As the Los Angeles Lakers head off for Hawaii and the start of training camp, the team's heralded new core is set to absorb head coach Byron Scott's offensive system. The team should hopefully see an uptick in offensive performance with the roster upgrades made during the offseason and the return of Kobe Bryant
However, Scott's much maligned offensive system from last season will remain in place. Under Scott's reign the team produced the seventh-least efficient offense, suffering from a lack of quick hitting actions and a dearth of three-point attempts. In Scott's defense, the Lakers endured a rash of injuries and the team simply did not have the talent to yield an elite offense.
However, when Scott sat down with the OC Register's Bill Oram he expounded upon his wariness of the three-point shot. In the following passage from that interview, Scott seems to intimate that teams who space the floor and emphasize three-point shooting will concurrently expose themselves on the defensive end:
Byron Scott: No. Everybody wants to take, ‘Well he said...' Yeah, but if you are a 3-point shooting team in this league, you're No. 1 in the league, but you're last in defense, you won't win a championship. They were the No.1 offensive team and defensive team in the league. They were the best team. They deserved to win the championship. The only thing I would say, or extract from that, is you can be a great 3-point shooting team, but if you don't play defense, you won't win championships.
On the face of it Scott is right; if you are last in defense your team really isn't going to go anywhere. However, three out of the five worst defensive teams last season were also three out of the five teams with the fewest three-point attempts (The Lakers, Kings, and Timberwolves) and there is a reason for this.
It will come as no surprise that the Lakers led the NBA in long-range two-point shot attempts last season. While it is generally understood that the long two is the least efficient shot in the NBA, the shot's detrimental effects on defense are not as widely known. Long mid-range shots yield a significantly higher percentage of defensive rebounds than three-point shots do. Shots from 10-22 feet out yield an offensive rebound 21.5 percent of the time, but when shots are taken from 22 feet and further the offensive rebound rate climbs back up to 25.5 percent.
The Lakers led the league in mid-range jump shots, but ranked 28th in mid-range jump shot percentage. Last season the Lakers took and missed a lot of shots that correlate with the lowest rate of offensive rebounds, so it's no coincidence they gave up the fifth-most fast break points per game in the league. For a team that struggled to get back on defense and contain the break, shooting long two-point shots with the propensity that Scott's system endorsed simply fueled the opposition's fast break engine.
All that being said, Scott is right and if the Lakers want to build a championship team again it will need a far better defense. However, part of that defensive effort should include a higher rate of three-point shot attempts. The Lakers can cut down on the opposition's defensive rebounds and opportunities to ignite the fast break by increasing their three-point attempts.
Scott then went on to further point to the constraints his offense would employ when it came to three-point shots. "We're going to take three-point shots that are given to us on a consistent basis," Scott told Oram. "We're not going to just come down and be launching three-pointers." While the Lakers do not need to be recklessly launching three pointers, this comment again points to a misguided offensive principle.
Defensive coaches around the league are working around the clock while the Lakers' coaching staff struggles to implement the three-point shot into the offense. As Rod Thorn -- the NBA's former President of Basketball Operations -- points out, defenses are adjusting to the aggregate increase across the NBA in three-point shooting.
NBA defenses are increasingly looking to suffocate space on the three-point line and take away any quality looks that are freely available. Scott should not be waiting for open looks to be "given" without specifically scheming his offense to find open perimeter shots. Furthermore, the Lakers have the weapons on offense to shoot the three more effectively. Last season the team ranked eighth-highest in corner three-point percentage, the most efficient shot, yet only ranked 28th in corner-three attempts. Scott's offense should look to find more opportunities to load the corners for exemplary corner three shooters like Lou Williams:
Lou isn't the only player on the roster who can excel from beyond the arc. The front office made great strides to increase spacing by adding the likes of Anthony Brown, Michael Frazier II, Jabari Brown, and of course blue chip prospect D'Angelo Russell. Shooting is a strength for these players and not utilizing this firepower simply leaves unused offensive output.
It should be acknowledged that Scott has moved away from his 10-15 three pointers cap per game he uttered before last season's start. However, hopefully Scott takes further steps to embrace the value of the three-point shot during the upcoming season. It's not only a strength of so many new additions to the team's roster, but it keeps opposing defenses honest at the perimeter in order to provide the necessary spacing for quality opportunities at the rim.
More importantly, the Lakers proved last season they are not good at shooting long mid-range shots. They not only missed those shots but also gave up a pronounced number of defensive rebounds as a result of the prominence of that shot, while yielding a multitude of transition opportunities to the opposition.
It simply makes sense to employ the three-pointer more prominently within the offense and to encourage the roster to make more attempts. In that vein, here's hoping Jim Buss is right when he stated that Scott is "not set in his ways. If he sees something that's going to improve the team, he's going to do it."