You know the drill. We did this last year and the series lives on with updates for the 2016-17 Lakers’ roster. First up in our series is D’Angelo Russell and his spot up shooting. Enjoy.
We already told you D’Angelo Russell is on the verge of a breakout season. And while our focus was mostly on the team/coaches nurturing his confidence and, via a more consistent model of deployment, gained experience, we cannot possibly ignore how an adjustment of the X’s and O’s from the system Luke Walton will employ should help Russell’s game.
Last season the Lakers ranked last in FG% on catch and shoot shots (35.5%) and 2nd to last in points produced on catch and shoot shots (19.8). The Warriors, meanwhile, ranked first in both categories (42.8%, 33.7 points per game). The first reaction this should be, well, duh. The Warriors have the best shooters in the league. Steph and Klay are dominant catch and shoot players and have the eternal green light to fire at will.
But, it’s important to note that the Warriors’ offense was designed to create those types of shots. Golden State ran a lot of P&R’s and were an excellent passing team which also focused on attacking closeouts off the dribble to further produce open jumpers. Luke Walton, of course, is now the Lakers’ coach and he will try to bring some of that magic to his new team.
The Lakers will not get the system down pat right away, but them even trying to implement it means the players are going to benefit from more catch and shoot opportunities than they did last season. And there’s few Lakers’ who will benefit more from these chances than D’Angelo Russell.
Last season Russell was 2nd on the team with a field goal percentage of 37.9% on catch and shoot shots. Overall, his percentage on catch and shoot three pointers was just a tick lower at 36.5%, but when looking at how he fared on shots which were defined as “open” or “wide open” (defender is not within 4 feet of the shooter), those percentages jump to 40.6% and 40.9% respectively. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take an above the league average shooter any day, and I’ll certainly take a 40% one. Like right now.
Now, compare Russel’s numbers to the Lakers as a team:
- Overall catch and shoot 3’s: 32.9%
- Open 3’s (defender 4-6 feet away): 31.7%
- Wide open 3’s (defender > 6 feet away): 36.6%
Russell greatly outperformed the team in this area so it only reinforces the idea that getting him more chances will help the team. How will the Lakers actually make this happen, though?
If drawing up a plan roadmap to make it happen, it would be pretty simple:
1. Don’t be a prisoner to Russell dominating the ball. Russell’s usage is bound to go up simply by removing Kobe, but having a higher usage doesn’t mean pounding the air out of the ball and being the sole shot creator. The Lakers need to allow Russell to work off the ball more and incorporate more actions which move him into scoring space as an off-ball option.
2. Related to #1, the Lakers should let Russell play some shooting guard. Last season Russell had tremendous chemistry with Marcelo Huertas. It’s not yet clear if Huertas or Jose Calderon will be the backup PG, but if it is the former, I would not mind seeing that backcourt pairing revived in order to help get Russell some spot up looks. Huertas is a fantastic passer out of the P&R and can make the types of next level passes which create open jump shooters on the weak side.
3. Move the ball, move the ball, move the ball. One of the reasons the Warriors are at the top of the league in terms of percentage and points scored on catch and shoot plays is because they consistently seek out better shots. Sure, Curry and Klay take some ill-advised shots every game. But they also are very willing passers who will give up the ball to an teammate who is more open than they are. That type of unselfishness helps keep the wheels of a successful offense greased by involving everyone.
4. Turn your forwards into playmakers. Luol Deng and Brandon Ingram can both be good shot creators for teammates. Julius Randle can as well, though he can also have tunnel vision. Larry Nance didn’t get to show much of an all-court game his rookie season, but flashed some show and go potential during summer league and is a ball mover in the half court. Utilize these players’ skills to help generate more open looks.
Every player on the roster can benefit from this style of play, but none would look to take advantage more than Russell. He showed potential as a rookie to be able to hit shots from all over the floor, but the scheme he played in did a particularly poor job of creating the types of looks he could thrive on. This year, should the team make the proper strides schematically, Russell’s ability to hit shots as an off-ball worker in catch and shoot situations can be a major weapon.