* Tonight on TNT: Lakers vs. Rockets (8 ET)
After a 2-5 start to their first season with LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers have found their footing. They're 15-5 since Halloween and sit in fifth place in the Western Conference, just one game behind the first-place Denver Nuggets.
We knew that the Lakers would be better with the addition of James, of course. But this was a different kind of supporting cast than the ones James has had over the last several years. And indeed, this team plays differently than the one he left in Cleveland, where the pace was more deliberate and the shooting was more abundant.
According to Second Spectrum tracking, the Lakers' effective field goal percentage of 58.6 percent in the first 12 seconds of the shot clock.
That is the league's best mark in the first 12 seconds of the shot clock through Wednesday. But in the last 12 seconds of the shot clock, the Lakers have an effective field goal percentage of just 45.2 percent, the league's worst mark.
League-wide, effective field goal percentage drops with the time on the shot clock. This season, league-wide effective field goal percentage is as follows ...
- 19-24: 59.5 percent
- 13-18: 53.1 percent
- 7-12: 51.1 percent
- 0-6: 43.5 percent
- 13-24: 54.9 percent
- 0-12: 48.6 percent
This is a reason why a lot of teams, including the Lakers, want to play with pace. Early shots are better shots. And the Lakers are at the extremes in regard to the first 12 seconds and the last 12 seconds. They've flourished early in the clock, and struggled late.
This is not typical with LeBron James teams. Last season, the Cavs had the league's highest effective field goal percentage (52.2 percent) in the last 12 seconds of the shot clock.
But the Lakers are constructed differently than the Cavs were, with more young guys and playmakers, and fewer veterans and shooters. They have the talent and speed to run the floor and get early shots, but lack the experience and catch-and-shoot skills to deal with late-clock situations.
More than 29 percent of the Lakers' total points have come via fast break points (18 percent) or second-chance points (12 percent). That's the second highest rate in the league, with only the Sacramento Kings getting a lower percentage of their points from the half-court situations.
The percentage of Lakers points coming via fast break points or second-chance points (29.4 percent) is almost exactly what it was last season (29.3 percent, highest in the league). The Cavs got just 21.3 percent of their points (the league's 10th lowest rate) via fast break points and second-chance points last season.
So, rather than adapting to its new star this season, the Lakers' offense has maintained the same structure in regard to how it scores. L.A. has seen only a minimal bump in the percentage its shots that have come from 3-point range, a category that the Cavs ranked fourth in last season.
The Lakers have seen an increase in the percentage of their shots that have come from the restricted area, which is good. Restricted-area shots are the most valuable shots on the floor, worth 1.3 points per attempt league-wide and the Lakers' rate -- restricted-area shots account for 40 percent of their total field goal attempts -- is the highest of any team in the last five seasons. In his 16th season, James is still shooting better than 70 percent in the restricted area, and he has taken a greater percentage of his shots from there (42 percent) than he did in any of his first 10 seasons in the league.
But when they haven't gotten to the basket, the Lakers haven't shot particularly well. They rank 26th in field goal percentage on other 2-point shots (37.0 percent) and 18th in 3-point percentage (35 percent). While James ranks as the league's third-best pull-up 3-point shooter, his team ranks 24th in catch-and-shoot 3-point percentage (and he's not innocent in that regard). Through Wednesday, James ranks 10th in the league with 67 assists on 3-pointers (2.5 per game), having ranked first or second in each of the last three seasons (four per game over that time).
In the last 12 seconds of the shot clock, the Lakers have seen big drops in their shooting both inside and outside the arc. And the players who have seen the biggest drops are Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball, who have combined for an effective field goal percentage of 60.5 percent in the first 12 seconds of the shot clock and just 35.0 percent in the last 12 seconds.
That the Lakers rank sixth in overall effective field goal percentage is a testament to how good they are early in the clock (and how well James has shot off the dribble). Turnovers have been a bigger issue than shooting in their 15th-ranked offense.
And the Lakers are evolving. This roster might look very different a year from now, and it will be interesting to see -- as roster changes are made -- if Los Angeles begins to look more like James' teams in Cleveland.
LAKERS NOTES - GENERAL
- The Lakers have seen the league's fourth biggest increase in winning percentage from last season (when they were 35-47), on pace for an increase of 16 or 17 wins.
- They have a positive point differential in every quarter but the fourth, when they've been outscored by 15 points. But they're 10-7 in games that were within five points in the last five minutes, having outscored their opponents by 24 points on clutch possessions.
- They've played six back-to-backs (tied for second most in the league), and are 5-1 in the second game.
LAKERS NOTES - OFFENSE
- According to Second Spectrum tracking, the Lakers rank 18th in ball movement (336 passes per 24 minutes of possession) and 10th in player movement (11.6 miles traveled per 24 minutes per possession).
- The Lakers rank second in clutch offense (124.5 points scored per 100 possessions).
LAKERS NOTES - DEFENSE
- The Lakers rank third in opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area (59.3 percent), but their opponents have taken 37 percent of their shots from the restricted area. That's the league's second highest opponent rate, lower that only that of the Phoenix Suns.
- According to Synergy play-type tracking, only 14.3 percent of opponent possessions have been in transition. That's the league's fourth lowest opponent rate.
- The Lakers rank third defensively (103.0 points allowed per 100 possessions) since Tyson Chandler joined the team on Nov. 7. Their worst five-game stretch of defense was their first five games of the season, when they allowed 113.9 points per 100 possessions.
LAKERS NOTES - LINEUPS
- Thirty-five percent of the Lakers' minutes, the highest rate in the league, have been played by second-year players (Ball, Hart and Kuzma).
- The Lakers have outscored their opponents by 0.5 points per 100 possessions in 494 minutes with both James and Brandon Ingram on the floor, but are a plus-6.3 points per 100 possessions in 449 minutes with James on the floor without Ingram and a plus-10.9 points per 100 possessions in 121 minutes with Ingram on the floor without James.
- Since he joined the team on Nov. 7, the Lakers have been at their best (plus-11.3 points per 100 possessions) with Tyson Chandler on the floor.
LAKERS NOTES - INDIVIDUAL
- Lonzo Ball has attempted just 10 free throws for every 100 shots from the field (23/230). That is the fourth lowest free throw rate among 162 players with at least 200 field goal attempts.
- Tyson Chandler has attempted just 4.1 shots per 36 minutes in his 450 total minutes with the Suns and Lakers. That's the fewest among 288 players who have played at least 300 total minutes this season.
- LeBron James has taken 29.5 percent of his shots from 3-point range. That's the highest rate of his career. The percentage of his shots that have come from mid-range (18.2 percent) is the lowest mark of his career.
- JaVale McGee has averaged 23.5 minutes per game, up from 9.5 last season. That's the third biggest increase among 260 players who played at least 40 games last season and have played at least 12 games this season. He's also seen the fifth biggest increase in points per game (from 4.8 to 11.6) and the second biggest increase in rebounds per game (from 2.6 to 6.7) among that group.
- Opponents have shot just 49.1 percent at the rim when McGee has been there to protect it. That's the best rim protection mark among players who have defended at least four shots at the rim per game.
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