With the Lakers enjoying a taco-less win against the Bulls last night, all eyes were on the seat occupied by coach Luke Walton. The Lakers’ uninspiring play against the bottom seeded Knicks and Cavaliers turned up the speculation on Walton’s schemes specifically on the offensive end.
Some of the blame can be placed on questionable substitution patterns during games but the larger concern about the Lakers playing with effort has been something heavily debated as to whether the blame belongs to the coach or his players. After making starting lineup changes against the Bulls where Pope and Chandler started in place of Hart and McGee there was a lot of speculation as to whether the substitution would make a difference.
Turns out the difference mainly occurred on the defensive end as the Lakers and Bulls put on a hideous offensive display in the first quarter. One the observations from the game that was interesting was how the Bulls defended the Lonzo/Chandler screen and roll.
In “screen and roll” situations that involve Lonzo as the ball handler, opposing teams are not helping on his drives and instead are waiting for his passes by staying home on the roll man.
His success with these sets are directly related to him being confident on his rim attacking abilities.
On this play early in the first quarter, Lonzo wasted no time in attacking off of Tyson’s screen and surprised even Carter Jr who was tracking Chandler’s roll. Lonzo blows by and hammers it in.
A few possessions later, Lonzo doesn’t wait for McGee’s screen and immediately attacks Dunn. Dunn gets a nice block on Lonzo from behind, but notice how Carter Jr doesn’t jump or attempt to help cut off Lonzo when Dunn is beat.
In the second quarter Lonzo uses Chandler’s screens multiple times to change directions. Watch how Carter Jr again NEVER hedges Lonzo because he is concerned about the lob/pass to Tyson. Lonzo gets a good look and floats in a soft bank shot.
On the next example in the second half you see the same kind of coverage as Dunn repeatedly goes under Chandler’s screen and Carter Jr doesn’t help. Lonzo dances around a bit too much with the ball and misses a contested shot.
The possession below is one where Lonzo with a little more confidence in his shot can probably just pull up and shoot.
In this next sequence, Lonzo takes Chandler’s screen but now Carter Jr is actually hedging the play to give Arcidiano a chance to recover. Lonzo stays with the play and misses the initial floater only to follow it up as Carter Jr retreats back to box out Chandler.
Finally in this last sequence Lonzo full commits to McGee’s screen and attacks the rim as he turns the corner without hesitation. This time Carter Jr full commits to Lonzo as Markkanen trails him and Lonzo artfully lobs it to Javale for a layup.
In the Bulls game, it was Lonzo’s long distance shooting that was easy to point to when looking at his offensive contribution. In reality, Lonzo’s continued aggression in screen and roll situations that were incredibly important to the Lakers having any success in the half court offense.
More teams are scheming against the Lakers screen and roll offense based on who the ball handler is and it is evident that when Lonzo has the ball in his hands, teams will take their chances on him attacking the rim.
If Lonzo is to take the next step in his progression as a player then recognizing when defenses are not sending help on his drives and being selfish is something that he is going to have to learn to do.