Here’s a fun fact: through three games, the Los Angeles Lakers are shooting two-pointers at almost the same percentage as the Denver Nuggets, who lead the league in overall shooting percentage. That accentuates the fact that the Los Angeles Lakers are compounding the damage of their historically poor three-point shooting by taking more threes than all but seven other teams.
Obviously, coach Darvin Ham is structuring his offense around taking threes whenever they are available, but what if he went the opposite direction and just told his guys to stop taking threes altogether? The raw numbers indicate that the first three games might have gone differently:
Opponent Lost by 2 pt % 3 pt shooting Pts added by 2’s new margin
Golden State 14 55.6% 10-40 14 tie
Clippers 6 49.0% 9-45 17 win by 11
Portland 2 59.3% 6-33 20 win by 18
Less is more for the Los Angeles Lakers.
We all know that statistics don’t tell the whole story and that if a team just completely stopped shooting threes, the defenses would adjust and the two-point shooting percentage would suffer. But balancing that fact is that the Los Angeles Lakers are last in rebounding differential by a wide margin, which would not be the case if they stopped missing so many shots.
The Lakers are also ninth in the league in free throw shooting prior to Wednesday’s games, and it stands to reason that they would take more free throws if they played a less perimeter-oriented game. Despite playing three of the more potent offenses in the NBA, the Lakers are also tenth in opponents’ field goal percentage, which means they are playing decent defense.
All in all, this is not the dumpster fire the media is portraying it to be. There are no doubt a bunch of guys getting significant playing time who are not NBA-caliber players. And the Russell Westbrook problem probably won’t be solved absent a trade.
The Los Angeles Lakers are in a tough spot but they have to be patient.
But there are worse ways to start building a roster than with LeBron James. And even a slumping Anthony Davis is better than most starting bigs. Once the coaching staff cuts the rotation down to the eight or so guys who deserve playing time and the normal regression to the mean happens, the shooting numbers should look a little less ridiculous.
Maybe the best-case scenario for this roster isn’t a deep playoff run. It’s even possible that the best trade they can make for Westbrook doesn’t help the team enough to make it worth tying up cap space for next season when the Lakers could add a lottery pick and a max free agent. Sure, assuming LeBron will still be elite at age 39 is a gamble, but trading one flawed player for a package of flawed players is just as risky.
For now, the most immediate tweak is to tell the bad shooters to stop shooting. There aren’t a lot of times in the modern NBA when less shooting is a good idea, but it sure seems like this is one of those times.