The Los Angeles Lakers hired Mike D’Antoni as their new head coach late last night. It was a move that surprised some since Phil Jackson seemed to be their No. 1 target but a deal could not be reached to acquire the Zen Master.
The biggest aspect of the D’Antoni hiring is that he will be reunited with point guard Steve Nash who thrived so much under his system in the past that he won two MVP awards. Nash was an afterthought in the Princeton offense Mike Brown was running this year and would have remained that way in the Triangle under Jackson.
We can expect to see a very different offense for the Lakers this season now with D’Antoni running the show.
Nash should be featured much more but maybe not as much as he was in Phoenix since Kobe Bryant also needs to be accounted for as someone who needs the ball. The Lakers will be running a lot more pick-and-roll in general and posting up less.
The Lakers are posting up 20.6 percent of the time on offense so far this year and scoring 0.93 points per possession on those plays which is good for 4th in the league. In 2009-10, the last season Nash played under D’Antoni, post-up plays accounted for just 8.5 percent of the Suns’ offense.
The Lakers are running the pick-and-roll 10.7 percent of the time so far this season. Nash and the Suns ran it 19.6% of the time back in 2009-10 and scored more PPP than anyone else in the league with it.
The Nash-Amare Stoudemire pick-and-roll was one of the best in history and such was the case three seasons ago. Nash scored 0.99 PPP as the pick-and-roll ball handler that season which was 10th best in the league. Stoudemire scored 1.21 PPP as the roll man which was 18th in the league.
While Nash now is a slight downgrade from Nash three years ago, Dwight Howard may be an upgrade from Stoudemire. Howard scored 1.36 PPP as the roll man last year with the Magic which was 2nd best in the league. He was also great scoring off cuts scoring 1.41 PPP.
Kobe scored 0.86 PPP as the pick-and-roll ball handler last season which was 41st in the league. He will undoubtedly be doing a lot more of this under D’Antoni and if he can keep scoring at that clip, he should be just fine in the new system.
Another key to D’Antoni-Nash is spot-up shooting. The Suns were the best in the league on spot-up plays three years ago scoring 1.11 PPP. They had a large cast of capable outside shooters back then which the Lakers don’t quite have this year.
Players like Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks should see an increase in spot-up opportunities and both have a history of being very good on those plays in the past.
The Lakers will probably run more under D’Antoni now too. It won’t be seven seconds or less exactly since they are pretty old but maybe something like 10 seconds or less instead.
Transition plays accounted for 13.3 percent of the Suns’ offense three years ago. The Lakers transition offense makes up just 10.1 percent of their offense this year.
The Lakers under D’Antoni may be better suited to match up with the Thunder now than before. The Thunder were 4th best in the league last year defending post-up plays while the Lakers posted up more than anyone.
OKC was in the top eight defending the pick-and-roll last year and has struggled out of the gates doing so this year. OKC was also just 23rd in the league last year defending transition plays. If the Lakers can improve in the pick-and-roll and run more, they may be tougher for the Thunder to match up with.
The Lakers are 3-4 on the year and will play their next game Tuesday night vs. the San Antonio Spurs. D’Antoni is still recovering from knee replacement surgery so likely will not be with the team for that game but he is expected to make his debut within a week or two.
The Lakers will play the Thunder for the first time on Dec. 7 in OKC.