The Los Angeles Lakers are not going to be as good as the Golden State Warriors this year. This is hardly breaking news, but given how often the two teams have been compared since Los Angeles hired Luke Walton as their new head coach, it feels like it needs to be said. There are some vague similarities between the two rosters for anyone squinting hard enough, though, and Larry Nance, Jr. certainly isn’t shying away from them.
"Definitely,” Nance, Jr. told Alex Kennedy on the Basketball Insiders podcast when asked if he could play the Draymond Green-role for the Lakers in Walton’s Warriors’ inspired offense. “That's kind of how I played this summer league. You know, just get the ball off the rim, take it myself, make decisions on the break, run that high pick-and-roll with D'Angelo, and when he drops it off to me, I turn into a point forward.”
Nance, Jr. did seem to put more of an emphasis on doing all of those things during his time in Las Vegas, and it often led to good results for the Lakers, from igniting the break with his dribble or an outlet pass:
To working in space out of a pick-and-roll with Russell:
However, a major part of what makes Green so great for the Warriors is his ability to hit threes. After only taking ten three-pointers all of last season, Nance, Jr. says learning to approximate that skill was how he spent the majority of his summer.
“Shooting wasn't [something] that I had to do at Wyoming, I was kind of an around the basket specialist,” admits Nance, Jr. “Now I'm starting to stretch my game out, and it's actually really coming along, so I'm going to be shooting more threes this year.”
If he can knock them down at an acceptable rate, he could be a good fit in small lineups alongside Julius Randle, something he says he hopes to see more of this year.
“[Playing with Randle] would be, you talk about fast basketball, that right there would be just an athletic four/five [combination] that can move, that can defend, and I'm really eager and excited to see how [Luke uses both of our strengths],” said Nance, Jr. “I think I'll play some three, some four, and maybe if we get into some small-ball situations, I can play some five. Defensively I know I can play all of those positions, so however coach Luke decides to utilize me, I'm going to be ready for it."
Nance, Jr. being nearly ready to play is perhaps the best news of all for the Lakers after the “gnarly” sprained wrist he sustained in summer league was initially thought to be broken. Nance, Jr. says he hopes to be back on the court in a week or so, and he’s excited to get back in the gym with his teammates and continue to learn the team’s new offense.
“I love the offensive system we're running, because it opens up the court. It allows playmakers to make plays, and play finishers to finish plays. So I think that really benefits me as an [athletic] guy to where guys are going to get in the lane and I can just cut to the basket,” said Nance, Jr. “You see Draymond Green and Iguodala just kind of getting dunks and layups all the time because of their movement off the ball, and I'm really excited for how we utilize that."
If Nance, Jr.’s athleticism results in a few more big dunks, the cries for him bring his athleticism to the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest at All-Star Weekend will grow louder. Nance, Jr. isn’t listening to them, however. He says there is only one reason he’d enter the competition.
"If I can come up with some things to wow the crowd, I'll definitely go in it to defend the family name,” said Nance, Jr., referencing how his father won the league’s first ever dunk contest. But even if he’s not ready to “wow” people in the contest, Nance, Jr. did offer reason to be excited for his level of play this year.
"I'm so much more confident. Last year I went into the season having no idea what I was about to get myself in to. I didn't know the level of competition, I didn't know if I was going to play,” said Nance, Jr. “So this year is just a whole lot more comfortable. I feel like I'm ready, I feel stronger, more athletic, more healthy.”
Even if healthier, stronger, and with a three-point stroke in tow, Nance, Jr. is not Draymond Green. However, his self-confidence is at the very least Green-esque. Only time will tell if the rest of Nance, Jr.’s game can catch up.
All quotes transcribed via the Basketball Insiders podcast. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.