All of the concern over the Los Angeles Lakers having a lack of shooters around LeBron James is probably overstated due to recency bias. Basically, they have returning players that can shoot, but the players they signed over the summer are either bad or underrated shooters, and their newness has led to people reacting more to their abilities than looking at the whole roster. Still, there is no Ray Allen on this team.
Perhaps no one knows that better than Allen himself, who went on “The Dan Patrick Show” and said that James is going to have to make some changes to his game now that he has less shooting around him (h/t Slam):
Allen: “A lot is going to contend on those older players and how they ingratiate themselves to this new mix. Even LeBron has to reinvent himself—”
What kind of player do you think he’ll be?
Allen: “It’s difficult to say because you know how he’s been for us and what we’ve seen over years past. When I played with him, he had a lot around him that could do different things, so he didn’t always have to carry the weight.
“Cleveland, it was a little different. He needed more shooters around him.
“(With the Lakers), he doesn’t have that many shooters around him, so how are they going to fit in? [Lance] Stephenson and [Rajon] Rondo both need the ball in their hands.
“Is (LeBron) going to give up more of that responsibility? Is he going to become somewhat of a spot-up shooter at the same time? Are those guys going to become shot-up shooters? It’s going to be interesting to watch.”
Let’s take this piece-by-piece. For one, as alluded to above, the concern about the Lakers’ shooting has likely been blown out of proportion. The Lakers have a few knock-down shooters (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Josh Hart), a player who showed flashes of that type of shooting (Kyle Kuzma) and a young point guard who had promising stretches from deep but still shot inefficiently overall (Lonzo Ball).
Some might scoff at the idea of Ball’s shooting improving, which is an understandable reaction after a season in which he shot just 30.5 percent from behind the arc, but Ball — and the rest of the team — will also see vastly more open threes with James sucking in defenses in like blackhole.
Yes, the Lakers shot the second-worst percentage in the entire NBA from behind the arc last year, but this season, with James drawing basically all of the defense’s attention they’ll have so much space and time to set up in rhythm that they’ll feel like Quicksilver:
Allen himself praised James as one of his best teammates ever earlier this week, and while he may have been referring to James’ ability to make himself seem like one of the guys, on the court, arguably James’ best quality is that he is very much not one of the guys. James stands out so much that defenses straight up forget about his mere mortal teammates at times because they’re so laser-focused on stopping the superhuman hurtling towards the basket, which can only lead for more openings for whoever the Lakers have on the court to either shoot or attack a scrambled defense.
And as for the concerns Allen raised about how Stephenson and Rondo “need the ball in their hands,” the former has focused his whole offseason on getting his spot-up shots off quicker and as a first option (and may not even play that much), while the latter should be assumed to be a backup until further notice and is a better shooter than given credit for on spot-up threes.
But Allen is right about James having to reinvent himself on one front, because it appears that in order for the Lakers to be their most effective, James will at the very least have to play the four for significant minutes at power forward if the Lakers want to use their best lineups (as Lakers blogging Godfather Darius Soriano perfectly summarized here at Forum Blue and Gold).
James has never shown a desire to do that before, but might have to go even further and play more than a handful of center minutes as well, especially in closing lineups, if the Lakers want to get their most effective players on the court at the same time. Playing at the five would be a significant reinvention for James, and might even mean the ball will be in his hands a little less.
Will James be willing to do that? We’ll know pretty soon, and as Allen pointed out, “it’s going to be interesting to watch.”
All stats per NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.