Why Moe Harkless Addition Won't Fix Lakers’ Biggest Problem amid Rumors

Theo SalaunContributor IOctober 24, 2022

SACRAMENTO, CA - FEBRUARY 5: Maurice Harkless #8 of the Sacramento Kings shoots a three point basket during the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on February 5, 2022 at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

After losing to the Portland Trail Blazers, the winless run continues for the Los Angeles Lakers. And, once again, a lack of perimeter shooting proved the team's downfall.

Now 0-3, the Lakers have yet to surpass 25-percent shooting from three in a game this season. On the year, Los Angeles is 25 of 118 from distance, good for an average of 21.2 percent. By contrast, the league average last season was 35.4 percent and the worst perimeter-shooting team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, averaged 32.3 percent from deep.

Quantitatively, this outlier absence of three-point shooting is an obvious issue for this Lakers team. Qualitatively, it's limiting the offense's spacing and freeing up defenses to focus more on preventing quality interior looks—unideal for a team of players who prefer inside buckets.

Of course, the Lakers are practically guaranteed to improve as the season progresses. With a new head coach, a new starting point guard and a new starting small forward, the team was always going to need some time to gel. But LeBron James is 37 years old and Anthony Davis is newly healthy, so the pressure mounts for the team to begin performing sooner than later.

Unfortunately, the lone new addition realistically being linked to the club—veteran forward Moe Harkless—cannot address the team's core issue.

According to Marc Stein, L.A. has "given some internal consideration to the merits of free agent swingman Moe Harkless." Validating that report, The Athletic's Shams Charania confirmed that Harkless has now worked out for the Lakers—who believe the veteran can "bolster their wing and frontcourt depth."

Harkless should theoretically be able to contribute to the rotation. A 29-year-old, 6'7" wing, he has more experience playing professional basketball than most of the team's current rotation wings (like the 24-year-old Austin Reaves, 25-year-old Matt Ryan and 23-year-old Troy Brown Jr.).

But, although any improvement is a good improvement, Harkless—a career 32.0-percent three-point shooter—has never been much of a marksman and that's precisely what this Los Angeles team desperately needs.

The narrative surrounding LeBron has always been that he's best when he has floor spacers around him, simultaneously giving him room to work and assists to pile up. That rings truer now than ever. On the season, L.A. has scored 75 points off of threes. If they were shooting just as well as the league-worst Thunder did last year, they'd have 114 points from three—a difference of 39 points.

On the season, L.A.'s overall point differential is a minus-22. So, in the spirit of a superfluous hypothetical, if the Lakers were shooting as well as the league's worst team did last year, they could be 3-0 right now.

The perimeter problem cannot be overstated. Of the Lakers who have played over 30 total minutes across this year's three games, not one is shooting above 28.6 percent from three. Even looking at career percentages, the current roster's best career shooter on paper is…Patrick Beverley, who sports a 37.7-percent rate from deep.

There's a world in which Harkless, as a veteran wing, can help the flow of the offense and bring some substance to the defense, but he—barring a miraculous turn of events—can't solve the perimeter problem.

If the Lakers want to win some basketball games, let alone make the playoffs, they need to start hitting some threes or the front office needs to acquire the services of players who can.

The former option—with a starting lineup helmed by distance-challenged players Beverley, Russell Westbrook, Lonnie Walker, LeBron and Davis—is unlikely. The latter option—with a relatively dry free-agent market and few trade assets—won't be cheap.

As far as players, LeBron and AD are untouchable and the values of their teammates, especially Westbrook, appear nebulous at best. As far as picks, L.A. will have just one first-rounder until 2026 (with two of the three subject to swaps by the New Orleans Pelicans).

If the Lakers want to win with 'Bron and AD, that already-depleted draft vault will need to be further exhausted. Harkless inherently won't be able to move the needle toward playoff basketball nearly as much as an actual shooter.

Among players that should be on their radar, there's the Indiana Pacers' Buddy Hield (39.8 career three-point percentage), the New York Knicks' Evan Fournier (38.1 percent), San Antonio Spurs' Doug McDermott (41.1 percent) and Utah Jazz's Malik Beasley (38.5 percent).

All are either on a rebuilding team or have uncertain roles with their team, meaning some combination of draft capital and player(s) could get a deal done.