Lakers Can Be a 3-Point Juggernaut!
How signing the right 3-point shooters can transform the Lakers’ offense into one of the league’s top 3-point shooting teams
For the Lakers, embracing 3-point shooting is not just a necessity to optimize LeBron James’ game, it’s also a requirement to compete and win in today’s NBA, where taking and making threes has become a key to championships.
The 3-point revolution dominating the NBA is showing no signs of slowing down as this season will mark the seventh straight season where new records were set for 3-point shots taken and made. On March 31st, the league broke last season’s record by making their 25,864th 3-point shot. By the end of the season, teams are expected to make close to 28,000 threes, an average of over 22 made threes per game, up from 20,000 threes in the 2015–16 season.
As we close the season, the top five teams in made threes are the Houston Rockets (1,305 of 3,668 for 35.6%), Milwaukee Bucks (1,090 of 3,088 for 35.3%), Golden State Warriors (1,062 of 2,764 for 38.4%), Atlanta Hawks (1,050 of 2,993 for 35.1%, and Brooklyn Nets (1,026 of 2,907 for 35.3%). The Lakers, who needed 3-pointers to free up LeBron, ended up 20th in the league in made threes, hitting just 837 of 2,512 attempts for just 33.3%.
We’ll find out this summer whether Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka learned anything from their failure to surround LeBron James with elite 3-point shooting last summer. Not only do the Lakers have $38 million in cap space to dramatically upgrade their 3-point shooting but this summer’s free agent market is filled with elite 3-point shooting superstars and role players. The only question is will the Lakers decide to pursue the ‘right’ free agents.
While the Lakers would jump at the chance to sign Kevin Durant (137 of 386 for 35.4%) or Kawhi Leonard (108 of 295 for 36.6%), Klay Thomson (238 of 594 for 40.1%) or Kyrie Irving (174 of 434 for 39.7%) would be far better fits. If the Lakers miss out on the top tier free agents, Kemba Walker (252 of 712 for 35.5%) would be a much bigger upgrade for their 3-point shooting than Jimmy Butler (50 of 147 for 34.0%) or Nikola Vucevic (84 of 231 for 36.6%).
Assuming the Lakers don’t sign Klay Thompson or Kyrie Irving, adding Kemba Walker and luring Brook Lopez to return could be the ideal solution to upgrading the team’s 3-point shooting. Lopez has now become the league’s premier stretch five, making 187 of 512 threes for 36.5%. Walker and Lopez made 439 of 1,224 threes for 35.9%. Adding them would catapult the Lakers from 20th to 2nd in the league behind the Rockets with 1,276 made threes.
Another realistic option the Lakers could pursue with their $38 million to upgrade their 3-point shooting would be to sign DeMarcus Cousins and Danny Green. Green made 197 of 432 threes for 45.6%. While Cousins has only made 25 of 90 threes for 27.8% this year, he made 104 of 294 for 35.4% last season. If Cousins and Green could make 301 of 726 threes, adding them would also jump the Lakers 2nd in the league with 1,138 made threes.
A third realistic option would be to pursue Nikola Vucevic and Danny Green, who combined made 281 of 663 threes. Adding them to the Lakers would also push the Lakers from 20th to 2nd in the league with 1,118 made threes. The Lakers could also upgrade their 3-point shooting by hiring a shooting coach to improve the 3-point shooting of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma and choosing an elite 3-point shooter in this summer’s draft.
Looking at the above three options, the obvious formula the Lakers should pursue in free agency this summer to upgrade their offense is adding a stretch five and a shooting guard who can take and make a high volume of threes.