NBA Breakfast Special: Luke Walton’s Point Guard Dilemma

Another day, another Lakers win that happened in spite of rather than because of sensible point guard play. Lonzo Ball and his 3-of-13 (23.1 percent) shooting, 2-of-8 beyond the arc, and complete lack of free throw attempts got the Lakers only eight points in a game that they came back from the dead to win, grabbing a 103-94 win over the Chicago Bulls in a game they trailed 56-42 at halftime.

And of those three makes, one of them was a dunk:

Coming into tonight’s game, Dollar Store Westbrook was 288th out of 289 qualifying NBA players in Offensive Win Shares (ahead of only Dennis Smith Jr. of the Mavericks) and 280th, as in tenth-worst, in Offensive Rating.

But at the same time, we’re talking about a guy who’s averaging seven rebounds and seven assists a game. We could be seeing a case of where the worst offensive player wins Defensive Player of the Year; Ball’s Defensive Win Shares put him in the top 20 in the Association and frequently float him just high enough to get over the zero mark in WS/48.

But that shooting. Dear gods, that shooting, that wretched, horrible, no good, very bad .308/.230/.462 slash line shooting. Those numbers aren’t even good on a baseball player (swap 3-point for field goal and it’s basically a guy with a .770 OPS who is feast-or-famine with the bat.)

There’s another point worth making here. Lonzo left the game in the third quarter with the Lakers still well behind. He came back into the game after watching his team go on a run. At least Luke Walton played him; Ball’s rebounding down the stretch contributed to the Bulls not being able to get multiple shots on any of their possessions just as their shooting went to hell on them.

But at some point, you have to wonder if Luke Walton doesn’t deserve Coach of the Year for finding a way to play 4-on-5 offensively and still get this team to 8-10.

But still, let’s face facts here. Los Angeles didn’t win this game so much as Chicago lost it. The Bulls put up 38.3 percent from the field and 30.6 from the arc, they put the Lakers on the line for 25 free throws (and 18 makes) while going 11-of-16 themselves, and four Lakers had at least nine rebounds, including Ball’s 13 to lead the way.

Plus, Lauri Markkanen was absolutely atrocious in this one, shooting 4-of-17 from the field and 2-of-9 from the arc and basically putting up the same sort of 13-point, 14-rebound double double that belies the fact that he sucked.

Y’know, like Ball’s 8 and 13? At least Markkanen gets to the free throw line more than once per presidential election cycle.

While we’re on the subject, can we give proper credit to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who scored 11 of his 21 points to fuel that fourth-quarter comeback?

Or Kyle Kuzma, whose 22 points led the team and who is the real rookie of the year for the Lakers this season:

Last time we had an NBA guy whose nickname was pronounced “kooz”, he was tossing the ball in to Bill Russell for easy points. It’s a good nickname.

Or Julius Randle, who was there to clean up the mess after Kuzma’s missed effort at getting a steal:

Highlights from the full game:

There are 14 (!) games in the NBA as the league gets ready for a Thanksgiving break, so you’re getting a super-sized Turkey Day appetizer this week. Also, watch for Is He Any Good to return with a special Wednesday edition.

Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!