From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Los Angeles Lakers, who could be in danger of missing the playoffs for just the third time in the last 38 years.
107.8 percent - Points per 100 possessions allowed by the Lakers in 1,229 minutes with Dwight Howard off the floor last season.
That number would have ranked 28th in the league over the full season. But when Howard was on the floor, the Lakers allowed just 101.7 points per 100 possessions, which would have ranked 10th in the league.
Though Howard was recovering from back surgery and dealing with a shoulder injury, he still made a huge impact on the Lakers’ defense. With him on the floor, their opponents shot worse, committed more turnovers, got to the free throw line less, and grabbed fewer offensive rebounds.
And Howard was clearly a rim protector. With him on the floor, L.A.’s opponents attempted just 31.7 percent of their shots from the restricted area. With him on the bench, their opponents attempted 37.3 percent of their shots from the restricted area. That’s a critical difference with restricted-area shots being the most efficient on the floor.
Here’s some action from a March game at Golden State in which the Warriors scored 74 points in 37 minutes with Howard on the floor and 35 points in 11 minutes (shooting 11-for-12 in the paint) with Howard on the bench…
Howard did have some help. The Lakers were much better defensively with both Howard and Metta World Peace on the floor than with just one of the two…
Lakers efficiency, 2012-13
|Howard + World Peace||1,876||106.3||99.7||+6.6||+201|
|World Peace only||654||109.1||109.2||-0.0||-10|
|One of the two||1,499||105.4||107.5||-2.1||-71|
Unfortunately for the Lakers, both Howard and World Peace are gone. In their place are Chris Kaman and Nick Young. And in terms of defense, those are two serious downgrades.
As the starting center, Kaman is the more important of the two. So it’s not a good sign that Dallas went from eighth in defensive efficiency (in 2011-12) to 20th (last season) with him replacing Brendan Haywood in the paint. Nor is it promising that the Mavs were better defensively with Kaman on the bench.
The Lakers were barely better than the Mavs last season, ranking 19th defensively. They lost their two best defenders, replaced them with bad ones, and have a coach that’s, ahem, not known to prioritize that end of the floor. This could get ugly.
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions