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Net Gains: Why the Lakers Could Be Even Better Without Bradley and Rondo

By: Taylor Bechtold

On the surface, it appeared to be a potentially painful blow to the Los Angeles Lakers’ title chances when they lost their starting and backup point guards over a three-week stretch.

Avery Bradley

Avery Bradley, who had started 44 of the team’s 49 games this season, announced in late June that he’d decided not to play when the NBA resumes at Disney World in Orlando on Thursday night. Rajon Rondo, the team’s backup floor general, will be sidelined at least another month after undergoing thumb surgery in mid-July.

Bradley’s decision, in particular, raised some eyebrows because the veteran guard seemingly played such an important role on a Lakers team that has run to the top of the Western Conference standings. Teammates and coaches might be right about Bradley’s abilities as an above-average defender who excels at putting consistent pressure on the ball. But the data reveals that Los Angeles had been only marginally better as a whole with the two-time NBA All-Defensive Team selection on the court, with a 110.0 Stats Perform defensive rating in those situations compared to a 110.7 rating without him.

In fact, the Lakers lost more offensively with Bradley than they gained at the other end of the floor. The club had a plus-6.2 net rating in those situations and a plus-7.2 mark without him. Los Angeles may have had a plus-1.0 defensive rating differential when Bradley played with superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but it suffered from a minus-1.8 offensive differential in those lineups.

SeasonLineupOff. Team RatingDef. Team RatingNet Rating
2019-20With Bradley116.31106.2
2019-20No Bradley117.9110.77.2
2019-20With James, Davis, Bradley117.2107.210.0
2019-20With James, Davis, No Bradley119.0108.210.8

Rondo won’t be available for the regular-season or seeding games, but he’s expected to return during the second round of the playoffs. It remains to be seen how much of a role he’ll have at that time.

Though he’s been dubbed “Playoff Rondo” at times as a nod to his tendency to step up his game in the postseason, Rondo has made the Lakers far less efficient at both ends when he’s been in the lineup this season. Frankly, that’s a bit of an understatement as they have a plus-0.7 net rating with Rondo on the court and a plus-9.6 without him.

That difference is even more staggering with Rondo, James and Davis on the floor at the same time. In those situations, Los Angeles has a minus-6.7 net rating compared to a plus-12.0 when James and Davis play without Rondo. And the club has a plus-14.5 net rating when the two All-Stars take the court without either Rondo or Bradley.

SeasonLineupOff. Team RatingDef. Team RatingNet Rating
2019-20With Rondo115.9115.20.7
2019-20No Rondo117.9108.29.6
2019-20With James, Davis Rondo103.4110.1-6.7
2019-20With James, Davis, No Rondo119.5107.412.0
2019-20With James, Davis, No Rondo, Bradley122.2107.714.5

So how do the Lakers plan to move forward without Bradley and Rondo? There will be more opportunities for Alex Caruso, new addition J.R. Smith, Quinn Cook and possibly Dion Waiters. Caruso and Smith certainly looked the part in the team’s final exhibition game against the Washington Wizards, finishing with 17 and 20 points, respectively.

DALLAS MAVERICKS

The talented Mavericks are considered to be one of the teams to watch in Florida, but they’ll have to overcome a thin frontcourt after starting center Dwight Powell ruptured his Achilles in January and reserve Willie Cauley-Stein chose not to play.

Cauley-Stein made the defensive impact one might expect as Dallas had a 111.3 defensive rating with him on the floor and 115.0 without him, but the club had to endure a whopping minus-7.1 offensive rating differential with the 7-footer out there.

SeasonLineupOff. Team RatingDef. Team RatingNet Rating
2019-20With Cauley-Stein114.4111.33.0
2019-20No Cauley-Stein121.5115.06.5

Kristaps Porzingis could see time at center, but the Mavericks are more likely to turn to 6-7 Dorian Finney-Smith and 7-4 Boban Marjanovic to man the middle when play resumes.

In the team’s two final games before play was suspended in March, Finney-Smith started at center and finished with 15 points in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs and Marjanovic started and had a career-high 31 points and 17 rebounds in a win over the Denver Nuggets.

UTAH JAZZ

Bojan Bogdanovic drives past Collin Sexton on March 2, 2020.

The Jazz have been left to deal with the loss of one of the league’s top 3-point shooters after Bojan Bogdanovic underwent season-ending wrist surgery in May.

In his first season with Utah, Bogdanovic was averaging career highs in points (20.2), 3-pointers made (3.0) and free-throw percentage (90.3). The Jazz, who enter the restart fourth in the West, have big shoes to fill as they had a plus-6.4 net rating with Bogdanovic in the lineup and a minus-2.5 rating without him.

SeasonLineupOff. Team RatingDef. Team RatingNet Rating
2019-20With Bogdanovic119.7113.36.4
2019-20No Bogdanovic112.8115.3-2.5

“We’ve been mainly a catch-and-shoot 3-point team,” coach Quin Snyder told the Deseret News. “In order for us to absorb (Bogdanovic’s attempts) and hopefully have more, I think we have to shoot off the dribble more. We have some guys that can do that.”

From a fantasy perspective, expect more 3-point attempts from guys like Mike Conley (4-for-6 from deep in the team’s final exhibition game), Donovan Mitchell (3-for-3), Jordan Clarkson (3-for-8) and Joe Ingles (2-for-6). Ingles, Clarkson, Royce O’Neale and Georges Niang all figure to have an increased role without Bogdanovic.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS

LaMarcus Aldridge celebrates as he scores on March 10, 2020.

In 12th place in the West and four games behind the No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies, the Spurs were already going to have a tough time securing an NBA-record 23rd consecutive playoff berth before LaMarcus Aldridge was ruled out following shoulder surgery.

Aldridge was leading San Antonio in rebounds (7.4 per game) and blocks (1.6) while also ranking second on the team in scoring (18.9 points).

But the Spurs actually suffered a drop in offensive and defensive rating with Aldridge on the floor in 2019-20, resulting in a minus-4.4 net rating when he played and a plus-0.7 rating when he wasn’t in the lineup.

SeasonLineupOff. Team RatingDef. Team RatingNet Rating
2019-20With Aldridge114.3118.7-4.4
2019-20No Aldridge117.71170.7

Much of the scoring burden will fall on DeMar DeRozan, who leads the team with 22.2 points per game. Fourth-year center Jakob Poeltl is expected to move into the starting lineup with recently signed Cody Zeller providing some depth. In the two games he played at least 35 minutes this season, Poeltl totaled 22 points, 28 rebounds and eight blocks.

Veterans Rudy Gay and Trey Lyles also could benefit from an increase in playing time as both were playing well before play was halted. In the last six games, Gay averaged 15.5 points on 50.7% shooting and Lyles scored 15.3 per game while hitting 16 of 34 (47.1%) from 3-point range.

“Obviously we can’t replace [Aldridge],” guard Derrick White told the San Antonio Express-News. “We’re going to have to do it by committee. Everybody is going to have to do a little bit more to make up for his loss.”

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Data modeling provided by Matt Scott