Lakers Mailbag: Answering 20 Questions, Plus Free Agent Lists

I’ll rattle through these like a Reddit AMA.


Who advises Jeanie Buss?

That’s not somewhere I have any insider info, but I believe Linda Rambis is in her inner circle, as are Kobe Bryant and Rob Pelinka. But that’s just what I’ve heard through others, so there’s some room for error there.

What system was UCLA using for Lonzo that made him 1st team all American and can it be done in the NBA with this current Lakers squad?

UCLA put Lonzo in positions to be a quick decision maker in pick and roll situations through the specific style of pick and roll attack UCLA deployed, which was contingent upon the defense hard hedging. That doesn’t need to be the case with Lonzo’s lack of a dangerous pull-up three point shot, so I don’t anticipate we’ll see this sort of situation leveraged anytime soon. If you do want to learn more about how that attack worked, take a look at this video.

Lonzo then was also a bit different from Lonzo now, with the primary difference being his perimeter shooting. UCLA had him playing more like a SG than a PG in half court situations (which is backed up statistically by looking at his half court play types), with him coming off of pin downs and flares and spending quite a bit of time spotting up as well. Unless his shooting reappears, this won’t be an optimal solution.

One way the Lakers could Lonzo in similar situations to attack a 4 on 3 and leverage his skilled passing would be to put him in situations as the screener for ball screens and look to short roll and get a pocket pass from the ball handler (LeBron would be perfect for that role in this situation). That gets him with the ball around the FT line area with only 3 defenders to guard 3 teammates and him. It’s a position that’d be very advantageous for the Lakers if they can space the floor at the corners and have a dump off/lob guy. Something will be open, and Lonzo can make those quick reads.

What should Lakers fan expectations have been this season?

Fully healthy? The 6 seed range. LA’s top 5 performance overall or on defense early this year was very illegitimate and benefited from some other teams starting the year slow. I’d still have Golden State, Denver, Portland, Houston, and Utah ahead of the Lakers. The 5-8 seed is realistic to me.

How do Ty Lue and Monty Williams match up head to head as coaches?

Lue and Williams are both coaches I’m not a big fan of.

Williams wasn’t a strong offensive mind (or at least his staff wasn’t) the last time he was a head coach, and it’d be difficult to say from afar how stints with a couple other teams as an assistant has changed that. His Pelicans teams had schemes very tailored to AD, and the actions for everyone else weren’t anything inspiring whatsoever. Defensively his teams weren’t average when it came to optimization. Tactically he isn’t strong, and his player development data isn’t anything I’d say would overcome any of this either. He’d likely be a step up from Walton and his staff, but isn’t close to being my first choice.

Lue is a guy who had good offensive teams with LeBron and some elite iso options (Love and Kyrie) on the interior and perimeter, with shooter all around. They ran some good sets to get Korver involved, but a lot of those offenses were a quick screen to get a switch and some mismatches, then attacking mismatches and hitting open shooters. It was a strategy that worked, but is very specific to a roster construction, and one that I don’t think LA could replicate if they care about keeping Ingram, Lonzo, and several of their other young players.

When Lue had a roster this season without LeBron, the offense was abysmal in terms of scheme. It improved quite a bit and very quickly schematically as soon as Lue was let go, which makes me very worried about what the Laker offense would look like with Lue at the helm. Would we see them try to play like the Cavs a couple years ago and fail as Laker players shoot below average on 3s and the iso game is muddled up by teams being able to help away from non-shooters? There are ways you could be smart about that sort of offense to allow it to function, but nothing about Lue’s years coaching would lead me to believe he’d be able to unlock that. Or would LA look like the Cavs early season this year, which was a complete mess? Either way, I don’t feel good about it and wouldn’t be surprised if LA is very conservative in moving on from Lue if it’s not working. I will note that Lue’s defensive optimization data is close to the 60th percentile (and that’s apparently what he personally led), but that’s not good enough to make me feel good about him overall.

What are the principles a coach should have if the goal is to maximize the current Lakers roster?

You can’t make the most of Lonzo and Ingram with the ball in LeBron’s hands often without being a strong offensive mind. A coach making the most of just those guys would have to have a good sense of what each are good at, understand how to leverage those skills on and off-ball, and then translate that into a competent scheme. I have my own ideas to do all of what I just listed that I won’t go into detail here, but at a high level you need to find ways to get Lonzo’s playmaking and Ingram’s abilities downhill “activated” as much as possible.

Who is your preferred lottery pick?

I mean Zion if I can have him. I haven’t spent much time looking at prospects at all, so I’d look elsewhere for insight on those this season (at least for now).

Areas of offseason focus for Lonzo/Ingram/Kuzma?

I can’t wait to see what Lonzo looks like after his first full healthy offseason. More pick and roll polish, better finishing, and continuing to work on his jumper are the big areas to me for him, along with his more advanced dribble moves.

Ingram needs to improve his pick and roll reads. If he doesn’t, he’ll never be an effective pick and roll player if he can’t make those more complex reads (transition passing and pick and roll passing are not the same). The good news is that we have a full offseason for him to get tons and tons of reps in at this in a way he can’t do during the season, and VR technology should also be an option to help. Also like Lonzo, Ingram’s ball handling needs to improve for him to be a better pick and roll player. And he needs to figure his jumper out as well.

Kuzma needs to learn how to play smarter off-ball to make himself an even more effective and prolific cutting option and scorer off of screens. I want him able to read the defense on flare screens, and develop his jumper back to where it was his rookie year.

Who is the best PG in LA today if you want to win a playoff series? Who is the best in 5 years? Can apply either context of current roster or if you had to “start a franchise with this guy”

Lonzo and Lonzo, if we’re looking at him, Caruso, and Rondo.

Should we expect the next coach to move away from BI as a point guard?

I anticipate plenty more of Ingram attacking as a transition ball handler and being a trigger man on sets. Where we may see a decline is in his pick and roll game, where he isn’t currently effective as a scorer or passer and still somehow was used there like he was a top ball screen scorer.

Who would you hire to be the next Laker coach?

Ettore Messina or John Beilein would be my hopes. I’m half done with a long piece breaking down dozens of coaching options that was melting my mind from watching film that I took a break from to write this, but I have thoughts and info on quite a few options.

Kawhi or Kyrie? Jimmy or Kemba in FA?

Of those four, I’d order them: Kawhi, Butler, Kyrie, then Kemba. And including Klay I’d have Klay behind Kawhi and ahead of Butler.

There has to be some advanced numbers out there justifying why Luke would play Rondo so many minutes, right?

Lol nope. Rondo has been declining and while he still is really smart about certain things, he does more dumb stuff than most players and is neither an effective offensive player nor an adequate defender. His offensive utility relies on absolute chaos for his dribbling the air out of the ball in pick and rolls to be value-add, which unfortunately we have seen some of. But no, he’s not a good player and didn’t deserve anywhere near the minutes he was getting this past season.

Who’s on your (way too early) Lakers draft board? On a team with so many needs, what’s the biggest area of need?

I’m not your guy for prospects, but I’d say LA could use some SG and C help most.

Who is your choice of PBO and GM?

Those are both positions we from the outside don’t have the insight to evaluate effectively. We judge GMs based on a couple key moves, have no clue what good or bad moves they didn’t decide to accept or tried to make happen that were shot down, and how their influence changes the way orgs or teams run. So I can’t name names, and anyone else naming names is probably basing that off of reputation and organizational success with those people at the helm, which actually works a bit easier for these positions than coaches (where I’d stay away from that approach).

In general, I’d be looking for a current executive elsewhere that LA can throw money at and get to come to LA. Those are top jobs in all of sports, and there’s no salary cap. LA used to get big name free agents by just paying more than other teams could pay, but with the cap rules today we’re still left with that same avenue for the team to get highly skilled candidates for these two positions and win at the margins for coaches and support staff.

Does BI work better 1v1 or if he’s given a screen? Seemed like he got more success going 1 on 1 than someone setting a screen for him?

One on one, and I chalk that up to his strength out of a triple threat position compared to his relative weakness in ball screens with his handle and inability to make effective reads out of ball screens with any consistency.

I’d love for more designed looks to get him off of AI action, pin downs, hammer action flare screens, Detroit flare screens, and other actions to get him attacking off the catch against a recovering defense, giving him better opportunity to blow by a defender and get downhill. I’ll take that over iso, and iso over pick and roll for him.

Would the team be better off with 1 marquee FA + young core or 1 marquee FA and trading the core for AD?

Give me LeBron, AD, and Kawhi/Butler/Klay all day if that’s an option.

Wouldn’t it make sense to have LeBron and Lonzo both be the screener in PNR more often so they can playmake against a broken down defense?

Yes. See my answer above about optimizing Lonzo like UCLA did, and apply that same thinking with LeBron here.

Even if Pelinka is the greatest GM of all time, doesn’t the fact that the entire league thinks he’s useless mean he’s functionally useless?  I’ll hang up and listen.

The idea behind this question is interesting. There are professions that will yield failure if you’re unable to influence or work effectively with others, even if you’re very smart. I’m not sure if that last part is even true for Pelinka, but an inability to negotiate with any tact and align interests in any competent way has come up repeatedly over his tenure and will hold him and the Lakers back as long as he retains his role and responsibilities.

How in this day and age do the Lakers not have a competent analytics department? In baseball it’s become universal that a strong analytics department is a necessity.

I’ve looked into this a bit and talked to some knowledgeable people I trust, and have come to the conclusion that the staff LA does have for analytics is young and talented, but are lacking experience. That will hold them back somewhat, but an even larger inhibitor in my eyes is how they’ve needed to work with a coaching staff that didn’t leverage their work well. I think if a staff comes in with a smarter idea of how to leverage data and keeps the current analytics staff, we’ll start seeing more fruits of this labor for LA.

Should the Lakers focus on developing the players they have or attracting big names from the free agency?

In no way would doing one of those be limiting the other.


To answer several questions about free agents, here are the UFA guys I’d have interest in (tiered and ranked within position groups):



Kyrie Irving

Kemba Walker


Darren Collison

Derrick Rose


Trey Burke

Iman Shumpert

Shelvin Mack

Alec Burks

Wayne Ellington



Kawhi Leonard

Kevin Durant


Klay Thompson

Jimmy Butler


Khris Middleton


Danny Green

Rudy Gay

Rodney Hood


JaMychal Green

Vince Carter

Al-Farouq Aminu



Nikola Vucevic


Brook Lopez

Dewayne Dedmon

Marcus Morris

Jeff Green


Nikola Mirotic

Ed Davis


I’ll break these down in more depth at a later date, but shooting was important to me, defense in different areas had varying importance defending on position group, and filtered down from there.

Among RFA guards and bigs I’d have interest in (no RFA wings interest me):


D’Angelo Russell


Malcolm Brogdon

Tomas Satoransky


Alex Caruso

Ryan Arcidiacono

Rodney McGruder

Brad Wanamaker



Frank Kaminsky

Bobby Portis


Thomas Bryant

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