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Almost a year ago, I welcomed readers to the Larry Nance Jr. fan club and never really took things beyond mentioning it on Twitter or the Lakers Outsiders Slack. With the new season now upon us, it feels like a great time to bring it back on a more consistent basis. There was some talk about Nance being used as a trade piece, but nothing ever came of it. So for now, we get to continue to revel in his dunking abilities.
In the season opener against the Los Angeles Clippers, Nance got the start at forward, with Julius Randle coming off go the bench. His highlights for the game are littered with dunks and features a nice block. The first points for the Lakers came on a Nance dunk, so you knew he was ready to play.
Nance finished the night with 14 points, shooting 63.6 percent from the field, and 12 rebounds. A double-double is certainly not a bad way to start off the season. At the moment, it’s uncertain how much Luke Walton plans to play with the starting line up, but if Nance continues to get starts, it’s likely we’ll see an uptick in his numbers this season.
What could he improve on? Well, first let’s talk about free throws because the team as a whole wasn’t shooting them particularly well in their first game. Nance missed his only two free throws, and while they wouldn’t have won the game with those free throws, he’ll certainly need to make them in the future. With how close he plays to the rim, too, it feels like he should maybe be getting to the line more. If he does manage that, it’ll be crucial to knock down those free throws for some easy points, which the Lakers certainly need.
The next thing I’d focus on is the turnovers. The Lakers had 19 total and Nance had three himself. The first regular season game with a new set of players (especially a young group) is always going be a little rough. If Nance improves his ball handling skills as the season goes along, that will help minimize the number of turnovers.
To go back and end this on a more positive note, the energy Nance brings is much needed with this team. He’s a young player, but he’s been on the team long enough to have a good idea of how things work. He knows his dunks are great and can pump up his teammates, as well as the crowd. Having people get excited about the Lakers again is as positive as it gets right now.
Even though the Lakers lost the game, Nance had a solid start (you can also watch his post-game interview here) and it’ll be interesting to see how he improves and who he dunks on throughout the season.