LeBron James didn’t waste any time implicitly calling out the Los Angeles Lakers’ front office.
Minutes after the Lakers shot 10-of-4o from 3-point range in an ultimately non-competitive 123-109 season-opening loss to the Golden State Warriors at the Chase Center, LeBron — who effortless dropped 31 points, 14 rebounds, and eight assists on 12-of-25 shooting (3-of-10 from 3) — used his postgame podium to lament the lack of 3-point shooters on his team’s roster.
Here was his response to the Los Angeles Times’ Dan Woike when asked about the Lakers’ struggles from downtown on Tuesday, following up a 30 percent shooting performance in their 1-5 preseason:
“I mean, I don’t know. I think we’re getting great looks and I think there could also be teams giving us great looks. I mean, to be completely honest, we’re not a team that’s constructed of great shooting. And that’s just what the truth of the matter is. It’s not like we’re sitting here with a lot of lasers on our team. But that doesn’t deter us from still trying to get great shots. When you get those opportunities, you take them. But we’re not sitting here with a bunch of 40-plus (percent) career 3-point shooting guys.”
“But, I mean, let’s keep it a buck,” LeBron later added, before dialing up his favorite analogy. “It would be like a football team…and you had a bunch of guys that were underneath route-runners and wondering why the quarterback is not throwing 20-plus (yard) passes down the field. … That don’t mean you can’t win. (Tom Brady) did it.”
Other than general health and the Russell Westbrook situation, the Lakers’ lack of shooting was the biggest question mark facing the roster. Somewhat strangely — albeit constricted by salary cap and trade limitations — the Lakers front office, led by recently-extended Rob Pelinka, seemingly failed to address a glaring weakness from last season. The Lakers ranked bottom-10 in 3-point shooting in 2021-22, yet did not retain any of their three top shooters (Malik Monk, Carmelo Anthony, Wayne Ellington), nor add any accomplished snipers over the summer.
As it stands, Patrick Beverley (37.7 percent), Kendrick Nunn (36.5 percent), and LeBron (34.6 percent) own the three highest career 3-point shooting percentages on the roster. The team’s purest shooters are probably underdog story Matt Ryan — who made 1-of-3 triples in 18 minutes on Tuesday and is not a rotation-caliber player — and Cole Swider, an undrafted rookie on a two-way contract.
Lakers 3-point shooting in the 1st half:
Matt Ryan: 1-of-1
Kendrick Nunn: 1-of-3
LeBron James 0-of-5
Anthony Davis: 0-of-3
Patrick Beverley: 0-of-3 pic.twitter.com/XVw294Mgmu
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) October 19, 2022
Darvin Ham’s four-out, one-in system, inherited from Mike Budenholzer, is dependent on the type of spacing the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks enjoyed. Ham has talked up Anthony Davis (who has shot 22 percent from three since the bubble) and Russell Westbrook (one of the worst perimeter shooters ever) as potential high-volume shooters.
As Pelinka said at Media Day, the Lakers are hoping for enough internal improvement in the shooting department from the likes of Nunn (3-of-6 vs. Golden State), Lonnie Walker IV (coming off an ice-cold season), Troy Brown Jr. (out for weeks with a back injury), stretch-five Thomas Bryant (out for weeks with a thumb injury), and Austin Reaves (31.7 percent as a rookie) to muster up solid-enough spacing to keep defenders honest. Pelinka added the Lakers will look to the trade and free agent markets to upgrade their stable of shooters.
LeBron, who put pressure on Pelinka to trade picks for immediate upgrades when he signed his extension, is getting his message across, ASAP.