For some die-hard Lakers fans(or fans of basketball in general), the NBA’s Summer League is the only way for them to get a close up look at their favorite team’s rookie(s) without dishing out tons of cash for tickets and parking.
With the Lakers in particular, second-year athletic freak Larry Nance Jr. stood out quite a bit to me. He was active on both sides of the court making picture perfect pocket passes, setting very solid screens, shooting the ball well, grabbing rebounds, and playing intense on-ball and off-ball defense.
Right from the big man’s first game against New Orleans, it wass easy to tell that Nance has been working immensely on all aspects of his game. Perhaps the biggest surprise was how well he shot the ball from the perimeter.
During this most recent NBA season, Nance had only ten three-point field goal attempts. During the Lakers’ four games in Vegas, Nance attempted over half of that.
I don’t like comparing rookies to All-Stars simply because of how fans react, but I do see some of Draymond Green in Larry’s form here. His release is a bit slow(which is fine, given his position)and it is silky smooth, much like Draymond’s. His body positioning during the shot and the way he kicks his leg out just a bit during the follow through is very similar as well.
Nance was also very impressive on offense without the ball, running the P&R efficiently with D’Angelo at the helm. Most of the defenders guarding Nance had trouble keeping up with him on the roll, struggling not only with Larry’s big body but his decent quickness too.
As we can see here, this is Nance, Jr. and Russell operating out of a pick-and-roll. Nance sets a screen and rolls to the rim perfectly, albeit with a good pass from Russell.
Nance can be an offensive threat during isolation too, showing his ability to score from mid-range when the opportunity presents itself. This is such a major difference from last year. They are running plays efficiently, setting incredible screens, and communicating to keep each other focused. It looks like they actually *want* to play.
Again, with these two visuals, we can see the ballhandler drawing both defenders away from Nance as he moves closer toward the corner after setting another solid screen. Now wide open with the defenders distracted, Nance can knock down a mid-range jumper without worrying too much about late arriving defenders. This just screams how aware Larry is on offense.
Despite last year’s terrible season, Larry has improved tremendously, especially when it comes to decision making. However, while he played extremely well, he did have some problems that I noticed.
Nance, Jr. does struggle quite a bit when his back is to the basket, since he has a very limited post up game against guys bigger than him, causing him to pump fake several times before getting swallowed up by the defense.
Nance also seems to feel a bit uncomfortable with the ball in his hands around the perimeter. Since his first step isn’t too great, the question is, will he be able to face up and attack closeouts?
Despite these fixable issues, Nance has proven that his hard work has been paying off. He keeps his head up with the ball in his hands, allowing him to see open teammates around the court or teammates dashing toward the basket looking for pocket passes and he has improved with his overall shot selection (He struggled drastically with both in college).
Speaking of passing, Larry made some incredible passes in Las Vegas. Pocket passes to Ingram, fastbreak passes to Russell, and passes under the basket to the big man Ivica Zubac for the easy two points. With Luke’s new offense in mind, we can plan on seeing these passes happen quite often next season.
To this day, it is still incredible to see just how high Larry’s vertical is. Whether it be a loose ball in the air or a rebound up for grabs, Nance always seems to be a solid twelve inches above everybody else reaching for it. He plays hard and is willing to put his body on the line to keep his team in the game, which shows major maturity and heart.
For example, during the Lakers-Pelicans game, New Orleans attempted several three-pointers around the nose of the perimeter. Nance, Jr., standing well outside of the key, turned around and jumped for the ball every single time, almost falling on top of everyone else because of how high off of the ground he was. This kid is a tough player and a hard worker, which is why I like him so much.
Nance is also a beast on defense. He is constantly moving around, keeping up with his man and providing some help defense if need be. Nance, Jr. averaged over three blocks and three steals a game during Summer League, even snatching an astounding seven steals against Ben Simmons and Philly.
When I’m analyzing a player, I always check out their free-throw percentage first. Based on what I have seen, a player’s FT% defines how good of a shooter they can become with good coaching. It just so happens that during his four years in Wyoming, Larry shot around 77-80% from the charity stripe.
Perimeter shooting was one of Larry’s most obvious issues in college and now, after a year, we’re already seeing some pretty major improvement.
In conclusion, I’d say that Lakers fans should be excited about Larry Nance Jr. and this upcoming season. He is a team player who works very hard on both ends of the court and he is *very* entertaining to watch. With the addition of Luke Walton, a new coaching staff, Brandon Ingram, and a few veterans to mentor the kids, I can safely say that I won’t need a bottle of Vodka in front of me on my coffee table when I watch them play from now on.
For now, let’s celebrate Larry Nance’s improvements with the proper chant.
Larry! Larry! Larry!
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