Making The New Offense Work

Darius Soriano —  June 3, 2011

Yesterday, we took a look at what the Lakers offense may look like next year under Mike Brown, basing our analysis off his three principles on offense. However, when digging deeper into Brown’s philophy there are real questions as to how this offense can work with the personnel the Lakers currently possess.

This is especially true in relation to Brown’s third principle of creating offensive spacing. I’ll let Zephid explain:

Floor-spacing is going to be a huge issue with this team, as currently constructed. Who knows how many minutes Fisher will actually play, and he was by far our best 3 point shooter last year at 39.6% in the regular season. Odom was second with 38.2%, which could be considered an anomaly since he hasn’t shot above 33% since his rookie year with the Clippers. After Odom comes Blake, then Artest, then Shannon, with 37.8%, 35.6%, and 34.9% respectively. Each of these guys attempt around 2-3 threes per game, so their shots were fairly evenly spread out. The huge problem, however, comes with the next two players: Kobe, then Matt Barnes. Kobe shot an abysmal 32.3% while taking 4.3 threes per game! Barnes was worse at 31.8%, but with only 2 attempts per game. As a team, the Lakers shot 35.2% from three, which was 0.6% below the league average, tied with the Atlanta Hawks for 18th in the league.

If the Lakers are going to be relying on floor spacing and ball reversals with an inside-out game, they’re going to have to hit three pointers to balance the floor. Maybe our guys will improve. Steve Blake was a tremendous three point shooter during his Portland years, always above 40%, and Shannon Brown was on-fire, NBA Jam-style at the beginning of the season. I’m also curious to see the NBA HotSpots for ‘10-’11, because I’m sure it’ll show Artest shooting much better from the wings than from the corners. Hopefully Mike Brown will see this and utilize it.

As we’ve seen from past seasons, the Lakers offense hums best when the outside shot is falling. Early in the year when Shannon, Odom, and Blake were all efficiently knocking down their open three pointers, the Lakers looked unbeatable. However, by the time the playoffs rolled around, only Odom was shooting the deep ball even reasonably well. I’d argue that as much of a weapon it is to have your power forward take and make that shot, him hovering around the three point line also took away from his other strengths as an offensive player by limiting how often he slashed into the paint or worked the offensive glass by finding creases in the defense.

The fact is, that going into next season the Lakers will need to shore up their three point shooting to not only give post players adequate room to operate but to also make the defense pay with one of the more efficient shots in basketball. And, ideally, those players would be the Lakers’ guards and wings.

But who can step up? Over at Land O’ Lakers, Andy Kamenetzky has a candidate in mind:

In a lot of ways, it begins with Steve Blake. The reserve point guard was acquired in part to make the Lakers a much better three-point shooting squad. Unfortunately, this never materialized, as Blake shot just 37.8 percent from distance, a notable dip from his career .391 mark. In part, the issue was Blake’s failure to find a comfort zone while quarterbacking a new system. But also, he literally didn’t shoot enough to develop a rhythm or become a threat, averaging just 3.9 attempts per game over 20 minutes…Blake absolutely must provide more of an offensive presence next season, which means calling his own number more often. I believe Blake can bounce back next season. With the triangle essentially scrapped, he’s by definition more likely to adopt a more “traditional” point guard role, which can only help the cause.

However, whether it’s Blake, Artest, Fisher, or even Kobe (who’s three point shooting numbers were pretty dreadful this past season, especially considering how many attempts he took per game) the Lakers must improve from the outside in order to fully take advantage of all the offensive strengths on their roster. As we saw against the Mavs, it’s quite difficult for post players to effectively work the low block with perimeter defenders sitting in their lap and outside shots not falling to make them pay for that approach. Only time will tell if it will be an internal solution or someone brought from the outside, but everyone in the organization should see this problem as one that needs to be addressed. Because if it’s not, one of the key principles in the new coach’s approach to offense will be grounded before even attempting to take off.

Darius Soriano

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