Los Angeles Lakers' Unacceptable Issue (And Greatest Opportunity)

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Los Angeles Lakers' Unacceptable Issue (And Greatest Opportunity)
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The Los Angeles Lakers have mustered a decent record (8-4) through the team’s first dozen games. A recent four-game winning streak and Kobe Bryant’s legendary scoring feats are the buzz of many conversations among L.A.’s fans.

Yet like most teams in this young NBA season, there are some issues holding the team back that have caused some troubles.  The Lakers still are weak at the point guard slot. While I hope that coach Mike Brown will give Darius Morris more playing time this season, this issue probably will not be solved this season since the Chris Paul trade fell through.

The team also has an issue with turnovers. With an average of 16.6 turnovers per game, the Lakers are currently ranked as the fourth-worst team at handling the basketball. However, this should not be surprising, as the team has a handful of new players on board and Coach Brown is trying to implement an entirely new offense. As the season progresses, expect this issue to improve as the players get more comfortable within the offense.

Injuries have also been a factor, recently affecting players such as Troy Murphy, Josh McRoberts and Steve Blake (Kobe Bryant, as usual, has a serious injury but continues to prove his critics wrong). In regards to these health issues, it is hard for the team to plan for these or do anything to fix this ongoing issue. Perhaps GM Mitch Kupchak can do some Tebowing and hope the powers above keep his team healthy.

Yet there is one area where the team should be embarrassed: three-point shooting.

Currently, the team ranks last in the NBA, shooting a pathetic 24.0 percent from beyond the arc. This has been a surprising issue this season, as certain players were brought in during the offseason to specifically address this issue after the Dallas Mavericks embarrassed the team last postseason.

Not one player is even shooting at his career average for three-pointers. The following chart shows how the players are performing this season compared to their career averages:

Player

2012 3FG%

Career 3FG%

Difference

Kobe Bryant

19.6%

33.7%

-14.1%

Steve Blake

35.4%

39.0%

-3.6%

Metta World Peace

8.0%

34.2%

-26.2%

Derek Fisher

13.3%

37.3%

-24.0%

Jason Kapono

36.4%

43.6%

-7.2%

Troy Murphy

30.0%

38.8%

-8.8%

Devin Ebanks

0.0%

28.6%

-28.6%

Luke Walton

0.0%

32.6%

-32.6%

Usually, players become better shooters over the course of their careers, as they have spent countless hours practicing and learning what the proper release feels like. Metta World Peace had some impressive outside shooting statistics just a few years ago, averaging 40 percent during the 2008-2009 season. Now it seems that the outside shooting is a plague that is contagious between all of the players. And it doesn’t make sense. Normally, one hits water when falling out of a boat, but not these guys.

True, the offense might be new, but Brown’s system has actually been efficient at getting players good looks—many of them wide-open looks—at three-point opportunities. One might blame the hectic season with minimal practice time as a reason for the horrid percentages.

But I don’t buy this excuse. Every team is playing more games each week with less practice opportunities and yet there are six teams currently shooting at least 39 percent from downtown, a phenomenal rate.

Typically, teams, on average, make about 33 to 35 percent of three-pointers in the NBA. The last time the Lakers shot this bad from outside was back in the early 1980s, when the three-point line was new in the NBA and few players knew how to shoot effectively from that range.

Let’s take a quick look at the Lakers’ four losses this season and the difference it would have made if the team had made an average (33 to 35 percent) number of three-point shots. On opening day (Christmas), L.A. lost to the Bulls by one point and made just four out of 16 three-pointers.  Had the team made an average percentage, it would have resulted in one or two more makes and the team would have likely won.

The following night, the Lakers lost to Sacramento by nine points. The team shot an abysmal 1-of-16 from downtown. An average conversion rate would have led to four or five more shots being made—enough to add 12 or 15 points on the board, easily enough for a win by the Lakers.

In the loss at Denver, the team shot 4-of-23 from behind the arc and lost by nine points. An average conversion rate would have meant four more three-pointers would have gone through the basket, good enough for 12 more points, which would have been enough for a victory.

Finally, the Lakers decided to take the night off from outside shooting while playing the Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden. The team threw up a donut that night, shooting 0-of-11. The team lost by 11 points and converting an average number (four) would have given L.A. 12 more points on the board, which could have easily led to a another win.

The preceding analysis is just simple math. However, when the team makes three-pointers, it changes the whole dynamic of the game. When outside shots are falling, it makes it more difficult to double-team Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol down low on the block, allowing them to be more dominant at scoring. Additionally, lanes would open up more for Kobe Bryant to drive to the hoop for easier scoring opportunities. When Bryant is posting up, it would also be more difficult for opponents to double-team him.

Essentially, with the outside shot falling more often, the Lakers become nearly impossible to guard. Combined with the tough defensive schemes that Coach Brown is using, better outside shooting is the ingredient that can lead the Lakers to another deep postseason run.

On a team with premier career shooters like Fisher, Murphy, Blake and Kapono (and a promising rookie in Andrew Goudelock), there is no excuse anymore for L.A. to keep this trend up. Unlike the other issues the team is facing, the outside shooting problem is an area that the team can easily control.

The players need to get their confidence and shooting rhythm back and the first step is practicing at the gym. There are plenty of opportunities on off-days or before and after games. The players are getting paid handsomely to play a game, and now is the time for them to do the job they get paid for right.

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