Lakers’ Shooting Concerns Manifest to Begin Season


Let’s get right to the point: the Lakers have a scoring problem.

Coming off an 0-3 start this season, Los Angeles sits in the basement of the league’s offenses, ranking last in field-goal percentage, three-pointers made and three-point percentage. The team also sits 29th in points per game and last in offensive efficiency.

On the offensive side of the floor, it’s been a brutal start for the Lakers.

In the offseason, the team (once again) failed to add proper supporting pieces around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Lakers made smaller moves around the margins instead of focusing on the team’s root problems. Health was an influential factor for L.A.’s struggles last season, but so was the lack of consistent two-way players around LeBron and AD.

Before the season even started, there were early warning signs that L.A. would struggle to score. The upside of this roster, at best, was a fringe top-10 offense. But to start the season, those concerns have manifested in yet another poor beginning for the Lakers. If the trend keeps up, this team could rank as the worst-scoring team in the league.

With LeBron and AD both on the roster, did you think there was ever a chance that would happen? That’s the status of this Lakers team as presently constructed.

L.A.’s dreadful shooting by the numbers

The lack of shooting on the Lakers was a particular concern at the guard and wing positions. In a small sample size, that claim checks out based on the numbers so far.

This season, L.A. has made just 25 of 118 three-point attempts. In other words, the team is making a little over one three every five shots from behind the line per game (21%).

The theory of the offense is there for the Lakers: kick out to shooters off penetration from LeBron, AD and Russell Westbrook. Except in practice, the Lakers don’t have the personnel to maximize that offensive scheme.

Just two players on the Lakers’ roster are shooting above 40% from three: Matt Ryan (2/5 this season) and Max Christie (1/1 on the year). That’s it. Everybody else is shooting below 29% from behind the line. Take a look at how L.A.’s main supporting cast is shooting from three to start the year:

And it’s not like the LeBron-AD-Westbrook trio is faring any better. LeBron is leading the team with nine three-point attempts per game, but connecting at just a 26% clip. Anthony Davis’ shooting has been in a tailspin in recent seasons, and don’t get me started on Westbrook’s 29% (!!!) from the field and 8% from three to start this year.

The Lakers’ offense is clunky, disorganized and simplified. There are almost no threats on the roster who can serve as movement shooters or floor spacers. Similar to LeBron’s first year with L.A. in 2019, the team around James consists of non-shooters and inefficient slashers who need the ball in their hands.

Simply put— the Lakers are hoping for some regression to the mean. But it’s not like their current personnel will automatically cure the Lakers’ ailments from behind the line.

What this trend means for LeBron, AD and the Lakers’ title hopes

In the short term, there are some glaring problems for a team who simply can’t generate enough points to be a legitimate team.

The biggest concern for L.A. is the added workload for LeBron and AD. James is suiting up this year during his age-38 season, not to mention all the miles already tacked on to his NBA odometer. The Lakers can’t afford to give LeBron minimal space to operate on offense.

The real concern, however, is the team. The Lakers will barely be a play-in team, much less a playoff team if LeBron is leading the team in three-point attempts.

The aforementioned 2018-19 Lakers ranked 29th in three-point percentage and 24th in offensive rating. That team finished 37-45 on the year. In a similar trend to what’s happening this season, James barely ranked second on the 2018-2019 team in three-point attempts (5.9 per game), falling just behind Kyle Kuzma at six attempts per night.

The same can be said for Davis. AD’s efficiency outside the paint continues to plummet. He needs all the space in the world in pick-and-roll or post-up opportunities. The Lakers can bank that some shooting regression will take place, but it’s not like anyone on the team outside of one or two players are a career threat from three.

The real implications are how this team will fare in the long term. Championship-hopeful teams win by generating enough points. Although defense win championships, so does offense.

Since 2000, every NBA champion with the exception of four teams (2004 Pistons, 2010 Lakers, 2020 Lakers, and 2022 Warriors) ranked in the top 10 in offense for that particular year. That’s not a coincidence.

If this offensive trend continues for the Lakers, an NBA title — and even the postseason — could be a far cry for this team.

What’s next for the Lakers?

Not to belabor the point, but L.A. has a Westbrook problem. There’s no other way around it. This iteration of the Lakers can’t function with the way he’s playing right now.

The best-case scenario would be for the Lakers to trade Westbrook and two first-rounders for whatever offer is on the table, whether it be one player with upside (like Terry Rozier) or two complimentary pieces (hello, Indiana Pacers).

Even then, the team fundamentally will struggle to score. Maybe the team can become league-average on offense while remaining a top-five defensive unit. That is a likely possibility.

But as many have said, the Lakers’ best chance to win banks on how healthy and successful LeBron and AD are on the court. With this current roster, neither of those superstars is in the best situation to maximize their talents.

If this trend continues, expect the Lakers to make a move of some kind. It could be the only way to prevent an early end to this season before it’s even fully begun.

About Dominic Chiappone

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