Last season, the Los Angeles Lakers finished the season just about tied with the Phoenix Suns for the second-fastest pace in the NBA, behind only the New Orleans Pelicans and scored the second-most points in transition behind only the Golden State Warriors.
This year, Luke Walton and his coaching staff want to play even faster, and the NBA’s new clear path rules might really help them do so.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN was among those who broke the news about these rule changes — along with a couple others having to do with a tweak with the shot clock resetting process and player conduct on the court. The new rules are an extremely welcomed change.
Under the changes to the clear-path rule, a clear path to the basket would be in play in these three instances:
• “A personal foul is committed on any offensive player during his team’s transition scoring opportunity.”
• “When the foul occurs, the ball is ahead of the tip of the circle in the backcourt, no defensive player is ahead of the offensive player with the scoring opportunity and that offensive player is in control of the ball or a pass to him has been released.”
• “The defensive foul deprives the offensive team of a transition scoring opportunity.”
In the instance of a clear-path foul, the team is given two free throw attempts and possession on the sideline closest to where the foul happened.
The NBA says that rule would eliminate the need that a play start in the backcourt. Referees would no longer “need to make a judgment call on whether a defender was ‘between’ the offensive player and the basket, or, if a defender is ahead of the player being fouled but not ‘between’ the offensive player and the basket, whether such defender had the opportunity to position himself between the ball and the basket.”
These new rules’ impact on the Lakers is pretty simple.
Basically, teams have been able to get away with simply fouling any time a transition opportunity presents itself for the other team with no other penalty than the personal and team foul. If these rules are really implemented the way it sounds like they should be, either the Lakers will pick up some easy points and possessions early in the season as players try to break the habit of fouling or the Lakers will have more opportunities on the break.
If the Lakers really want to take advantage of these rules, they’ll have to be more efficient on the break. Last season, they scored a meager 1.06 points per transition position, a rate worse than all but seven teams. One would think, however, adding LeBron James will improve that efficiency as well as the growth of the Lakers’ youth.
One thing’s for sure: Those Lonzo Ball hit-ahead passes to LeBron are going to create some easy buckets on a nightly basis. That plus these rule changes might really make the Lakers a force in this department. Over the course of an 82-game season, you take all the easy points you can get.
The NBA needed to address players taking away some of the game’s absolute most exciting plays. That its doing so stands to benefit the Lakers is just an added bonus.