I believe there is a mass consensus around Lakers Nation that the Lakers perform better when the offense is more balanced. That itself is a pretty obvious theory for any team, but one that has more credence with the Lakers than most of the other NBA teams. Far too often, the ball ends up in Kobe Bryant’s hands.
Whether you believe it is because he takes too many shots or his teammates pass up shots and leave him responsible to force hero ball shots, I think we all can agree that the entire roster needs to become more assertive on offense.
What is a key to look at is when the Lakers balance their offense and are assertive and push the ball, their defense is better. Their sloppy mistakes and costly turnovers decrease, which lessens the affects of their poor transition defense. They allow themselves to get back, get set on defense and become more in-sync with their defense and with each other.
Of course, they need to focus on their defensive gameplan and simply cannot solely rely on their offense to run their defense. I am just pointing out one of the consequences that an assertive offense from the entire roster has to their performance.
Antawn Jamison is arguably the one player that needs to step up his assertiveness the most, especially with the absence of Pau Gasol. This remains true even after Gasol returns, which is rumored to be on December 22nd against the Golden State Warriors. Along with Jodie Meeks, who got off to a slow start but is now beginning to flourish under Mike D’ Antoni, Jamison’s presence will be key to the Lakers’ process of continually improving and eventually playing at a level where they should be.
Jamison’s contribution off the bench and in the starting lineup has been inconsistent. I have written a couple of pieces about how the Lakers are affected by Jamison when he is assertive and aggressive on both ends of the court during the past several weeks. Over the past six games, where the Lakers have gone 2-4, Jamison has average just 5.3 field goal attempts. Compare that to his career average of 16.4 attempts per game.
Below show the difference in Jamison’s stats during wins compared to losses.
For those unfamiliar with Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system, he values a player who can stretch the floor at the four spot. Jamison has primarily been used as a four under D’Antoni’s time with the Lakers, with some time as at the three spot. While Jamison is capable of shooting the long-ball, as displayed in 5-10 three-point shooting performance against Denver on November 30th, his long-range shooting tends to be streaky. His 4-18 (22 percent) efficiency from the three-point line in the last six games proves this in black and white.
Since Jamison isn’t a primary three-point shooter, like Jodie Meeks, but has that long-ball shot in his tool belt, Jamison should focus on working inside out. I feel as if he is best used when his is aggressive in the post and pushes the ball inside. The three-ball is a plus for his game and when he is on, he is on.
He needs to find the aggressiveness on defense that he displayed starting in the Memphis game on November 23rd through the Houston game on December 4th. During that time period, Jamison often recorded double figures in rebounds and in scoring. In fact, he earned double-doubles in three of the seven games during that time frame.
The last two games against the Washington Wizards and the Philadelphia 76ers, Jamison played just six minutes and 13 minutes in each game respectively. He failed to post any points in either game and grabbed only four rebounds in both games combined. A big part of this decrease in minutes played and overall production is the decision from D’Antoni to start Devin Ebanks in order to go small.
Additionally, Metta World Peace has been switching to the four on offense in order to spread the floor. The results from the past three games to start Ebanks and switch Metta to the four on offense have seen World Peace post 18.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and three steals per game on 50 percent shooting from the field. Metta has been one of the few that has played with consistent energy, hustle and aggressiveness.
Jamison is too good of a player to be only getting a couple attempts per game. While his limited production may be overlooked in the past couple of games because the Lakers have finally won back-to-back games, Jamison must step up and play with assertiveness and aggression on a consistent level. His role off the bench and in rotations is key to the Lakers’ continued process to improve and has a affect on other players as well.
When Jamison asserts himself into the game, not only does it impact the team’s performance, but it also allows players like Pau Gasol (when he’s in the lineup) and Kobe Bryant to do less on offense and save their bodies by giving them more rest. While rotations tend to shrink during the postseason, Jamison will be key for the Lakers in the playoffs as well as the regular season.
Jamison is too talented not to have an impact to the Lakers. It will be crucial for D’Antoni to find his exact role on the squad. It will be interesting to see how and where Steve Nash chooses to find Jamison once he returns. However, one thing is constant for Jamison. It is necessary for him to be assertive on both ends of the floor to not only build momentum for his individual performance, but for the building process of the Lakers.