A Saturday night that left Los Angeles Lakers fans bewitched with their new star tandem’s performance — and for good reason — also teased another potential strength of the team.
At around the 9:30 mark of the first quarter, Danny Green attempted his first shot as a Laker, and in the process, received a first-hand glimpse of the benefits that come with playing beside LeBron James and Anthony Davis — and how to best exploit them.
The set saw a dribble hand-off exchange between James and Davis lead seamlessly into a pick and roll between the duo. The culmination: a scrambling defense in which Steph Curry loses track of Green, who soon after found himself with the ball in his hands, his feet behind the 3-point line and an ocean of space between him and the nearest Warrior.
The shot clanked, but the potential for success was excitingly evident.
Although the quality look did not physically come from James or Davis’ doing, there is little denying how much attention the pair will draw from defenses. That will in turn make a sharpshooter like Green’s job much, much easier.
During the rest of the Lakers’ 123-101 win over Golden State, Green showed how well he complements the pair by moving without the ball, taking advantage of timely screen setting and moving to analytically inclined spots on the floor (four of Green’s five attempts came from the corner; the Lakers were 17th in the league in corner three frequency last season according to Cleaning the Glass).
Danny Green's shot profile/heat map from last night.— Alex Regla (@AlexmRegla) October 6, 2019
Sheds a tear. pic.twitter.com/Ryoi5RWCP7
By consistently doing these things, Green will likely more often than not find himself open, as he did on four of his five threes on Saturday night. That’s something Green readily admitted after the game has been an uncommon occurrence in past seasons, and an opportunity he needs to be ready for (via Kyle Goon of the O.C. Register):
Danny Green was asked how rare it is to get some of the open looks he got tonight: "Very. Something I’m not used to but I’ll get used to it and hopefully knock down some shots when I’m open."— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) October 6, 2019
Considering the upper-echelon teams and teammates Green has played with in his career, that answer is somewhat surprising, but it also bodes well for how special a James/Davis union can be in terms of creation possibilities.
While it should be expected that the sheer frequency and openness of Green’s threes will reduce over an 82-game-season, it will still be in the Lakers’ best interest to make what was previously a rarity more par for the course for the 32-year-old guard.
Last season, Green shot a smoldering 51.3 percent on his wide-open chances from deep (third best in the league among players with at least 150 attempts), but was 42nd in terms of total number of attempts. That’s an even lower tally than his now teammates Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope registered within the Lakers congested offense a season ago.
As a team, Los Angeles ranked dead last in the league in terms of their efficiency on these attempts. Green will likely be heavily looked upon to help improve that ranking, both for the coaching staff’s sanity, and for the sake of the team’s spacing.
Green will likely not be viewed or portrayed as the third component of a potential “big three” for the Lakers, but it is clear how valuable and seamless his skillset is beside James and Davis. Luckily, spacing the floor for stars is a role that that Green has shown he’s capable of over the past decade.
Whether it’s fighting over a screen or running to the corner in transition, Green has proven able to fill in the necessary gaps like a perfectly adjusted, real-life Tetris piece — a one-size-fits-all type of player that falls into place or buries a three when you need it the most.
All stats per NBA.com unless otherwise noted. You can follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexmRegla. For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts.