Solving Lakers’ 3-Point Shooting Woes!

How smarter play design and playmaking could give the Lakers more and better three-point shot opportunities this season

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The Los Angeles Lakers need more than just better long range shooters to solve their three-point shooting woes. They need smarter play design and playmaking that can generate more and better three-point opportunities.

There are several areas the Lakers can immediately prioritize to increase the number and quality of three-point shots generated to solve their three-point shooting woes. Specifically, they need plays that allow them to shoot more threes and fewer non-layup and midrange twos, more corner threes than above-the-break threes, more catch-and-shoot threes than pull up threes, and more open and wide open threes than tight or very tightly guarded threes.

Let’s take a quick look at why each of the above situations that represent good opportunities for the Lakers to improve their three-point shooting.

1. Shoot more threes and fewer low percentage twos.

One rule for three-point shots is you can’t make them unless you take them. And taking more threes by definition means taking fewer two-point shots, which means what we’re talking about is the percentage of threes taken.

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Figure 1-Lakers Percentage of Shots Per Location and Shot Zone

Last year, the Lakers took a three-point shot 32.7% of the time and a non-layup two-point shot 30.5% of the time, close to the league averages of 33.5% and 34.8%. The NBA teams who were the most and least prolific three-point shooting teams were the Rockets, who shot threes 50.1% of the time and non-layup twos just 17.9% of the time, and the Timberwolves, who shot threes just 25.9% of the time and non-layup twos 44.1% of the time.

The Lakers need to tweak their playbook to convert non-layup twos into higher percentage threes. Their goal should be to up their percentage of threes from last year’s 32.7% to the 37.7% LeBron’s Cavs took last year.

2. Shoot more corner threes and fewer above-the-break threes.

Another three-point shot rule is all three-point shots are not created equal. Because corner threes are only 22 feet away from the basket while all other threes are 23.75 feet away, corner threes are higher percentage shots.

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Figure 2-Lakers Shooting Percentages Per Location and Shot Zone

Last year, the Lakers made 38.3% of threes from the left corner, 40.4% of threes from the right corner, but only 34.7% of threes from above-the-break. Unfortunately, the Lakers took a corner three just 5.7% of the time, which was less than the league average of 7.4% of the time. As a result, the Lakers ended up shooting 34.7% both on three-point shots above-the-rim and total 3-point shots, both stats lower than the league averages 35.6% and 36.4%,

The Lakers need to prioritize running plays to create more corner three opportunities and fewer above-the-break three opportunities. They need to double their share of corner threes taken to the 10% the Cavs took last year.

3. Shoot more catch-and-shoot threes than off-the-dribble threes.

Another three-point shot rule relates to the type of shot taken. The stats from last year were clear that catch-and-shoot threes were better shots that created higher shooting percentages than tougher off-the-dribble pull up threes.

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Figure 3-Lakers 3-Point Shooting Percentages Per Type of Shot Taken

Last year, the Lakers made 36.4% of their catch-and-shoot threes and just 29% of their pull up off-the-dribble threes, both of which were below the league averages of 37.7% for catch-and-shoot threes and 32.8% for pull up threes. Fortunately, the Lakers took catch-and-shoot threes 26.6% of the time and off-the-dribble pull up threes just 7.8% of the time. In contrast, the Cavs shot catch-and-shoot threes 28.2% and pull up threes 10.4% of the time.

The Lakers need to adjust their play design and playmaking this season to create more high percentage catch-and-shoot three-point opportunities and fewer low percentage off-the-dribble pull up three-point opportunities.

4. Shoot more uncontested threes than closely contested threes.

The last three-point shot rule is uncontested three-point shots create a higher shooting percentage than contested shots. The stats from last year are clear that the further away the defender, the better the chance the shot goes in.

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Figure 4-Lakers 3-Point Shooting Percentages Per Distance of Closest Defender

Last season, the Lakers had good shot selection. They took an open or wide three 31.3% of the time but only took a tightly or very tightly guarded three 3.4% of the time, which still amounted to 2.6 low percentage threes per game. As expected, the Lakers 3-point shooting was better the further away the defender. They shot 37.6% on wide open threes, 32.6% on open threes, 26.9% on tightly guarded threes, and 23.5% on very tightly guarded threes.

With LeBron and Rondo aboard, the Lakers need to update their play design and playmaking schemes to generate more open and wide open three-point opportunities and limit low percentage tightly or very tightly guarded threes.

The Lakers finished the second half of the season shooting threes at a 36.1% clip, which was a significant increase over the 32.8% they shot the first half of the season. The addition of LeBron plus revamping the team’s playbook and playmaking to create more and better three-point shot opportunities should enable the Lakers to improve their overall three-point shooting percentage from last year’s 29th ranked 34.7% to at least the 36% league average.

Three-point shooting has become a key component to winning in the NBA. It’s going to be interesting to watch how the Lakers perform this year and whether smarter play design and playmaking will translate into more wins.

Written by

Lakers fanatic since 1971 when team traded for Wilt Chamberlain. Founder, editor, and publisher of Lakerholics.com, a community for smart informed Lakers fans.

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