The Los Angeles Lakers cannot score. And they cannot score because they cannot shoot. Through the first month of the season, the Lakers are 25th in the league in offensive rating (111.0), 29th in 3-point attempts per game (29.3) and 26th in 3-point percentage (34.3).
After their loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, in which they battled back from a 20-point deficit in the fourth quarter to briefly take the lead, Anthony Davis appeared to be fed up.
“Our shot-making, we have a lack of shot-making and that kinda affects some of us, especially when the shots are wide-open,” Davis explained. “Guys kinda get down on themselves. That’s when the transition comes into play and the miscues on defense. Regardless of whether we’re making shots or not, we gotta be able to execute on the defensive end.”
The Lakers actually tied a franchise record with 22 3-pointers in their win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Nov. 14, which is inflating their already poor numbers. If you remove that game, they are at 32.0% from downtown, which would be the worst mark in the league.
Here’s a quick rundown of some interesting stats:
The Lakers have made fewer than 10 3s in seven games this season, which is the most such games in the league.
The Lakers have shot over 40% in three games, which is the fifth-fewest such games in the league.
The Lakers are generating 14.6 wide-open — closest defender six-plus feet away — 3s per game, which is the second-fewest in the league. (For comparison’s sake, the Indiana Pacers, who lead the league in this category are making 10.5 wide-open 3s per game.)
The Lakers are generating 11.6 open — closest defender four-to-six feet away — 3s per game, which ranks 19th in the league.
The Lakers are scoring 26.9% of their points via 3-pointers, which ranks last in the league.
“Listen, we’re getting – I don’t know what the numbers are – as far as our ability to create good looks, we’re probably right up there,” James said after the Lakers’ win over the Utah Jazz Nov. 21.
The numbers would disagree. Not only are the Lakers missing shots, they’re failing to generate enough open attempts to have a successful outside attack. While they’re never going to be a high-volume 3-point team with James and Davis as their two best players, they have to start making more 3s at some point.
Where does that begin? The answer may be hidden in the corners. Perhaps the most interesting stat regarding the Lakers’ 3-point shooting this season is that they are making just 25.0% of their attempts from the corner. That is not only last in the league by a significant amount, but a historically bad rate.
Last season, the Charlotte Hornets finished last in the league in corner 3-point shooting and made 35.0% of their looks. To find the last time a team shot under 30% from the corner for a season you have to go all the way back to 2007, when the Utah Jazz shot 28.7%. Tracking data on the NBA’s stats site goes back to 1996, and the closest a team has come in that time to the Lakers’ futility in the corners is the 1998 Detroit Pistons, who finished at 25.2%. That was only on 1.7 attempts per game, though.
While corner 3s are generally regarded as one of the easiest shots in the game, that has not been the case for the Lakers this season.
No one on the Lakers is shooting better than 37.5% from the corner, which makes them the only team in the league without a player shooting 40% or better from that spot. Of the 144 players taking at least one corner 3 per game, the Lakers’ three qualifiers rank 86th (Cam Reddish, 35.7%), 127th (Max Christie, 25.0%) and 135th (Taurean Prince, 12.1%). Of the 25 player taking at least two corner 3s per game, the Lakers’ lone qualifier ranks 25th (Prince).
Prince, obviously, is the big outlier. He’s a 40.3% marksman from the corner for his career, and is shooting nearly 30% below that mark. Just look at some of the attempts he’s missing:
He will improve, however, and the Lakers are confident that others will as well.
“Those guys are going to hit those looks,” head coach Darvin Ham said after their win over the Rockets on Nov. 19. “We wholeheartedly trust those guys to take those shots and I want them to continue to take them. Some nights, the ball just doesn’t go down for whatever reason…I’m comfortable with all the shots we got, the looks we got. Again, it’s early in the season, 14 games in now. The pendulum will swing in our favor in terms of shot-making, for sure.”
It’s reasonable to assume that the Lakers’ percentages will creep up, especially from the corner, and that will help their offense. But given their lack of spacing and high-level 3-point threats, it’s also fair to wonder how much those gains will matter if they cannot reliably create easy looks.