The following is a grading of the individual performances from the Lakers versus the Hornets in round 1 of the 2011 playoffs. The grades are issued schoolroom style “A” through “F” in regards to their contributions within their role and potential.
Kobe Bryant: B
The undisputed leader of the Lakers struggled at times on the offensive side of the ball where Trevor Ariza did a good job of harassing Kobe and holding him to 22.5 points per game on 44% shooting, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.8 assists a game. All these stats are below his season average and I’m sure chasing CP3 around combined with his ankle injury had something to do with it. That said, Kobe controlled the pace of the games for his team and did what he had to do to help the Lakers win. This culminated with Kobe’s series changing dunk on Emeka Okafor while hobbling on a gimpy ankle.
Pau Gasol: D+
As the number two guy on the Lakers one would expect Pau to step up to the challenge in the playoffs and use his advanced skill set. But Pau looked more like he should be playing for the Los Angeles Sparks than the Lakers as he was consistently punked by the undersized Hornets and managed to make 6’9″ Carl Landry look like an all-star. Pau shot a miserable 41.8% for the series with 13.5 points per game, 3.5 assists, and only 6.8 rebounds per game and most of his offensive success didn’t come until game 5 and 6. Pau was pushed around all series, didn’t protect the paint, was late on defensive rotations, and lacked heart as the “soft” label rightfully reared it’s head again. For some unknown reason Phil played Pau more minutes than any other player.
Andrew Bynum: A
As Pau Gasol shriveled with the challenge of the Hornets, Andrew Bynum rose to the occasion leading team in shooting percentage at 55.6% and rebounds with 10.3 per game. He also managed to score 15.2 points and grab 4 offensive boards per game which was a massive problem for the Hornets. The Lakers had the most success when using Bynum as the point of attackÂ as he consistently had Emeka Okafor in foul trouble and NOLA had no real answer for Andrew’s size. Bynum also did a good job patrolling the paint and altering shots while blocking 1.83 per game. Although Kobe is clearly the best player on the Lakers, Andrew Bynum’s value cannot be understated in this series as he was the biggest key to their success.
Ron Artest: A-
Controversy always follows Ron and many fans wanted him traded throughout the season. Well the playoffs are here and now and his value is crystal clear. Ron shot 50% for the series putting in 11.8 points, 2 assists, and 5 rebounds per game while holding Hornets sharpshooter Marco Belinelli to a miserable 37% shooting for the series. Ron outmuscled Marco all series long, getting easy looks, timely rebounds, and hitting big shots. With the exception of his 2-6 shooting in game 6, Ron was stellar all series and was the next biggest difference maker behind Andrew Bynum.
Lamar Odom: B
Lamar had an overall strong series but had a miserable game 4 where he went 1-7 with six points, zero assists, and only four rebounds. Then followed game 5 up with a poor 4-12 shooting and 13 points, seven rebounds, and two assists. Although Lamar had solid performances in the other games, he never really put his stamp on the series like we know he can.
Derek Fisher: B+
D-Fish was assigned the near impossible order of checking the league’s best pure point guard in Chris Paul as he desperately struggled to keep CP3 in front of him. Paul shot 53% and over 10 assists per game when Fisher was on the court, but it was even worse when Derek was on the bench where Paul shot 59%. CP3 reminded everyone how great he is no matter if it was Steve Blake, Shannon Brown, Ron Artest, or even Kobe trying to guard him. It was the same result, dagger after dagger, dime after dime. So I have to credit Fisher for playing with heart and determination chasing CP3 around, and Fish stepped his playoff game up by managing to do some great things on the offensive end as he hit clutch shots while averaging 9.3 points on 52.6% shooting.
Steve Blake: C
There were some fairly high expectations of Blake when the Lakers picked up the guard for $4 million a year in the offseason and many thought he would challenge for the starting spot over Fish. He’s just sort of been OK, a few nice moments here and there, but for the most part fairly invisible. It was no different in round 1 versus the Hornets. He was often scorched by Chris Paul and Jared Jack, and only managed to muster 2.4 points per game on 40% shooting.
Matt Barnes: C+
Barnes was hot and cold offensively throughout the series, but still managed to grab some timely rebounds, hit some shots and bring some energy off the bench. Trevor Ariza had a great series against the Lakers as he had quite a bit of success when guarded by Kobe, but I felt Barnes did a really good job on Ariza as his foot speed and length gave Trevor some troubles. As much as you would expect Ron Artest to be the enforcer for the Lakers, it’s been Barnes off the bench with the most feisty attitude jumping in the middle of any physicality and getting the back of his fellow “Killer B’s.”
Shannon Brown: C
I’m a big fan and as much as I marvel at Shannon’s athleticism, I’m seeing a trend that leads to a dark place. Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar both contracted the same disease. It’s called “Black Hole Syndrome” where if you pass Shannon the ball you pretty much know you’re not getting it back as the shot is going to go up. Shannon continually gets the ball, stops the offense, pounds it on the floor and jacks up a shot. I know Phil asked him to be more aggressive with his shot this year, but he’s no Kobe so his shots need to come in the flow of the offense. Shannon shot 39.4% for the series which is far too low for a role player. Don’t follow the dark path that lead Sasha and Jordan to the lowly Nets, run the offense, get out on the break, and know your role.
Theo Ratliff, Joe Smith, Trey Johnson: NC
These guys didn’t get enough run to get a grade so I’ll just give them a Non-Complete. But I did want to mention that I did like what I saw from Trey Johnson with the little time he had out there replacing Steve Blake when he was out with the Chicken Pox during game 1. Trey looked poised, in control, aggressive when needed, and played some nice D while out there. Joe Smith looks absolutely lost out there and Theo Ratliff managed to grab one board this series with his 54 seconds of play. That’s neither here nor there.
Phil Jackson: B
Phil was essentially out-coached by a rookie coach Monty Williams for the first few games of the series. The Hornets had an effective game plan against the Lakers while taking game 1 and 4. Phil’s staff were able to dissect the Hornets strategy and eventually found a way to slow Chris Paul and take over the series. But possibly Phil’s greatest strategic move with this matchup was leaving Luke Walton on the bench.
Next up, the Mark Cuban Mavericks of Dallas…