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Lakers resurgence reminds us bigger is better

Mar 23, 2011, 2:30 PM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers v Utah Jazz, - Game 4 Getty Images

Why, every year, do people fall for this?

Back in December Lakers fans were freaking out — and the rest of the league hoped they were right — because something seemed off about the Lakers. They weren’t bad, but the two-time defending champions were not dominating everyone, were not focused, were not defending, were not healthy and were not turning water into wine as their fans expect. Meanwhile the Spurs and Mavericks were steamrolling everyone in their path. People started working on their epitaphs for the Lakers tombstones.

But scouts warned us back then that it was really about the Lakers, not their opponents. If the Lakers got it together, they were the class of the West and maybe again the class of the NBA.

Well, the Lakers have got it together.

The Lakers are 13-1 since the All-Star break and have been the best team in the league. They are focused, they are defending, they are healthy (relatively) and they have the swagger that champions can bring.

And they remind us that bigger is better.

Or as our own Matt Moore tweeted after the Lakers beat the revamped Mavericks recently, it’s not just the sheer length of the Lakers front line, but the skill.

Basically, the lesson from this game is: You can add all the size depth you want but it doesn’t matter if none of it is as good as LA’s.

Sure, there is Kobe Bryant, and he will do Kobe Bryant things. He will get his 20-plus points and take some bad shots (and make a number of them). He will dominate the ball late in games.

But it is the Lakers size and skill that sets them apart. Bigger is better in basketball. Every one of their three key big men is at least 6’10” and with a crazy wingspan.

Andrew Bynum is the defensive anchor — the Lakers have him playing back and work at funneling penetration to him, forcing a pass or a shot over his long wingspan. He also can be a beast on the offensive glass and has a respectable jump hook. For scoring they have Pau Gasol, the most fundamentally sound big man in the game — he has the best footwork of any big in the Association, can score effectively with either hand and is probably the best passer out of the high post in the league. Then there is Lamar Odom, the likely NBA Sixth Man of the Year who is having a career season. He’s the tallest point forward in the league who can score in the post or lead the break off the dribble.

Or look at it this way: Odom has a PER of 20, Bynum 21.6 and Gasol 23.4. (For the uninitiated, PER is a measure of basketball impact and efficiency.)

Lakers blog Forum Blue & Gold (my old stomping grounds) and Neil Paine from Basketball-Reference teamed up recently to see if any team ever had three big men with PER’s as high as the Lakers did.

Nope.

Not since the NBA/ABA merger in the mid 1970s. No team has had three forwards/centers with PERs that high. No team has had three big men having seasons like this, three big men who can change the game on the offensive end with their skills.

Bigger is better. It is impossible for other teams to match up with. And that is the reason that for all the drama in December, taking the Larry O’Brien trophy away from the Lakers is going to be monumentally difficult.

Maybe next December people won’t fall for this… but probably not.

  1. b7p19 - Mar 23, 2011 at 3:45 PM

    You being a Laker fan actually explains a lot.

    • SmackSaw - Mar 23, 2011 at 5:25 PM

      Yeah, no team has had three bigs with PER’s as high as the Lakers…ever… and that is due to Helin being a homer. Your analysis is unbiased and brilliant.

    • fouldwimmerlaik - Mar 23, 2011 at 10:35 PM

      And you laddie boy, are a bitter hater. Can’t stand the Lakers’ penchant for championships in June, eh? Kurt was just giving stats to validate his argument that LA’s “Big Three” (literally) are one of the best as it also explains the Lakers’ excellent performance

      I’m interested tho about the Celtics’ frontline of Parish, McHale, and Bird. They were touted as the best frontline ever. What was their best season together as far as the PER is concerned. Also, what were the numbers involved?

      Thanks!

      • hnirobert3 - Mar 24, 2011 at 7:41 AM

        Let’s not compare Bird, McHale and Parish to Bynum, Gasol and Odom. Different times and different rules.

  2. louistaylored - Mar 23, 2011 at 5:00 PM

    I like the article and the Lakers’ size is the advantage and not just the size because its not like its a bunch of Big Z’s out there they are really skilled and are 3 different type of players so its even better. But now all we need is for Kobe to heal up and go back to being a more efficient 20+ ppg player and if you minus out the OTs he was that in the Phoenix game.

    Oh and PS Laker fans and the league will never not overreact to the Lakers even though they’ve done this same exact thing times before, but it does make everything more dramatic and you know Hollywood loves that.

  3. ddressel - Mar 23, 2011 at 9:59 PM

    Across the board, the Lakers are getting timely contributions from everyone on the roster. Fisher—for all the chatter about his age, lack of athleticism, etc.—has been MONEY. His late game defense was crucial for the last two wins over PHX and POR. The fact is they would be on a two game losing streak without him.

    And what about Artest? I don’t want to jinx it, but he might be playing his best basketball as a Laker to date. Yeah we all know the dude is cuckoo-for-cocoa-puffs, but the focus is finally there especially on the defensive end where he’s been outstanding—as in first team all NBA (first half withstanding). Sure there are moments that make you shake your head like the fade-away he hit in the final overtime last night, but who can argue with the results?

    Then you look at the bench, and Steve Blake (finally!!) has some arc on his shots plus he’s been dishing some of the best looking assists we’ve seen all season from anyone. Then Barnes back and healthy crashing the boards has been a real sight for sore eyes. He’s vitalized that whole second unit—though some of the unnecessary chances he takes on defense must have Phil shaking his head in the film room as I’m typing. Brown, who was in a mid-season funk, is once again making open shots, diving to the basket, and playing really well within the triangle.

    All in all, this second half room has as much to do with how they are playing as a team as anything else. Sure they have the bigs, but they will still only go as far as the experience of Fisher, crazy/cagey-ness and occasional clutchness of Artest, and the consistency of the second unit takes them. Kobe and the bigs might headline the show, but the supporting cast—which has been phenomenal of late—will ultimately determine if this Lakers team three-peats.

  4. ddressel - Mar 23, 2011 at 10:01 PM

    room>>>run

  5. p4ck3r5 - Mar 24, 2011 at 9:00 AM

    GO LAKERS!! PURPLE AND YELLOW!

  6. chitownmatt - Mar 24, 2011 at 3:40 PM

    I’m happy to see the Lakers playing great ball again. They are a great team and deserve all the success they earn. 13 and 1 since the break is spectacular.

    As for this article, I would like to point out to all readers that PER is the biggest BS statistic in sports. Its like arguing that the race car driver that can log the fasted single lap time will win the most races. There are far too many other factors that contribute to winning a basketball game.

    PER does not equal W’s……..PERIOD.

  7. eastonfmly - Mar 24, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    I hate it when these guys do this since they are always wrong….now the Lakers are going to fold.

  8. ocgunslinger - Mar 24, 2011 at 5:22 PM

    You can say this about the Lakers…….They are so solid as a tean they could lose Bynum or Odom and they would still be a tough out in the playoffs. Notice I did not include Gasol or Bryant as they are irreplaceable.

  9. fouldwimmerlaik - Mar 25, 2011 at 11:18 AM

    Bigger IS better! I have an extra large Lakers jersey so I can wear it like a dress! Lakers! Yeah!

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