Ty Lue is a better offensive coach than he was initially given credit for. The Cleveland Cavaliers finished in the top-five in the NBA in offensive rating in each of Lue’s two complete seasons there, and the 2018-19 Lakers (24th in Offensive Rating) soundly disabused us of the notion that LeBron James is the only necessary ingredient in accomplishing such a feat.
Lue’s offense isn’t particularly complicated — although he does have his moments on after-timeout plays (ATOs) — but he has an excellent understanding of spacing. His teams incorporate five-out spacing principles on most possessions, where he asks players to fill positions beyond the 3-point line in both corners, both wings, and at the top of the key. Movement is encouraged, and those five positions act as interchangeable spots for players to vacate and fill throughout a possession.
If the Lakers ultimately hire him, they would seem set for an upgrade in spacing almost regardless of which other players they bring in.
The Lakers’ spacing struggles were a chicken-or-the-egg question of whether or not the team’s spacing was terrible this season because they didn’t have good shooters, or if they didn’t have good shooters because the spacing was terrible.
The answer to both of those questions is yes. Luke Walton’s schemes exacerbated an obvious roster flaw by putting too many bodies in the paint, impacting not only shooters but the driving lanes that the Lakers were supposed to exploit to create open shots. Lue’s offense rarely puts that many bodies in the paint, and both LeBron James and Brandon Ingram would benefit from fewer help defenders around the rim.
Ty Lue isn’t a great offensive coach, but he’s a good one, and the implementation of his spacing principles would address one of the most significant tactical weaknesses that the Lakers had last season. In part two of this series, I’ll take a closer look at the pick and roll variations that Lue runs.
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