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Laker Film Room: How the Lakers can get Josh Hart back on track

Josh Hart has seen his efficiency dip in LeBron James’ absence, but the Lakers can help him rediscover his groove.

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NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Hart has shot just 28.4 percent on his threes, and 37.9 percent overall in the 14 games that LeBron James has missed with a left groin injury, a noticeable decline from his 37.6/43.0 splits in his previous 34 games for the Los Angeles Lakers.

That’s all because LeBron is out, right? Well, to quote my man Darius, yes and no. Hart is shorter than most wings, so being open matters more for him than it does for most players, because his attempts to avoid contests from long-armed defenders compromise his shooting form.

The gravity that Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma generate isn’t comparable to that of LeBron, and Rajon Rondo’s absence (compounded by Lonzo Ball’s recent injury) means that there isn’t a floor general on the court either. Hart is a little less open as a result, and like many of his teammates, he’s had to take on a degree of offensive burden that’s a bit above his pay grade. Unlike the other young Lakers, he has fewer offensive tools to fall back on when someone else isn’t creating open looks for him.

The Lakers can still do more to maximize Hart’s strengths, despite the limitations of his skill set and the currently available shot creators. He’s at his best when he’s doing a mix of knocking down open threes and barreling to the rim to finish at the basket.

The Lakers’ bigs are usually tasked with filling the “dunker’s spot,” the position along the baseline in between the lane line and the three-point line in the corner. They should be positioned on the opposite side of the court from Hart because that provides him with clean driving lanes that he can use to attack hard closeouts. Those possessions turn into floaters and mid-range pull-ups for him when the big is stationed on the same side.

Luke Walton has “lifted” his bigs more frequently of late as well, placing them on the elbow or higher. That spacing alleviated congestion in the paint and improves cutting lanes, which benefits all of the Lakers’ young players.

Hart’s offense is dependent upon the system that he plays in and the talent of the players around him. Rondo’s seemingly imminent return will help, but a couple of minor tweaks to the Lakers’ spacing principles could help Hart get back on track without that.

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