards have. Some elite players develop it over time. Guys like Shaquille O’Neal refined the skill over time, while other players, like Dwight Howard, struggle to pass against double teams and always take a bail-out pass instead of an advance pass toward the hoop. Playmakers are able to take a situation, read it properly, and create an offensive opportunity. It can be as simple as hitting a cutter with a well-timed bounce pass, or as complicated as running a five-cog triangle offense ensuring the movement and spacing is correct.
Steve Nash in his prime was the best in the NBA at this for most of his career. He’s out with injury.
Steve Blake, who ran offenses since the Univerisity of Maryland’s most effective years, is out with injury.
Jordan Farmar, who ran offenses in UCLA, refined his play in Israel for championship team Tel Aviv, and showed improved play, is out with injury.
Kobe Bryant, who learned to become a playmaker and ran the triangle offense during the championship years, is now out with injury.
Pau Gasol, who was the post player that the triangle offense revolved around, with natural point guard abilities and court-vision, is out with injury.
Where does that leave the Laker team? With Pau Gasol out with respiratory infection, ball-movement for the Laker team is completely non-existent. Kendall Marshall hasn’t adapted to NBA speed yet. What the Laker fans witnessed was a lot of isolation play. Nick Young tried to create opportunities offensively and make the comeback on his own. Jodie Meeks and Xavier were trying to take advantage of any kind of brush screen, and attack towards the hoop. All of it was out of sync. Shots were taken early in the shotclock. Player movement was non-existent on one end of the floor. Players got caught spectating.
Mike D’Antoni’s frustration built as the game progressed.
The team had 11 total assists. The team had 24 turnovers. The team shot 32.5%.
Unfortunately, for Laker fans, the team is stuck with this level of play. Hopefully Farmar comes out ready for solid minutes coming out of injury. Even then, he can’t be rushed onto the floor coming from a hamstring injury. Xavier Henry really needs to expand on his game. If there was ever a time to break out gametape of how Steve Nash and Steve Blake probe the defense and force mismatches, now is the time. Usually Henry sees a brink of daylight and attacks the hoop like a bull charging a red flag. Everyone loves the aggressive play, but it gets him frustrated for foul calls and shuts everyone else out.
Mike D’Antoni is has a pet play called “Horns.” It is usually a play called with the point guard at the top of the arc, with both bigmen in high-post situations. The play isn’t made with the initial pass to a post player. The play is made when the point guard decides to set a screen on either baseline, trying to free up a wing player. From that screen, usually the wing player will attack off-the-dribble, a high-post player will dive towards the hoop, and the point guard will roll out to the corner to draw away a defender.
We may be seeing more of that in the next week or two. No one was expecting to miss Pau Gasol this much, especially when he’s been so clutch on both ends of the floor for the past three wins.