The story of the season so far for the Los Angeles Lakers has been their explosive offensive production. The purple and gold (and sometimes blue and white) have averaged just shy of 125 points per game through three matches, getting contributions from numerous players in contests against the LA Clippers, Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves.
After a blowout of the Wolves on Sunday, LeBron James spoke to the media about the high-octane offense the Lakers have been boasting, saying that the team’s personnel is making it difficult to take any bad shots within the flow of the offense.
Here is an extended quote from LeBron James after the game, where he talked about the current state of the Lakers' offense, the ball-movement and also showed off his impressive memory of plays that happened in-game. pic.twitter.com/VB5GPXHKLn
— Alex Regla (@AlexmRegla) December 28, 2020
Last season, despite how great the Lakers were, they had numerous lulls in offensive production where they needed to be bailed out by LeBron or, to a lesser extent, Anthony Davis. This season, with the additions of players like Dennis Schroder and Marc Gasol who can make plays for others, the team has not had to rely on isolation plays quite as much. Even with Gasol struggling before a breakout game against Minnesota, the Lakers have been among the top teams in the league at moving the ball, averaging 29 assists per game, the fourth-best mark in the NBA and significantly improved from last year’s mark of 25.4.
On Sunday, it was Gasol who ran the show to the tune of eight assists. But it’s not just the passing itself that has led to this offensive explosion. The Lakers are equipped with numerous players capable of reading and reacting to defenses to get into positions for great – not just good – shots. Against Minnesota, they routinely took advantage of an extremely aggressive perimeter defense that had no rim protection behind it, back cutting their opponents and waiting for the Spaniard to find them.
That sort of play has become contagious for the Lakers as no player has tried to do too much at any point. Kyle Kuzma had his own passing display in the first half to go along with his 20 points. Schroder has competently ran the offense anytime he has been asked to and even Montrezl Harrell has shocked everyone with his passing to find cutters. Players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Alex Caruso, and Wesley Matthews can also thrive off of these actions, especially when Gasol is on the floor directing traffic. Of Gasol’s eight assists on Sunday, four went to Kuzma, two went to James and one each went to Caldwell-Pope and Schroder.
Of course, we have to give the caveat that the Wolves aren’t a great team, especially defensively, and were missing Karl-Anthony Towns. While Towns isn’t known for his defense, he would have at least provided more resistance either at the rim or against Gasol; a better offensive performance from the Wolves would have limited transition opportunities. The Lakers will have moments where shots don’t fall or when they still have to rely on their All-NBA duo of James and Davis to make things out of nothing but those instances are becoming far from the norm – the Lakers have yet to have a player score more than Davis’ 28 against the Mavericks despite the hot shooting form they have been in.
Last postseason, Frank Vogel and the Lakers prided themselves on being a versatile team that could beat you in a number of ways. This year, they seem even better equipped to do that with the personnel available to them. Whether it’s Schroder and Harrell’s pick-and-rolls, Gasol’s high-low passes, or even Kuzma’s off-ball movement, the offense does not have to go through LeBron James and Anthony Davis anymore. That will only make the Lakers more unpredictable and much more difficult to guard.