Far too often, any analysis of a player starts with some variation of “well, if he just had a jump shot, he could be something special.” There’s a reason for that, though. Boundless athleticism or a power game is valuable on a basketball court, but to be able to generate the proper spacing to run an offense in today’s NBA, players need to be able to shoot.
The above may seem like an exercise in the obvious, but it’s relevant when discussing Julius Randle and Larry Nance, Jr. For all of last season, any conversation about the games of Los Angeles’ two young power forwards centered on their jumpers. Or more accurately, their lack of jumpers.
Both Randle and Nance, Jr. have reportedly gone to great lengths to address those issues this offseason, and the latter saw decent results while shooting 33.3 percent from behind the arc in Las Vegas Summer League. That isn’t going to set the league on fire, but it’s a start.
Lakers head coach Luke Walton certainly thinks the two have made progress in this area, as he made clear to Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News:
Randle spent part of his two-a-day workout sessions with an unrevealed shooting coach to make subtle changes to his stroke. As Lakers coach Luke Walton said, “it’s been very impressive to see his commitment this offseason to become a better shooter.”
While Nance, Jr. provided more examples of his energy and leadership in Summer League, he often worked on both his 3-point shot and mid-range jumper at theLakers’ practice facility. As Walton said, “he’s definitely a capable 3-point shooter and his mid-range game has been pretty consistent.”
Walton’s comments later in Medina’s story about wanting the two to find the right balance between launching threes/jumpers versus getting to the basket was interesting, as was the confirmation that he will play Randle at center a bit during training camp to try it out.
However, most important is still the development of the two’s jumpers, because while playing small has become en vogue and it is important for Randle and Nance, Jr. to not get too shot happy, those two things only matter if they have developed their shots. Every jumper will be a bad one if they still can’t shoot, and one of the main ways small ball becomes effective is by overloading the floor with shooters.
Randle and Nance, Jr.’s dynamism in transition and ability to push pace could still help the Lakers go small, to be sure, but it ultimately won’t matter as much if neither of them are competent enough shooters to stretch the floor while playing together. Nance, Jr. seems to be the furthest along in that regard, but it will be interesting to see how far the two have come as shooters when training camp kicks off next week.
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