Even before trading for Russell Westbrook, the Lakers were likely to put a priority on shooting after their abysmal performance from behind the arc in the playoffs, a showing that highlighted a shortcoming on the roster throughout much of the season. But in trading away Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, one of the few (sometimes) reliable shooters, and bringing in a non-spacer in Westbrook, shooting become unarguably the top priority for the Lakers this offseason.
NBA reporter Marc Stein revealed on Monday that two of the targets for the Lakers ahead of free agency were shooters in Wayne Ellington and Patty Mills.
In addition to what many regard as the inevitable return of Dwight Howard for a third go-round in Hollywood, San Antonio’s Patty Mills and Detroit’s Wayne Ellington are two prime free agents of interest for the Los Angeles Lakers as L.A. hunts for bargains (and shooters) to fill out the rest of its roster after trading for Russell Westbrook.
Howard’s impending return has been previously reported and seems to be as much of a foregone conclusion as anything can be before free agency starts. As for Mills and Ellington, while their names have been suggested as potential targets, Stein offered the strongest link yet between the players and the Lakers.
Ellington is a former Laker who spent last season on the Pistons and has long been one of the top shooters in the league. Per Synergy, Ellington ranked in the 70th percentile in spot-up possessions last season after shooting 42.2% from range. He was also equally proficient in hand-off and off-screen possessions, ranking in the 71st and 77th percentile in each category, respectively.
In San Antonio, Mills also graded out as one of the top shooters in the league, even if his 37.5% 3-point percentage was just above league average. Mills ranked in the 85th percentile on spot-up opportunities and in the 84th percentile in catch-and-shoot opportunities. While it was limited opportunities, he also graded out in the 93rd percentile on off-screen possessions as well.
In short: Both players having diversity in how they score from behind the arc, which is important and would allow the team to have more stylistic diversity on the offensive end of the court, rather than simply having LeBron James or Westbrook create open looks on their own.
If the Lakers can land both Ellington and Mills, it’d be a strong step toward building a team to complement their stars and compete for a title next season.