NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the 2018-19 season with a key stat for each team in the league and shows you why it matters. Today, we look at the Los Angeles Lakers, who showed in-season improvement from beyond the arc.
The Lakers saw both the biggest post-All-Star-break increase in 3-point percentage and its biggest post-break increase in the percentage of their shots that came from 3-point range.
In regard to both numbers, the Lakers ranked in the bottom 10 before the break and in the top 10 after the break. As a result, they scored 7.8 more points per game from beyond the arc.
That helped them score 4.6 more points per 100 possessions after the break (107.4 – 15th in the league) than they did before it (102.8 – 26th). That marked the fifth biggest post-break improvement in offensive efficiency.
More important is that the increased and improved 3-point shooting made the Lakers a better complement to LeBron James, their new star and primary ball-handler. James led the league with 344 assists on 3-pointers (4.2 per game) last season, assisting on threes from 15 different teammates.
Though the Lakers had quite a bit of roster turnover – they rank 27th in the percentage of last year’s minutes (57 percent) played by players still on the roster – players still on the roster accounted for 68 percent (201/296) of their 3-pointers after the break last season. The only Lakers who made at least 10 threes after the break and are no longer on the roster are Brook Lopez (40) and Isaiah Thomas (29).
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was the Lakers’ top-seven player who saw the biggest increase in 3-point percentage, shooting 42.3 percent from beyond the arc after the break, up from 36.1 percent before it. Kyle Kuzma also went from below average (35.8 percent before the break) to above-average (38.5 percent after). Both Caldwell-Pope and Kuzma also saw an increase in the percentage of their shots that were threes.
Lonzo Ball was the Laker rotation player who saw the biggest increase in the percentage of his shots that came from 3-point range, taking 61 percent of them from beyond the arc after the break, up from 49 percent before it. Ball’s 3-point percentage remained pretty poor (30 percent before the break, 31 percent after it), but there’s value – both in regard to effective field goal percentage and floor spacing – in being willing to shoot from deep. If Ball can at least improve from the corners (from where he was just 9-for-37 last season), he can be a better complement to James.
Even with the post-break improvement last season, the Lakers still ranked 29th in 3-point percentage overall and, because of that, were one of two teams – New York was the other – that had a field goal percentage above the league average (they ranked 14th) and an effective field goal percentage below the league average (they ranked 16th).
The perimeter veterans that the Lakers added to the roster – Michael Beasley, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson – shot a combined 32 percent from 3-point range last season. (Beasley has actually shot 40 percent over the last two seasons, but has taken 2.8 times as many mid-range shots as threes over those two years.)
So yes, L.A.’s approach to roster contstruction around James has thus far differed from that of the Cleveland Cavaliers of the last four seasons. The only Laker in the top 100 in 3-point percentage (among players with at least 300 attempts) over the last three seasons is Kuzma, who ranks 100th at 36.6 percent. Every other team in the league has at least one player who ranks higher and two teams – the Cavs and Clippers – each have six players who have shot better than Kuzma on at least 300 3-point attempts over the last three years.
But James will turn some teammates into better shooters, and he will increase the percentage of threes that the Lakers take from the corners. Last season, the Lakers shot 39.4 percent on corner threes and 33.7 percent on above-the-break threes, but they ranked 27th in the percentage of their threes that came from the corners.
James’ teams have ranked in the top six in 11 of the last 13 seasons. And over the last two seasons, he has assisted on 292 corner threes, 120 more than any other player.
It’s going to be fascinating how this Lakers’ roster fits with its new star. A portion of it took a small step forward in that regard last season.
Note: The above table is based on true possession counts. Other efficiency stats here are based on possession estimates (typically higher than true possession counts).
LAKERS NOTES – GENERAL
- Have missed the playoffs just 10 times in the franchise’s 70-year history, five times in its first 65 seasons and five times in the last five.
- Saw the league’s fifth biggest increase in wins (from 26 to 35), but its second biggest increase in NetRtg, from minus-7.2 (30th in the league) in 2016-17 to minus-1.4 (21st) last season.
- Were outscored by 127 points last season. They were a minus-128 in the first quarter and a plus-1 otherwise.
- Were 34-20 in games they led in the fourth quarter. The 20 losses were second most in the league, behind Dallas (24-23).
LAKERS NOTES – OFFENSE
- One of two teams (Orlando is the other) that has ranked in the bottom 10 in offensive efficiency in each of the last five seasons.
- Averaged 350 passes per 24 minutes of possession (14th in the league) last season, up from 329 (24th) in 2016-17, according to Second Spectrum tracking. That was the biggest increase in the league.
- 19.5 percent of their possessions, the league’s highest rate, were in transition, according to Synergy play-type tracking. Ranked second with 17.5 fast break points per game.
- Scored just 0.74 points per possession, the worst rate in the league, on pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions.
- Ranked last in free throw percentage (71.4 percent), but still ranked second (behind the Clippers) with 58.0 points per game in the restricted area or on free throws.
- Were one of three teams that were better offensively on the road (scoring 105.3 points per 100 possessions) than they were at home (103.1).
LAKERS NOTES – DEFENSE
- After ranking in the botton three defensively in each of the previous four seasons, were the league’s most improved defensive team last season, allowing 105.6 points per 100 possessions (13th in the league), down from 110.6 (30th) in 2016-17.
- Saw the league’s biggest drop in opponent 3-point percentage, from 37.0 percent (26th) in 2016-17 to 34.6 percent (third) last season.
- Allowed a league-high 49.0 points in the paint per game.
- Were 6.7 points per 100 possessions better defensively at home (allowing 102.2) than they were on the road (108.9). That was the league’s biggest home-road DefRtg differential.
LAKERS NOTES – LINEUPS
- Returning eight players from last season’s roster, but no lineup that played more than 11 minutes together.
- 32 percent of last season’s minutes were played by rookies. That was the league’s second highest rate (behind that of Sacramento)
- Returning two-man combination (minimum 500 minutes together) with the highest on-court OffRtg: Josh Hart and Caldwell-Pope. The Lakers scored 109.0 points per 100 possessions in their 605 minutes on the floor together.
- Returning two-man combination (minimum 500 minutes together) with the lowest on-court DefRtg: Ball and Brandon Ingram. The Lakers allowed 103.7 points per 100 possessions in their 1,005 minutes on the floor together.
- Averaged 104.2 possessions per 48 minutes with Ball on the floor. That was the third highest on-court pace mark among 285 players who averaged at least 15 minutes in 40 or more games.
LAKERS NOTES – INDIVIDUAL
- Lonzo Ball had an assist-turnover ratio of 2.76, the best mark among rookies who averaged at least 10 minutes per game in 40 games or more.
- Ball averaged 3.0 deflections per 36 minutes, second (behind Ben Simmons) among 26 rookies who played at least 1,000 minutes.
- Ball shot 30.5 percent from 3-point range, the fourth worst mark among 116 players who attempted at least 250 threes last season. He was also the only player who shot worse than 50 percent on at least 150 attempts in the restricted area.
- Ball had a much better effective field goal percentage on the road (49.3 percent) than at home (38.6 percent). That was the biggest road-home differential among 213 players with at least 200 field goal attempts both at home and on the road.
- Josh Hart had an effective field goal percentage of 57.3 percent, the fourth best mark among 25 rookies with at least 300 field goal attempts.
- Brandon Ingram shot 39 percent from 3-point range, up from 29 percent in 2016-17. That was the third biggest jump in 3-point percentage among 183 players who attempted at least 100 threes each season. But Ingram took just 14 percent of his shots from 3-point range, down from 27 percent in ’16-17. That was the biggest drop in 3PA/FGA among 126 players with at least 500 field goal attempts both seasons.
- Ingram scored just 0.78 points per possession on isolations, the worst mark among 30 players who averaged at least two isolation possessions per game.
- LeBron James led the league with 1,068 total points scored in the restricted area. The 75.2 percent he shot in the restricted area was the second best mark among players with at least 200 restricted area attempts and the fourth best mark of his career.
- James led the league with 197 points scored in the clutch (with the game within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime). His effective field goal percentage of 61.2 percent on clutch shots ranked second among players who attempted at least 50. But he shot just 65 percent on clutch free throws.
- James ranked second with 6.4 isolation possessions per game. The 0.96 points per possession he scored on isolations ranked 15th among 30 players who averaged at least two isolations per game.
- James’ 17 assists on March 21 vs. Toronto were the most in game with no turnovers last season.
- James averaged 34.0 points per game in the playoffs, the highest average for a player who played in more than five playoff games since he averaged 35.3 in the 2009 playoffs. He had eight of the 13 highest scoring games (42 points or more) in the 2018 postseason.
- Kyle Kuzma ranked in the top five among rookies in total minutes (fourth), points (third), 3-pointers (second), rebounds (fourth) and double-doubles (second).
- JaVale McGee averaged 3.3 blocks per 36 minutes, most among 353 players who played at least 500 minutes last season.
- Rajon Rondo recorded assists on 45 percent of his possessions, the highest rate among 285 players who averaged at least 15 minutes per game in 40 games or more.
- Lance Stephenson grabbed 13.2 percent of available rebounds while he was on the floor, the third best mark among 96 players 6-5 and shorter who averaged at least 20 minutes per game in 40 games or more. Ball (10.5 percent) and Hart (9.7 percent) also ranked in the top 10.
NBA TV’s Lakers preview premieres at 7:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Sept. 26.
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