The 2019 NBA season was a massive disappointment for the Los Angeles Lakers. In LeBron James’ first year with the team, the Lakers finished with just 37 wins and failed to make the playoffs. While LeBron did miss significant time due to injury, the team still lost 13 of the 21 games he played in after his return. They were simply not a good team. There are plenty of factors which contributed to the Lakers’ lackluster performance, but the fatal blow was likely poor roster construction.
The most effective way to utilize the talent of LeBron James is to surround him with capable jump shooters. His combination of legendary scoring and playmaking make him impossible to stop on a team with good spacing. You can’t consistently stop him from scoring without leaving somebody else open. The probability is high that LeBron will find the hole in your defense and exploit it.
Unfortunately, we didn’t see enough of this throughout the season because the Lakers simply lacked enough perimeter threats. None of the players receiving major minutes were true deadeye shooters. Players like Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Rajon Rondo, and Josh Hart were mostly just serviceable from downtown.
The Lakers finished the season with a three-point percentage of 33.3%, the second-worst mark in the league.1 To make things worse, the team finished dead last in the NBA in 3P% on catch-and-shoot threes and 3P% on wide-open threes.
Needless to say, the Lakers didn’t take full advantage of LeBron James’ transcendental talent. Instead, they nonsensically surrounded him with mediocre shooters.
Fortunately, the Lakers began to fix some of their shooting woes in the offseason.
The Lakers signed 2x NBA champion Danny Green to a 2-year, $30 million contract, adding the truly elite sharpshooter they’ve been missing. Green was one of the league’s best perimeter shooters in 2019 — he connected on 45.5% of his outside shots, the second-best percentage in the league.2
The Lakers also added guards Quinn Cook and Troy Daniels to bolster their shooting off of the bench.
Cook’s catch-and-shoot 3P% of 46.4% was the 5th highest in the league last season behind only Seth Curry, Joe Harris, Malcolm Brogdon, and future teammate Danny Green. While Cook certainly benefited from playing on the same team as Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant, he’s still a valuable bench piece even if he’s not actually the 5th best perimeter shooter in the league.
Troy Daniels, the Lakers’ other bench addition, is also going to be an important offensive asset off of the bench. Take a look at his career regular-season shot chart. Daniels averaged 1.36 points per possession (84th percentile) on wide-open catch-and-shoot chances last season, per Synergy Sports. Most of his shot attempts are catch-and-shoot jumpers from the corner. He’s not a shot-creator, but he adds spacing that the Lakers desperately need.
So, the Lakers signed three elite three-point shooters to space the floor and open up the inside game for someone like LeBron James. Now, imagine how lethal they’d be if they also had a big man who averaged 28 points per game in 2018 so that defenses would have to divert even more attention away from the perimeter. Imagine if they had a player like Anthony Davis?
- The worst 3P% in the NBA last season belonged to the Phoenix Suns (32.9%).
- Three-Point Contest champion Joe Harris’ 3P% of 47.4% led the league by a wide margin. Coincidentally, Harris has actually played with LeBron James before (although he didn’t get much playtime back in Cleveland). It’s also currently Joe Harris’ birthday.