If one thing has been make crystal clear over the course of the training camp and preseason, it’s that new Los Angeles Lakers Head Coach Frank Vogel is ever the optimist. To a certain degree, talking up his team is part of his job, so long as it doesn’t border on insanity.
His assessment of the Lakers’ shooting thus far borders on insanity.
“So far I think we’re doing a decent job knocking down shots,” Vogel said after Monday night’s win over the Golden State Warriors. “It’s really about the quality of the shot. If we get high-quality shots with the shooters that we have on this team, we’ll shoot a high percentage. We’ve got to just make sure we’re working for quality.”
The quality the Lakers are seeking hasn’t materialized so far, as the team has shot 29% from three (the 32nd-worst percentage of the 38 teams that have participated in preseason games) and 42 percent from the floor in general (25th). The Lakers also come in at 25th in the NBA in free-throw shooting, where they have hit at a 71% clip over these four games.
But there is reason to hope things improve, and it involves the return of one of the team’s purported shooters.
“(Kyle Kuzma) is going to make shots. One thing that I know about Kyle is that he’s a big-time scorer, so he’ll certainly help with that,” Vogel said, when asked about Kuzma’s eventual return and where he’ll help.
Just a reminder: Kuzma shot 30.3% from three last year. Now, he did shoot 55% on two-point shots and 75% from the free-throw line, but for some reason, he holds a reputation that vastly plays up his actual production from a year ago.
Still, the important thing to keep in mind here when it comes to the Lakers’ preseason numbers is how small a sample size we’re talking about, and even in that respect, it isn’t like any of the Lakers’ key rotation players have played the kinds of minutes that they would normally in regular season games. It’s for this exact reason analyzing preseason games can be such a flawed process.
Now, where Kuzma would certainly help is that he is a legitimate small forward who could push LeBron James to the four and Anthony Davis to the five, allowing for another shooter alongside Danny Green and voila, you have a lineup that can threaten from all over the court. So long as Kuzma is out, and James is the only natural small forward on the team, that option isn’t really viable without going really small.
Again, there is obviously plenty of time to turn things around, and some of the Lakers’ shooting woes will be fixed by merely having proper personnel back and being able to play their typical rotation its usual minutes, once we see what that looks like. But to actually say the Lakers have shot well to this point is a level of rose-colored glasses analysis that exceeds logic even by Vogel’s standards. Hopefully Kuzma’s return will help reality live up to such proclamations.