How Rob Pelinka Has Weaponized the Los Angeles Lakers Offensive Arsenal
Last season, the Lakers proved the axiom that defense wins championships. This season Rob Pelinka has given the Lakers an arsenal of elite weapons so their high powered offense could be as good as their championship defense.
While the Lakers clearly gave up some rim protection by not bringing back McGee and Howard, they still have their best shot blocker and rim protector in Anthony Davis, who will be playing the five when they close out games. Meanwhile, the objective in basketball is still to put the ball in the basket more times than your opponent and the four players the Lakers added this offseason were dramatic offensive upgrades over the four they replaced.
1. Marc Gasol for JaVale McGee
While the individual stats don’t show it, the biggest move to transform the Lakers offense this offseason was replacing traditional center JaVale McGee with modern 3-point shooting and elite playmaking center Marc Gasol. Gasol’s ability to shoot and pass the ball from the top of the key will open the floor for Laker superstars James and Davis to attack the rim and create opportunities for cutters like Caldwell-Pope and Kuzma to get easy baskets.
While Gasol only averaged 7.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists in 26.4 minutes per game vs. McGee’s 6.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 0.5 assists in 16.6 minutes per game, Marc shot 38.5% on 3.4 attempted threes per game. While Marc Gasol won’t personally add many points, his ability to stretch defenses and pass to cutters will transform the Lakers offensively and give teammates spacing and opportunities to score they did not have last season.
2. Dennis Schroder for Rajon Rondo
The second biggest offseason move Pelinka made was trading for Dennis Schroder to replace Rajon Rondo and give the Lakers a legitimate starting point guard in his prime to take the playmaking load off of LeBron James. While Schroder is not the elite playmaker Rondo was, he’s a much better scorer, 3-point shooter, and on ball defender. He also adds an element of speed at both ends of the court the Lakers did not have last season.
Finishing second in the 6MOY competition, Schroder averaged 18.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.0 assists in 30.8 minutes per game last season vs. Rondo’s 7.1 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 5.0 assists in 20.5 minutes per game. While the Lakers may miss Playoff Rondo’s clutch savvy, Schroder is 7 years younger, will give the Lakers the third scorer they’ve been missing, make life easier for LeBron in the starting lineup, and run the team when he rests.
3. Wesley Matthews for Danny Green
Like Gasol for McGee, Matthews for Green was more about saving money and cap space and replacing a player whose productivity declined for a player who brought more offensive potential and versatility to the Lakers. By replacing Danny Green with Wesley Matthews, Rob Pelinka was able to exchange an expensive veteran shooting guard for one on a minimum contract and to steal a starting player from the rival Milwaukee Bucks.
Matthews averaged 7.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in 24.4 minutes per game last season for the Bucks while Green posted 8.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 24.8 minutes per game for the Lakers. While Matthews’ 36.4% on 4.4 threes per game is almost identical to Green’s 36.7% on 4.8 threes per game, Wes was the better and quicker defender against big wing scorers like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
4. Montrezl Harrell for Dwight Howard
Replacing veteran backup center Dwight Howard with the 26-year old explosive, high scoring reigning 6MOY Montrezl Harrell could turn out to be Rob Pelinka’s crowning achievement of the offseason for the Lakers. While the Lakers will miss Howard’s elite rim protection, the opportunity to steal Trezz from the rival Clippers was just too tempting to pass and gives the team’s bench a needed boost in energy and scoring when LeBron rests.
Harrell averaged 18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 27.8 minutes per game with the Clippers last season while Howard averaged 7.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 0.7 assists in 18.9 minutes per game with the Lakers. While Trezz is not the defender Dwight was, he will be playing alongside an elite defender and shot blocker in Anthony Davis and should continue being a high powered bench scorer who regularly dominates reserve centers.
Comparing the offensive productivity of the four players Rob added to that of the players they replaced is revealing. Gasol, Schroder, Matthews, and Harrell averaged a combined 52.4 points, 19.5 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game. Meanwhile, McGee, Rondo, Green, and Howard averaged 29.2 points, 19.3 rebounds, and 7.5 assists per game. The four new players Rob Pelinka added to the Lakers posted 79% more points and 39% more assists.
That added offense from these four players translates into 23.2 more points and 2.9 more assists per game for a Lakers team that ranked 11th in the league with 113.4 points per game and 10th with 25.4 assists per game. Adding those numbers to last year’s averages would give the Lakers 136.6 points and 28.3 assist per game, both of which would rank first in the league and show how Rob Pelinka has weaponized the team’s offensive arsenal.
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