Lakers News: Advanced Statistics Support D’Antoni’s Small Ball Lineup Reviewed by Momizat on . [new_royalslider id="138"] Since arriving in Los Angeles, Mike D'Antoni has been heavily criticized for his coaching philosophy, his penchant to rely on small l [new_royalslider id="138"] Since arriving in Los Angeles, Mike D'Antoni has been heavily criticized for his coaching philosophy, his penchant to rely on small l Rating: 0
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Lakers News: Advanced Statistics Support D’Antoni’s Small Ball Lineup

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Since arriving in Los Angeles, Mike D’Antoni has been heavily criticized for his coaching philosophy, his penchant to rely on small lineups regardless of the opponent and not being Phil Jackson, among other criticisms.  In their two seasons together, D’Antoni and Pau Gasol have sparred through the media, with the latest episode coming after yet another loss.

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However, according to Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, the Lakers have seen their best success when using a smaller lineup.  Trudell identifies a small lineup as one that forgoes having a traditional power forward. Trudell then examined the Lakers’ 10 most used lineups and arrived at the conclusion that the lineup of Kendall Marshall, Steve Blake, Wesley Johnson, Shawne Williams and Chris Kaman had the best disparity in +/-:

Lineup: Marshall/Blake/Johnson/Williams/Kaman (SMALL)
Minutes: 53
OffRtg: 106.4
DefRtg: 100.3
NetRtg: +6.2*
*This group outscored opponents by 6.2 points per 100 possessions.

When given the opportunity to play, Kaman has proven to be a serviceable backup center.  His primary issue has been getting the call from D’Antoni to enter the game.  While that lineup may own the best point disparity when the stats are adjusted for 100 possessions, it’s a group that the Lakers will no longer be able to employ.  Blake was traded to the Golden State Warriors and Williams is back with the Los Angeles D-Fenders after the Lakers didn’t re-sign him when his latest 10-day contract expired.

The next best lineup the Lakers could use is Jordan Farmar, Xavier Henry, Jordan Hill, Johnson and Jodie Meeks:

Lineup: Farmar/Meeks/Henry/Johnson/Hill (SMALL)
Minutes: 49
OffRtg: 112.8
DefRtg: 110.4
NetRtg: +2.4

Under Trudell’s methodology, the Lakers do not own a positive +/- with any of their “big” lineups.  The group that has performed the worst is Marshall, Meeks, Johnson, Gasol and Sacre:

Lineup: Marshall/Meeks/Johnson/Gasol/Sacre (BIG)
Minutes: 51
OffRtg: 91.8
DefRtg: 130.1
NetRtg: -38.2

While the stats may indicate the Lakers perform most optimally with a smaller lineup, the fact of the matter remains they are 19-39 this season.  The record can certainly be taken with a grain of salt as injuries have cost a combined 211 games, but the same can be said for the lineups.  What the stats don’t reflect is who the opponents were, their potential injuries, and other important aspects of the games.  Despite what lineup D’Antoni may favor as the season winds down, the Lakers will find themselves under .500 and out of the playoffs.
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About The Author

Matthew Moreno is a journalist from Whittier, Calif., serving as an associate editor at Dodgers Nation. A Cal State Long Beach graduate, Moreno also contributes to Lakers Nation, and previously served as a co-editor and lead writer at Reign of Troy, where he covered USC Football.

Number of Entries : 81
  • 3339

    only thing that matters is that we are in last place in the West and play no defense at all. there is no plan, no discipline, no leadership. we need this guy to leave.

    • Chrmngblly

      So except for that stuff, you really like our coach, right?

      • 3339


    • Jim213

      You can also say that lack of starting role players hurts these stats though just proves that Farmar has been best with regards to ball distribution while fitting best in the 2nd unit while needing a starting PG for sure.

  • Alexandra Taylor

    Matthew, I am quite sure someone has corrected you by now but if they have not, it is “penchant” not “pension”. Thought you might like to know this for future.

    • Al Haldie

      there is allways a school teacher at one of these meetings…

  • Gregory Choa

    I’ve been quick to defend MDA and his “smallball” / mad scientist routine throughout this ridiculously injury plagued season, but the thing that’s finally started to wear me down is this business of other teams almost without fail getting off a lot more shots than the Lakers game in and game out. It’s one thing to invariably fail to defend the paint and essentially play no defense because you’re going small, but it becomes quite another thing altogether when you end up taking far less shots than your opponent…mostly because you can’t secure even the most basic defensive rebound. Really hard to win any games that way.

    • Chrmngblly

      Of course, I agree with you but there are simply too many new guys in “audition mode” to get any defense out of. He has to start sitting some of them down in order to get their attention. Rebounds? I don’t know. How do you teach that?

      • Gregory Choa

        I hear you, and I agree with the “auditioning” aspect of it…just saying, as long as these guys are playing for a contract, how about auditioning some defensive skill sets and desire?

        • Chrmngblly

          That’s what I mean by sitting the worst offenders down–and telling everybody else why.

          • NickOld

            It’s really a dam if you do dam if you don’t situation for MDA right now. Sit Kaman, sit Marshall everyone complain, sit Gasol all hell breaks loss. Marshall and Gasol are the main culprits for bad defense, but we can’t do much at this point.

          • Chrmngblly

            We could tell ‘em they should put their hands up…:-)

  • Lakerfan

    Yeah.. And old school statistics of rebounds, fast break points, turnovers and 2nd chance points don’t mean shit right? Except for wins and losses lol

  • Sylvia Ross

    We don’t care, your small ball theory isn’t working in Laker land. Just leave and since you like small ball so well maybe you can get yourself a junior high or high school team to practice it on.

  • LakersHeatBeef

    I have a lot of head pressure from Mike D’Antoni and his style of basketball.Oh it worked in Phoenix but it failed in New York and it’s failing in LA.But their is serious head pressure from all the people pushing MDA out the door in LA.Seriously i am getting a headache from all this finger pointing and hate directed at MDA.Look at our active roster and you will see little talent and that would explain the 19-39 record.The Lakers are using D-League caliber players going up against the real NBA.MDA is who he is that will never change.

    Take it or leave it.Until Jimmy Buss fires D’Antoni this guy is the Lakers coach until he gets the pink slip.No more head pressure is needed for me i have got to just tune out this bad season and live with Mike D’Antoni being our coach.I have no choice in the matter,we have a FO they must decide which coach they want and right now their choice is MDA.

    HEAD PRESSURE yes small ball worked in Phoenix Nash,Raja,Marion,Amare,Diaw ran teams out the building for years and won 60 games plus and made the WCF multiple times but ZERO CHAMPIONSHIPS HEAD PRESSURE.

    I love Phil Jackson triangle offense post up offense i hate small ball.I am a traditionalist when comes to style of basketball,for me it’s old school tradition to use a big man and a power forward and a wing plus to guards that are big enough to defend and rebound.NO DEFENSE MDA NO REBOUNDING HEAD PRESSURE!I feel sorry for Mike D’Antoni he is lost in LA.19-39 SMFH!

  • LakersHeatBeef


    • STFU


    • Chrmngblly

      If you would quit giving oral sex, you would have a lot less “head pressure”.


    TMZ has footage of Mike D’Antoni and Jim Buss having anal sex.

  • Jay Brodes

    worst coach in laker history..dantoni has to go..period! end of story!!!

  • Nicolas Odar

    of course our stats will favor small ball. you dont need a system to play small ball. just go out there chuck 3 like we do every game. Utilizing bigs and defense are two things dantoni has no clue about.

    • Duran Baha

      lol thats like saying a big lineup just throws lobs for dunks. there is an offensive system to space the floor off pick and rolls and move the ball, he made amare’s career, and dwight howard ironically went to houston, who copied the same exact offense from dantoni

  • Mark Lopez

    All the offense in the world isn’t going to matter if we can’t make stops on defense. Personally ever since D’antoni arrived, his offense has caused so many injuries for the Lakers. We need a new coach! Kobe isn’t getting any younger. Alvin Gentry is a better coach than D’Antoni.

    • hookedonnews

      D’Antoni’s offense doesn’t cause injuries. There are a dozen teams who run his offense and their teams aren’t decimated by injuries. Nash was injured before D’Antoni arrived. There are lots of players who have had Achilles injuries who had never heard of D’Antoni’s system when they were injured. Kobe & Young both have knee injuries from colliding with another player. Meeks stepped on another player’s foot and injured his ankle. Blake had an elbow injury. I could go on, but you get the picture. I know you’ve seen other people make that same comment, but it just doesn’t hold water. Want good defense? Get some better defensive players. Right now we don’t have but 2 players who are decent defenders–maybe 3 with the addition of Bazemore. There’s not going to be a coaching change until next season at the earliest, so you might as well relax. This rebuilding is going to take a couple of years.

      • Mark Lopez

        Okay, I’ll give you the point that D’Antoni’s offense doesn’t cause injuries. I was out of line on that, but the offense in general isn’t a good fit. We have big guys who can’t run up and down the floor in this fast-paced offense because they’re really old. Rarely you’ll see Pau run really fast up the court for a dunk. We have young Centers that don’t get enough play time so they don’t run up and down the court. Lakers have a decent defensive line-up, if they use the right people. D’Antoni’s offense likes to run small. So when the other team has a big guy posting up a smaller guy it’s a done deal. (Foul or the shot is in the basket) Guaranteed, if the coach was Phil Jackson instead of D’Antoni, Lakers would have made playoffs without any doubts last year. It could’ve been possible that Dwight would have stayed. Even the players are stating that they don’t want to play if D’Antoni is coach. If the players are even complaining about the offense, there has to be something wrong. I’m okay with relaxing til next season.

        Also I want to add that you say that we need to get better defensive players? Mind you that Chicago doesn’t have the best defensive players in the league. Their coach made them a better defensive team. Before Tom Thibodeau joined Chicago, they weren’t the best defensive team in the league they were 41-41 allowing 105pts per game. The following year they went 62-20 becoming the #1 defensive team of that year.

        • hookedonnews

          We did make the playoffs last season. Even Phil Jackson couldn’t have won that Spurs series with Kobe, Nash, Blake, Meeks, and MWP out and the worse bench in the league. Phil Jackson has said he’s physically unable to coach anymore, so even if he had gotten the job last season he might not have made it through the season and probably wouldn’t have continued this season. His health just won’t allow him to coach. Whether Howard would have stayed is debatable because he and his people have indicated that Kobe was the major problem in LA not D’Antoni. When Kobe said he was going to play another 2 or 3 years most people knew Howard wasn’t going to stay.

          We usually have a big man on the floor. The problem is that Gasol & Kaman are not great defenders. Sacre is better defensively, but not as good offensively. I don’t see Hill and Sacre having any problem getting up and down the floor.

          No players are saying they won’t play for the Lakers if D’Antoni is coaching. Most of these guys actually like playing for him. Henry, Young, Marshall, Johnson, Blake (before he was traded), and Farmar (when he’s been able to play) are all having career years. Even Pau has said he wants to stay in LA, and he knows MDA is going to be there at least through next season more than likely. Don’t believe everything you read on these blogs. Unless you hear it from a player, it’s probably not true. Pau was complaining after the Indiana game, but you didn’t hear him complaining after the last game.

          Tom Thibodeau is probably the best defensive coach in the league. Think he could turn Kendall Marshall into a great defensive player? Doc Rivers has a reputation as a good defensive coach, but the Clippers are a poor defensive team this year. The difference between the Clippers and the Celtics under Rivers are the players. D’Antoni was brought to LA because of his offensive system. Dr. Buss had wanted a Showtime-type offense for years, and who better to bring that to LA? Of course, no one was thinking that Howard wouldn’t cooperate and that the team would be hit with the kind of injuries they’ve had the last 2 seasons. Since coming to LA D’Antoni has emphasized defense more than he ever did in Phoenix. He wanted to bring in Nate McMillan to coach defense, but Indiana offered him a better deal and he took it. Rambis was brought in to coach defense this season after Steve Clifford went to the Bobcats. According to D’Antoni, 75% of practices are devoted to defense. There are a lot of reasons that the defense hasn’t been good. One thing is turnovers which result in fast break points. The half-court defense hasn’t been that bad, but the transition defense has killed them. Put LeBron and Wade and a great defensive center on this team, and they would play better defense. A D’Antoni team is never going to be as good defensively as a Thibodeau team and the opposite is true offensively. Eliminate the turnovers and bring in a a couple of good defenders, and they’ll be better.

          The bottom line is that we really don’t know what this team is capable of because the injuries have prevented any kind of stability and consistency. There are 3 players on the team that weren’t there a few weeks ago. We didn’t have the most talented roster in the league before the injuries. If you’ll recall we were expected to finish 12th in the West before the season started. That was because of the uncertainty about Kobe, Nash & Gasol and the quality of the rest of the roster, not the coach. I don’t know if this team can be successful under MDA, but trying to evaluate that under these circumstances is impossible. New players will be added in the next couple of years that should help. He’ll eventually be fired if poor play continues next season, but there’s every indication he’ll be here next year.

  • Gabriel Mendes Da-Costa

    Let’s hope the Nuggets fire Brian Shaw and just get him. Homeboy

    • Jan Rey

      Lionel Hollins anyone?

      • Chrmngblly

        Or Jerry Sloan or George Karl

    • NickOld

      Really, last time I check Nuggets weren’t doing that well with a much better team than us.

    • hookedonnews

      Yes, he’s done such a great job in Denver. What sense does that make? I don’t think there’s an ounce of logic left in LA.

  • BOjangles


  • SD

    I wouldn’t exactly consider Williams at PF to be a “small” lineup. The reason that 2nd lineup works is because it’s a BENCH lineup of Farmar/Meeks/Henry/Johnson/Hill – that linuep was mainly used against other team’s benches. Sacre..unfortunately is not a starter in this league. Moreover, i think lineups are about a balance of skill sets and CHEMISTRY. You can’t have 4 of the same type of players on the court at once. If all the guys are catch and shoot guys, you’re screwed. That lineup of Marshall/Meeks/Johnson/Gasol/Sacre…marshall is a great passer but he’s not a great creator off the dribble. The best he can give you is pnr right now as he’s developing. meeks/johnson/sacre are limited offensively though meeks has improved, he’s still mainly a spot up guy, and we know johnson is. So you need a guy like a farmar/blake who can break down the defense and penetrate…something Marshall isn’t great at right now.

    The lineup he has right now is my issue…I didn’t mind williams at PF…he just wasn’t good enough or consistent enough offensivley to start. But marshall/meeks/johnson/bazemore/pau??!!! I’m sorry, that’s NOT a good starting lineup. You want that against a team’s bench…in this league today you can away with having a smaller bench lineup because teams don’t have a lot of bigs…but not against most starting linueps. Tonight with Derrick williams as the PF with Cousins injury…it may work better. but Derrick does have 15 or so pounds on Wes.

    • hookedonnews

      No one in this current lineup is a starter but Pau anywhere else in the league. Maybe Farmar could start for someone, but he wasn’t even in the NBA before he came back to the Lakers. This team isn’t going to do much until you get Nash, Kobe, Young, and Henry back. Then you might actually win some games if they can stay in the lineup.

      • SD

        I don’t think I was very clear. I meant, a small lineup could work better against most teams’ benches in this league. I agree with you. I just don’t think that lineup with Wes at PF gives the team a better chance at winning than say…Kelly/Hill/Kaman. I think this team plays better when the other’s team bench is on the floor because it’s a more even game and I think that is why certain lineups have a better +/-.

        • hookedonnews

          You were clear. I just didn’t read what you said carefully enough. You made some good points. I agree that we match up well against most teams’ benches. We had the best bench in the league at the beginning of the season before all the injuries messed everything up. I think Wes is needed in the starting lineup at times because of his defense. Glad I’m not the one trying to figure all this out. You get one group playing pretty well, and then you get 2 new players or someone comes back from injury. It’s just impossible to have any consistency when you have a season like this with players coming in and out. I’ve never seen anything like it.

          • SD

            Yeah, it’s just impossible to build chemistry with all the injuries. Very disheartening. It may be the craziest Lakers season I’ve seen…at least in quite a few years.

  • LBOOGIE1972

    Horse shit. How about a coach who can win games? Maybe a championship. Numbers can be skewed to whatever you like. Quite simply, this team sucks.

  • Robin

    now listen here, you can’t throw stats of a coach that doesn’t know how to play big men, doesn’t know how to coach big men, and have no clue how to utilize big men in a game of basketball, and then support his theory that small ball is better. you just cannot do that, because any other coach including my 4 years old niece would have gotten more out of the Lakers big men since “Fake D” took over for “Failure B” early last season. You’re welcome.

    • Chrmngblly

      So how do we get this phenom, your 4 y/o niece, under contract? We need her.

  • J Taylor

    Thanks for revealing this fact. Let’s hope D’antoni realizes it too and goes back to playing the big lineup. – We must not lose sight of the main goal, a top 5 pick.

  • jeff

    Chick Hearn was big on establishing the inside then work outside. That’s what I grew up watching, a balance. I just disagree with this coach, he’s got a flawed system and he runs the guys into the ground.

    • hookedonnews

      How many teams in the league play that system? D’Antoni’s system is used by the majority of teams in the NBA. Even the Spurs try to push the pace and use elements of his offense. What you grew up watching is gone for the most part and not coming back. Big men these days are good outside shooters and even 3 point shooters. The days of the twin towers are over.

      • jeff

        Other teams are using a hybrid version of his system with an inside presence and a better defensive scheme. D’Antoni needs at least a good defensive assistant coach to help him get a balance.

        • hookedonnews

          When D’Antoni was hired he wanted to bring Nate McMillan in to coach defense. The FO didn’t allow him to bring in any coaches other than his brother, Dan and kept the assistant coaches they had. Steve Cifford (who I’m told is a good defensive coach) was the defensive assistant. When he left to coach the Bobcats, D’Antoni asked them to bring in Rambis to coach the defense after McMillan took a job in Indiana (better position/more money). They have played decent half-court defense most of the year, but their transition defense has been terrible. Offensive turnovers that lead to run-outs, not the greatest defensive players, players going in and out of the lineup because of injuries, lack of leadership with Kobe & Nash out are all factors that have affected the defense. We have an inside presence. It’s just not a great defensive presence. I don’t think the scheme is the problem. It’s poor rotations, players being out of position, and lack of communication. That’s a matter of execution not scheme. There’s been an emphasis on defense in practice, but it’s not being seen in games most of the time. They played a nice defensive game against the Heat, but that’s been the exception rather than the rule.

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