Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors is the latest and current favorite example, but the power forward that can space the floor with shooting, or "stretch four," is the en vogue player archetype that the entire NBA is simultaneously drooling over and searching for. This was not the expected career path most held for Los Angeles Lakers rookie Larry Nance, Jr., who came into the season mostly known for his energy and leaping ability that left every opposing player at risk of being put on a poster.
However, as Nance, Jr. has continued to gain confidence and earn more minutes, the Wyoming product is demonstrating an ability to calmly knock down jumpers as well. Over his last three games, Nance, Jr. has upped his field goal attempts (from 4.6 per game to 7.7) and field goal percentage (from 53.5 to a scorching 73.9) above his regular season averages. Rather than a random hot streak, Nance, Jr. expects this effective shooting to become a trend, explaining to Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News that he feels he could become a stretch four for the Lakers:
He hardly flinched on the idea that he will ultimately become a so-called "stretch forward."
"Yeah, it'll happen," Nance Jr. told Los Angeles News Group. "I'm a rookie and I got lots of years to perfect my craft and work on my game. I'm getting very comfortable shooting the 15- and 18-footer. I've got multiple years and multiple summers to be able to work that out to the 3-point line. I'm very confident."
Nance, Jr.'s last three games have given him reason for confidence. 40.3% of his shot attempts this season have come on shots NBA.com classifies as "catch and shoot" opportunities, of which Nance, Jr. is converting 38.5% on the year. Over the last three games though, slightly more of Nance, Jr.'s shots have been catch and shoot attempts (43.5%) and he has made 70% of them. The rookie's shot chart illustrates the change well:
Larry Nance, Jr. regular season shot chart:
Last three games:
It's too small of a sample size to prognosticate with any certainty going forward, but it appears that Nance, Jr.'s improved shooting has also opened things up for him to shoot better around the basket, as well as creating additional space for his teammates to cut to the rack. The Lakers have been able to get more looks at that rim over over Nance's three game hot streak, taking 39.4% of their shots right at the basket over that stretch versus 36.4% for the season.
Encouragingly, this increased effectiveness has not come with some massive overhauling of his shooting mechanics, as Nance, Jr.'s shot looks similarly smooth on his first attempt of the year:
As it has over his three-game hot streak:
It is only three games, and Nance, Jr. will presumably come back down to earth a bit as the season continues. But cultivating a reliable jumper would certainly make it hard to keep Nance, Jr. off the floor in a spacing-starved Lakers' offense as well as helping solidify his place as a member of the team's young core as they move forward in their rebuild.
All stats per NBA.com