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Laker Film Room: Beating Top Locks - How the Lakers can help their shooters get open

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The Lakers need some of their shooters to get healthy, but there’s more that they can do to improve the perimeter looks that they’re getting.

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Graphic via Zain Fahimullah / Silver Screen and Roll

After a failed experiment to surround LeBron James with playmakers last season, the Lakers went a more conventional route this summer as they prioritized three-point shooters. Danny Green, Quinn Cook, Jared Dudley, Troy Daniels, and even DeMarcus Cousins were acquired in large part due to their ability to space the floor.

Cousins suffered a torn ACL in August, Daniels and Dudley have only played in one preseason game, and Cook is set to make his Lakers debut tonight. Combined with Kyle Kuzma’s absence, the proposed floor spacing that the Lakers have on this roster is still theoretical, as they’ve sputtered toward shooting 29.4% from 3-point range in four preseason games.

The injuries tell most of the story, but not all of it. Frank Vogel has used wide pin-down screens this preseason just as the rest of the NBA does, and has run stagger-screen sets about as often as Luke Walton did. Yet the execution has been shoddy.

Let’s take a closer look.

Most of the NBA varies between switching, locking and trailing, and top locking on off-ball shooters as they come off of screens, the latter of which has given the Lakers quite a bit of trouble. They’ve often trying to re-route while going under the screen, which leads to the shooter catching the ball while facing the opposite basket, allowing time for his defender to recover.

I asked Frank Vogel what they need to do to counter top locks, and his response was succinct and accurate.

“Yeah we’ve got a counter for that, and it’s to get layups. We got a couple of them in the Brooklyn game. We got paint catches and got our shots blocked, so we’ve just got to be smarter with our finishes. And there’s a second or third action that you play out of with the big. Because the big has to protect at the rim, so you play through that big in the two-man game, and we’ve just got to be crisper with that,” Vogel said.

It isn’t unusual for offenses to be less-than-crisp (soggy?) at this point of the season, but the Lakers have some work to do with their spacing and counter reads in order to get the most out of a supporting cast that’s designed to make life easier on James and Anthony Davis.

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