The Lakers are in an unfamiliar position for a team that has been one of the worst 10 3-point shooting teams in the NBA for the last five seasons, and been in the bottom half of the league since the 2013-14 campaign: The purple and gold currently rank fifth in the league in shooting percentage from deep, knocking down 39.6% of their triples to start the season.
It’s all led to a familiar question that has a different connotation this time around: Who is the best shooter on the Lakers? While in the past this query doubled as a cudgel used to point out how bad the purple and gold had been, this year it is a genuine debate.
Or, at least it is to everyone except Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who told Dave McMenamin of ESPN that the answer is pretty simple:
“Numbers don’t lie,” he said, alluding to the career-best 55.3% he’s shooting from 3 so far this season. “But I’m really enjoying LeBron shooting the ball. He’s shooting it at a tremendous clip. He’s knocking them down and it’s fun seeing him have [success] shooting the ball as well. But we all know, I’m the real shooter for sure.”
Well, if it’s as simple as numbers not lying, congrats to Jared Dudley (1-1, 100%), your best shooter on the Lakers. And to runner-up Alfonzo McKinnie, who is shooting 75% (3-4) from deep.
But if we’re being serious, and only looking at players that have taken more than 20 attempts through the Lakers’ first 14 games, then Alex Caruso (14-24, 58.3%) has actually been the best shooter on the Lakers, although Caldwell-Pope — who has taken a higher volume of attempts — would rank second with his 55.3% (21-38) shooting from deep.
Both have been impressive, and so has the Lakers’ 3-point shooting as a whole, as only two players on the roster with more than four attempts have shot less than 34% from distance. Perhaps that’s why Anthony Davis didn’t really go with 3-point percentage while ranking his top shooters on the team, although he still came to the same conclusion that Caldwell-Pope did:
AD, ranking the shooters on the Lakers:— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) January 16, 2021
2. Wes Matthews
4. Marc Gasol
7. Alex Caruso
Their teammate LeBron James, however, wasn’t quite so willing to declare Caldwell-Pope the undisputed best on the roster.
“I mean, we got a lot of great shooters on the team, man. KCP is a great shooter. Wes Matthews is a great shooter. Kuz can shoot the heck out of the ball. Dennis the Menace can shoot the ball as well. AD can shoot the ball,” James said. “We got a lot of great, knock-down shooters.”
He’s still taking himself over all of them.
“If someone says ‘bet,’ then obviously you guys know I’m going to take myself. That’s just the competitive nature in me and the work ethic I put into my shot,” James said. “I feel real good with my shot right now, both from the free-throw line and also from the 3-point line, and I want to continue that.
“It’s just continuing to give defenses different styles of my play. Playing pick-and-roll basketball, playing in the mid-range, playing in the post, getting out on the break where I’ve always been pretty good,” James continued. “Continuing to keep the defenses off balance will help our team.”
And helping James do so without defenses being able to key in on him as much will be the threat his teammates are presenting as 3-point shooters this year. They’re all feeding into each other’s success, to the point that no matter who the “best” shooter on the Lakers actually is this year, they’re all going to reap the benefits of a bunch of different guys having a legit argument for that spot. In the end, from a team perspective, that’s all that matters.
But if you’re asking me? Well obviously it’s Dudz. After all, like KCP said, numbers don’t lie.