The preseason exists for a number of reasons across sports. It’s a time for players to ramp up toward the regular season, players to earn spots on rosters and in rotations and for coaches to implement or experiment with strategy changes.
Most importantly, though, it’s a time for fans to overreact.
A role player is playing well? This is their breakout year. That young player with potential showed up in the best shape of their life? They’re ready to take over.
Preseason sports and overreactions go hand-in-hand.
So, when I say that this could be the greatest 3-point shooting team in Lakers history, it feels hyperbolic based on a small handful of preseason performances. To some degree, you wouldn’t be wrong.
Through the opening four preseason games, the Lakers are certainly hoisting from range, averaging 38.3 attempts per game. Comparatively, the team averaged 31.2 attempts per game last year, a number that didn’t vary much before and after the trade deadline.
It was also a number that ranked them near the bottom of the league in attempts. Only the Magic, Hawks, Pelicans and Bulls took fewer 3-point attempts than the Lakers. It wasn’t a strength of last year’s team, so they didn’t emphasize it.
This season, though, it appears early on it’s both a strength and an emphasis. While their attempts in the preseason and pretty heavily buoyed by the 55 attempts they had in their win over Brooklyn, the percentage isn’t quite as much and they are connecting on 38.3% of their attempts.
That mark isn’t some massive outlier as it would have ranked third in the league last season. It would also be the highest percentage a Lakers team has ever shot from 3-point range this year.
The franchise’s records around 3-point shooting are not all that great, and it makes sense why. Since the turn of the millennium, about a dozen of the franchise’s seasons involved the triangle offense, a strategy not exactly conducive to high-volume 3-point shooting.
When the league was entering a modern era, the Lakers were giving minutes to Ronnie Price and Wes Johnson and Tyler Ennis. Nick Young might be the obvious candidate to point out in that era and you’d be right as his 2016-17 season ranks as the sixth-most 3-pointers made in a single season in the franchise’s history.
None of the top four best campaigns have occurred in the last 18 seasons. Chucky Atkins — yes really — sits fourth on this list of most threes made in a single season after his lone year in purple and gold in 2004-05. Kobe Bryant’s following season was the second-most with 180 makes.
The man holding both the franchise record and the third spot? Nick Van Exel back in 1994-95 and 1995-96, respectively. While that should perhaps serve as further evidence to the case of Van Exel being underrated, it also shows how little the Lakers have had sharpshooters on their roster. Since Van Exel set the franchise record with 183 3-pointers nearly 30 years ago, there have been 216 individual seasons from players hitting at least that many threes since.
Naturally, this means the Lakers don’t have many prolific 3-point shooting seasons as a team, either. The team that made the most long-range efforts in a single campaign? The 2021-22 Lakers. Again, yes really.
Led by Malik Monk, LeBron James and Staples Melo, the Lakers hit 982 3-pointers, over 100 more than any other Lakers team before. Last year’s Lakers team that started off so incredibly, historically bad shooting the ball from three? The second most 3-pointers in a season in franchise history.
This isn’t some sort of vindication of those teams or rosters, but instead showing how bad the Lakers have been shooting 3-pointers historically relative to the rest of the league. That 982 mark ranks as the 64th most by any team in NBA history in a single season.
All of that should serve as the groundwork for why the argument for this team being the best ever shooting team in Lakers history might not actually be that hot of a take.
The roster is full of players who have a reputation as scorers. For example, if D’Angelo Russell stays a Laker the full season, there’s a chance he breaks Van Exel’s single-season record. He’s had two seasons above that mark of 183 and a third season where he finished only a handful of makes short.
A few possessions later, the Kings adjust. The defense switches on the ball screens, taking away low-man responsibility with the roller momentarily covered.— Alex Regla (@AlexmRegla) October 13, 2023
Off-ball, Vincent sets a flare for Prince to create room, but Dlo opts to pull-up instead w/Sabonis slightly off-balance. pic.twitter.com/dhZUJsBpOJ
Rui Hachimura and Taurean Prince are the type of scoring and 3-and-D wings the Lakers have lacked in years that could help reach that tally. A leap as an outside shooter from Austin Reaves this season wouldn’t be a surprise and could see him add to the total.
Then, if LeBron James’ efficiency can rise up to around 35%, his shooting percentage with the Lakers before last season, or Anthony Davis does start to embrace head coach Darvin Ham’s request for six 3-pointers per contest and shoots as he had in training camp and the preseason, then you’re really starting to cook with gas.
There’s a lot of projections and hypotheticals involved in this, but the path for this being a very good 3-point shooting team this season isn’t a complicated or cloudy one. And simply being very good relative to the league would make them the best in Lakers history.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.