As anyone who has watched the Los Angeles Lakers play since December can attest, they are not a good passing team. Lakers head coach Luke Walton has set a goal of the team making at least 300 passes per game, but the team isn’t quite there yet.
The Lakers 291 passes per game is fewer than all but nine other teams in the league, and with several isolation-happy scorers on the roster it’s not clear that the team can get much better this season.
However, it turns out the Lakes ball movement issues might not be solely rooted in personnel issues, but rather personal ones. Passing doesn’t necessarily mean that a team is totally in sync with one another or trusts everyone, but Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times asked Larry Nance, Jr. if he felt like the team trusted each other, and he gave an honest answer (via the L.A. Times):
“I don’t,” Nance said. “I don’t think we do.”
Then he gave the thought another second and amended it. you think the Lakers trust each other as a team?
Larry Nance Jr. took a full second before he answered the question.
“I think we do sometimes,” Nance said. “We trusted each other in New York [in a 121-107 win over the Knicks]. The ball was moving freely, there was open spacing. You knew if you gave it up, you’d get it back. We knew, ‘If I close out, my man beats me, the next guy’s gonna rotate defensively.’ Some games, we don’t do that. Last game we didn’t do it.”
First of all, credit Nance for being real and introspective about this, and he’s right. The Lakers have shown they can be a dangerous team when they keep the ball moving. The issue is that there are plenty of times this season during which they haven’t done so.
Can we chalk that up to a lack of trust? Maybe, although it probably has as much to do with having players that aren’t natural playmakers as well as being a young team.
The Lakers have also moved the ball well in a lot of their wins, but how much of that is just them taking advantage of bad defenses and then struggling when faced with having to make second, third and fourth reads against good ones? It’s probably a factor.
All we know for sure is the Lakers haven’t reached their potential when it comes to sharing the ball. Can they adjust? Quotes like this from Nance make it clear at the very least they’re going to try.
All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.