Lakers News: Robert Sacre is Making the Most of His Opportunities

Robert Sacre was the very last pick in the 2012 NBA draft. Historically, its not often players taken that late become viable rotation pieces. However, Sacre seems keen to buck this trend.

The former Gonzaga recruit was rewarded for his consistent play of late, given his first start of the season in the Lakers’ win over the Sacramento Kings, Sacre did not disappoint. He has seen his minutes steadily increase game by game after not playing at all for the first month.

He started the season behind Jordan Hill, Chris Kaman and Shawne Williams, Sacre has now bypassed all of them in the rotation.

His raw numbers won’t shock you, however his advanced stats will. Per Forum Blue and Gold’s Darius Soriano, Sacre is making the Lakers considerably better whilst he’s on the floor (keep in mind its a small sample size):

Basically, what all that means is the Lakers score more, and more efficiently, when Sacre is in the game. Additionally, the team also restricts the opposition to score less.

Sacre is one of those players that you need to judge outside the box score. He sets solid screens, cuts hard out of pick and rolls, and is by far the best interior defender on the team.

What makes his defense even more amazing is that he shows little vertical athleticism, and yet is still highly effective. All of his accomplishments on the court are due to hard work and smart plays. Sacre is always in the right place when he needs to be, and is willing to throw his body around to help the team.

On defense he seems to have a thorough understanding of basic defensive principles. He is the best defender in pick and rolls, being able to hedge and recover effectively as well as being able to play ice. Furthermore, he has shown an ability to step out on a switch and hold his own against some of the quicker guards in the league.

In the post, Sacre is strong enough to contend with all players in the NBA. Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins is one of the strongest and most skilled players in the league. However, Sacre was able to nullify his impact whilst matched up against him.

The video below displays Robert’s ability to push back against Cousins to not allow deep position. Sacre is also able to stay straight up when defending the shot. This means that a foul is unlikely to be called, and the shot is able to be contested or blocked:

Sacre also knows when to rotate on defense. His timing is often brilliant, as he is able to make his rotation late enough so the offensive player cannot change their direction. This huge block against Portland highlights his ability:

On offense Sacre has shown an innate ability to roll hard out of screens and find an open seam to the rim. He has also flashed a soft touch around the hoop. Both of these skills are shown in this pick and roll with Xavier Henry:

Perhaps the best play that personifies what type of player Sacre is comes from early in the fourth quarter against Portland. Sacre makes a good rotation on the baseline, cutting off the rim whilst also making sure a pass to his direct opponent is difficult. He then deflects the pass because of the position he put himself in. Robert then pushes himself hard down the floor and finds an open seam in the defense for an open dunk:

Per Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times, coach Mike D’Antoni “couldn’t be happier” for Sacre. Robert is the type of guy who is likable. He is always the first teammate up to congratulate others, and never seems down about playing low minutes. This is why its so enjoyable to see him succeed and make a name for himself.

There’s been more talented players that have come before him. However, so often these athletes don’t work hard or make full use of their individual talents (you may recall one of them left recently). This is why Sacre is one of my personal favorite players, along with past Lakers such as Luke Walton and Josh Powell. Players that maximize their output and put the team first is what sports are all about.

Last season Sacre was more famous because of his dancing skills rather than basketball. However, now he is garnering the respect he has earned.

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 Lakers News: Robert Sacre is Making the Most of His Opportunities

Craig Freeman

Follow Craig on Twitter, @CraigFreemanNBA.
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