Lakers’ Show New Approach on Offense in One Play

Darius Soriano —  October 8, 2016

The Lakers may have lost to the Nuggets in their second game of the exhibition season on Friday, but in many ways they actually played better than they did in Tuesday’s win over the Kings. Odds are the Lakers actually win this game if they hadn’t played a lineup which featured a total of zero players who should see any sustained minutes in the regular season, if they make the team at all.

So there are many positive takeaways from Friday’s game despite taking the L. D’Angelo Russell bounced back. Julius Randle, while still a bit erratic in the halfcourt, showed the open court skills which make him such a tantalizing prospect. Jordan Clarkson was again a positive defensively while bringing his typical attack style on offense. Nance, Zubac, Black, Calderon, and Ingram also all had flashes. All in all, there were just a lot of good things to build on even though there is a lot of work to do to improve.

Beyond the individual work, though, there were some real strides made in team offense. While Tuesday’s game showed a bit too much thinking through the team’s sets, Friday brought more fluidity and refinement. The coaches clearly added some new actions to that end of the floor and there was one play in particular that stood out during the game. Thanks to SB Nation’s Mike Prada for grabbing the clip:

While the Lakers’ offense has mostly been a mix of straight P&R’s and HORNS sets, the play above starts out like an old UCLA action with a flash into the high post by a big man to receive an entry near the top of the key. Before that happens, though, notice how D’Angelo Russell gives the ball up to Nick Young (playing the SF spot) to make the entry to Mozgov.

After the entry, Russell and Young scissor cut off Mozgov and dive into the paint. If either are open Mozgov can dump the ball into them or even execute a hand-off (options I am guessing we may see in the future), but he instead holds the ball and kicks it to Lou Williams who is above the arc. As Lou surveys the floor, Russell and Young execute an exchange in the paint and prepare their cuts.

Russell comes ball side as an easy outlet for Lou, but the core of this action is the double “elevators” screen Mozgov and Randle set for Young on the weak side. Young shoots up the lane line with Mozgov and Randle leaving a narrow opening for Young to squeeze through. They then close the doors on Young’s man so Lou has an open passing lane. After Young makes the catch, he finds Randle’s man switched onto him and Young being Young, moves him off with a hard dribble before stepping back to shoot a three pointer. Which he drills.

Elevator actions have become pretty prevalent across the league over the past few years, but the Lakers and their more old-school offenses during that time have not run this type of action. But it’s not just the incorporation of this specific play which has me giddy about what the Lakers are doing on offense, it’s the general philosophy at play.

In past years much of what the Lakers have done on offense were single option plays to try and get the ball to a player who would isolate or shoot the type of mid-range shot which is, more and more, becoming obsolete as a primary offensive weapon. Pin-downs for an 18 footer, multiple screens to try and bring a guy back to the ball at the top of the key so he can work 1-on-1, cross screens for a post up, etc, etc.

This play, though, features multiple actions with cuts, player exchanges, and creative screening to try and get one of the team’s best shooters (yes, Young is one of the team’s best shooters) an open look at a three pointer. Young still ended up dribbling into an arguably harder shot than it needed to be, but the premise of the play is what matters here. The Lakers are now running plays which feature a modern approach to offensive basketball and it’s not some one-off action out of a timeout.

No, the Lakers, in general, are a team which will screen, cut, space the floor, and hunt for the most efficient shots in the game. It feels funny to celebrate this as some sort of revelation, but based on year’s past it is deserving.

Darius Soriano

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to Lakers’ Show New Approach on Offense in One Play

  1. Interesting to watch after reading the detailed description and of course, teamwise, inspiring conceptually.  And love the classic old-school FB&G Darius analysis post – thanks!


  2. A Horse With No Name October 8, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    That was pretty sweet–thanks Darius.  There is so much more happening at both ends.  The coaching contrast from last season couldn’t be starker.  

    A few thoughts from last night:

    Don’t worry about Mozgov.  A lot of his issues last night had to do with the embryonic ball movement offensively, and the sorting out of defensive switches and rotations.  Too often the interior lacked spacing.  Once they begin running the pick and roll with DLO and Mozgov, we are going to see a much more effective center. (Mozzy is a beastly screen setter.)

    One of the coolest things for me about watching basketball is seeing in a few sequences, the potential of young players.  I saw two such moments last night. 

    The first was Randle rebounding and busting out the dribble with a remarkable burst of speed that appeared to verge on out of control, yet in that hell-bent charge he spotted a streaking Zubac and hit him with a pass down the middle for a beautiful catch and finish by the young center.  Randle’s drive was so fast, so powerful, and scary for the potential mayhem it could cause should he collide with anyone in his path, that I had to  watch it twice.  There’s one other guy who looks like that bringing up the ball following a rebound and he’s the best player in the game.  It’s was freaky good.

    The second thing was watching Zubac’s 3 minutes of play.  He had a fantastic block that was made on pursuit and great timing.  He changed at least two other shots.  He streaked for the aforementioned fast break finish.  But what really got me was how good he looked against Nurkic, who played great and got the best of Mozgov.  Nurkic had to change his game when Zubac was guarding him.  Suddenly he wasn’t able to attack freely and had to move the ball, which in at least one instance, resulted in a turnover.  (Going on memory here.)  Watch it again if you can!


  3. Alot of grief swirling around about the rotations again, sounds like last year, our rotation worked well against denver who was not deep at all, our bench mob came in with alot of energy while their starters were still out there. If we keep this up we will have a solid 10-12 man rotation while most of our opponents rotate 8-9 players and really fall off when their starters hit the bench.


  4. Why people are getting worked up about rotations in preseason????? These wonky rotations are part of what preseason is all about. There are players triying to make the team for crissakes!! Everyone is going to get a look over. Some of these guys won’t be in the team on opening day. Like every single year, rotations will get tighter once the season begin, goodness!!!


  5. Excellent article Darius, watching the Lakers becoming well, modern, is a great thing to see.


  6. Byron Scott didn’t believe in things like “modern basketball.” He coached as though he still uses a rotary dial phone at home, watching black and white TV reruns of “The Honeymooners.”

    Welcome to the new age, Lakers…


  7. 140ChrViolation October 8, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    Frankly, I don’t think the issue is that Byron is old school. I think he’d be a bad coach in any era. I suspect he was a poor coach in New Jersey and was just blessed to have a very good coach as his point guard and the rest of the east was gutted.

    The other think I like about that above play is that the pass went to where Young was going to be. The more the team practices in a way that allows them to trust their anticipation, the more beautiful the game will appear.


  8. DonFord Is this THE Don Ford or a wannabe?


  9. There were a pleasure to watch both nights. Thomas Robinson and Anthony Brown are our bubble boys. We did ourselves no favors by not keeping Bass. He is still better than Mosgov and Yi.


  10. Ha, definitely NOT The Don Ford!
    But yes playfully taking his name for FB&G in homage to the Lakers Era when I was a kid and became a fan.
    I guess I found it more amusing to use the name of an arbitrary player (my dad used to get upset at his lack of rebounding) and not calling myself something obvious like “Kareem” or “Jamaal” … (although “N.Nixon’s Pullup Jumper” mightve sufficed…..)


  11. A Horse With No Name October 9, 2016 at 10:28 am

    Don Ford, the former laker,does color commentary for UCSB’s Gauchos.


  12. fern16 I have no problem at all with Luke tinkering during preseason, I just don’t want to watch 6’1″ Lou Williams slot in against starting two guards once the real games start.


  13. I really doubt that is going to happen. Some commenter said in another thread that they might be showcasing him. Makes sense to me. Bu we’ll see…