The 2016-17 Los Angeles Lakers aren’t exceptional at three-point shooting in any way. The team ranks 14th in the NBA in both attempts per game (26) and percentage (35.7 percent), meaning they’ve essentially found their “Goldilocks” range for three-pointers. They aren’t shooting too many or too few, but just the right amount based on their success rate.
In the Lakers’ win over the Miami HEAT on Friday night the team took just slightly more than their average attempts (28) and shot their average of 35.7 percent while still dominating in the paint, where the Lakers scored 68 of their 127 points.
Walton thought the Lakers did a good job of attacking the rack against the Hassan Whiteside-less HEAT, and it’s when the defense takes that option away that he wants his team to bomb away from outside.
“A lot of our guys like to shoot threes, and we’re okay with that if they’re good, rhythm shots, but besides that we don’t want to be just a three-point shooting team,” Walton said on Spectrum Sportsnet following the game. “We want to penetrate the defense, whether it’s a post-up or a drive or a pass, and we want to attack the rim. If they collapse on that kind of stuff then we want to kick out to shooters.”
The Lakers found that balance against Miami, something Walton credited to two of the Lakers’ young cornerstones.
“I thought it all started with D’Angelo [Russell], and the way he was attacking downhill to start the game,” Walton said. “Him and Julius [Randle] set the tone for that type of game for us.”
Randle made all three of his shots in the first quarter, and Russell went 4-8 in the period, and a glance at their shot charts from the period reveals that both did most of their damage in the paint:
By the end of the game, Miami was frantically collapsing into the paint in an attempt to stop the onslaught on the rim, which resulted in easy open threes for Los Angeles as long as they were willing to move the ball:
And the Lakers seem to mostly be getting Walton’s point, as the Lakers’ shot distribution on the season has been surprisingly average for such a young and struggling team:
However, the Lakers could do to cut down on isolations, where they rank sixth in frequency in the NBA (isolating on nine percent of their possessions) after ranking first (10.6 percent) a year ago. The Lakers only rank 14th in the NBA in efficiency on those plays (scoring 0.86 points per possession) and could do with a bit more ball movement.
Whatever type of play they replace isolations with, they should be careful about increasing how many spot-up chances they create. The Lakers rank dead last in frequency of those plays (spotting-up on just 15.2 percent of their possessions), and with good reason, because the team is only averaging 0.96 points per spot-up, which would rank 21st in the NBA.
Walton and his young squad are clearly still learning where there strengths are, but he seems to at least be emphasizing to his team the best ways to create good looks as they continue to grow.
All stats per NBA.com. and Basketball-Reference.com. All quotes transcribed via Spectrum Sportsnet. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.