After being one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the NBA for the last five years, the Los Angeles Lakers have show signs of life from behind the arc this season.
Through 17 games, the Lakers are shooting 35.9% from 3-point range on 30.5 attempts per game. They’re not an especially efficient or prolific 3-point shooting team, but they’re making them at a higher rate than they have in years and while a lot of that has to do with the personnel they signed this past summer, it also has a lot to do with the quality of shots they’re taking — something Frank Vogel said he’s put an emphasis on this season (via Spectrum SportsNet):
“We’re continuing to commit to ‘no forced offense.’ We’re gonna keep the action moving, we’re going to keep making the extra pass until somebody gets open. If we have open looks, this team is going to knock them down. LeBron was being played by them (going under) on the pick and rolls, and he knows he’s got the extra green light to light ‘em up from over the top. He’s the best deep shooter on our team.”
So far, that message has been well-received. This season, only 14.5% of the Lakers’ 3-point makes have been unassisted compared to 20.7% last season. Additionally, more of their shots have been classified as “open” than last season, according to NBA.com, although that’s a change many expected with LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the team.
James said he wants to keep using the gravity he and Davis have to get their teammates great — not just good — looks:
“We have a lot of options. We have a lot of guys who can make shots. But at the end of the day when we put the ball on the ground we attract eyes. And when we attract eyes, we get numbers on the weak side and you want to pass up a good shot to get a great shot. It just makes everyone feel so much more important to the offense and to the rhythm of the game when you’re making extra passes … I think it resulted in our 3-point percentage going up the last few games.”
He’s right: Over the last 10 games, the Lakers are shooting 38.7% from behind the arc, which is ranked eighth in the NBA. Most importantly, they’ve ranked sixth in catch-and-shoot field goal percentage during that stretch, according to NBA.com.
It doesn’t hurt to have a player that can create their own offense like James, Davis or Kyle Kuzma, but more often than not, the Lakers are going to be looking to generate their offense by moving the ball. With shooters like Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who now shooting 43.8% from 3 on the season, that might not be such a bad idea.